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Houston Rockets: Grading the Daniel Theis Trade

N.B. Lindberg
Houston Rockets v Memphis Grizzlies
Houston Rockets v Memphis Grizzlies / Justin Ford/GettyImages
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The Houston Rockets finally pulled the plug on the Daniel Theis experiment. On NBA trade deadline day, the franchise shipped Theis to the Boston Celtics, where he began his NBA career, for Dennis Schröder, Enes Freedom, and Bruno Fernando. The deal brought an end to Theis’ Rockets tenure a half-season after signing him to a four-year deal worth $36 million. 

Daniel Theis’ Brief Rockets Tenure

Theis was unfairly labeled the reason for the Rockets 1-16 start to the season, but his fit within their starting lineup was clearly awkward. He is a solid backup center and can start when surrounded by the right pieces, but he doesn’t have the 3-point shooting ability to feature in five-out spacing or next to another center. 

For all of the problems he caused for the Rockets’ spacing, he was undoubtedly their best defensive center. With Theis on the court, the Rockets posted a 112.98 defensive rating, compared to a 118.8 rating when he sat.

Theis’ defensive upgrade wasn’t enough to offset the cratering effect he had on the offense. With him on the court, the Rockets had an offensive rating of 96.4 and a 111.35 rating when he sat. The Rockets were undoubtedly better without Theis, but he wasn’t completely useless. 

With the emergence of Alperen Sengun and Christian Wood firmly entrenched as the Rockets center, Theis had no place in the Rockets' present or future. Moving on from him was the right decision, but it isn’t a referendum on him as a player. He was the wrong player on the wrong team.  

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The Rockets Return for Daniel Theis

The return for Theis netted the Rockets three expiring contracts but no draft pick compensation. Essentially, the Rockets eschewed future assets to get off of the final three years of Theis’ deal. Following the trade, the Rockets quickly waived Enes Freedom, but have plans to keep Schröder and Fernando for the remainder of the season. 

Schroder is a quality NBA player and was the best player in the deal from a pure talent standpoint. Securing him for a contract that was obviously a mistake is a win. However, Schröder is an expiring contract, and, with the Rockets’ young backcourt, it’s unlikely that he’ll be in Houston past this season. 

The value for the Rockets could come from a return in a Schröder sign and trade. While that remains to be seen, a strong showing from Schröder could land the Rockets something of value in the offseason. It shouldn’t be forgotten, just last season, the Lakers offered Schröder nearly $80 million to stick around. 

The Grade: B

The Rockets get a 'B' for their trade of Daniel Theis. They get off of the remaining $27 million on Theis’ contract without taking on any future money and Schröder offers the franchise a chance to get a future asset. Theis wasn’t going to get the Rockets anything of value, but freeing up future cap space and getting the best player in the trade is about as well as they could have done.

The Rockets aren’t going to get an 'A' for getting three expiring contracts and shaving off $9 million from next year’s cap sheet, but they did a good job to quickly right a wrong. This grade could shoot up to an 'A' if they’re able to get something for Schröder in the summer, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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