Almost three weeks into 2023, the NBA trade market has yet to heat up. For the Houston Rockets, that doesn’t mean much. Their roster is populated by young players on rookie deals, and their only real trade candidate is Eric Gordon. However, teams sometimes behave in a confounding fashion as the trade deadline approaches. Every player is available at the right cost, and now is a good time to take stock of each Rocket’s trade value.
Note: The Atheltic is running a similar article with Kelly Iko and Sam Vecenie. I started the research and finished writing this article before it was published. Any similarities are coincidences.
Houston Rockets trade value methodology
The question of a player’s trade value is nebulous and subjective. One team might value a player highly because of their fit, while another might value a player for their contract. In an attempt to make ranking every Rocket’s trade value a somewhat objective matter, I created a weighted three-category point scale from zero to five.
The first category is current production, making up 50% of a player’s trade value. I believe that current production is the most relevant component of a player’s trade value because it is the most consequential and static measurement.
The next category is potential production, making up 40% of a player’s trade value. Potential production is not as valuable as current production because it has yet to be attained, and thus, it may never be reached. Potential is still highly coveted, but most teams would take a current All-Star over a potential All-Star.
For current and potential production, a 0 represents a replacement level or worse player, 1 is a rotation player, 2 is a starter, 3 is an All-Star caliber player, 4 is All-NBA, and 5 is an MVP candidate. As a rough guide, an All-Star is a top-50 player, All-NBA is a top-20, and an MVP candidate is a top-5 player.
The final category is a player's contract which makes up 10% of their trade value. Time after time, we see how no contract is untradeable. NBA front offices are so sophisticated that they’re able to open up cap space in a blink of an eye. For contracts, 0 represents an albatross, 1 is a significant overpay, 2 is bad but tradable, 3 is fair, 4 is a good contract, and 5 is an excellent contract.
The only players who would receive straight fives across the board are Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Jayson Tatum. They’re all current MVP candidates, have shown fantastic durability, and project to be at an MVP level for at least the next few seasons. Due to the max contract, the trio is dramatically underpaid relative to their contributions and are on excellent deals.
Each player on the Rockets received my educated but still subjective rating in all three categories to spit out the Rockets’ trade value rankings. It isn’t perfect, but I believe it’s better than making an arbitrary list and pretending it has any objective value. We'll start at 15 and work our way up to one.