Last night, Jae Crowder, who requested a trade from the Phoenix Suns over the summer, dropped a cryptic Instagram post.
The post sent alarm bells off around the league as Crowder looked poised to be on the move. However, no trade has materialized, but the bones of the proposed transaction were rumored to involve the Houston Rockets.
The almost Jae Crowder for Eric Gordon for Grayson Allen trade
The nixed trade would see Crowder head to the Milwaukee Bucks, Eric Gordon go from Houston to Phoenix, and Grayson Allen would come to the Rockets. The trade that never was hasn’t been widely reported, but for every actual trade there are dozens of almost trades.
It’s not hard to see why all three parties would be interested in each player. The Bucks were reported to be interested in frontcourt help, Crowder checks that box, the Suns desperately need guard depth, Gordon has made over $100 million doing just that, and Allen is a solid two-way guard on a reasonable contract that covers his prime, who wouldn’t want that?
However, when you throw all three players into the trade machine, you can see why a deal would get close to the finish line, and then fall apart.
The Suns would need to send out $6.7 million to absorb Gordon’s salary, and the Bucks would be adding $1.6 million to their cap sheet, meaning the Rockets would have to be the salary dumping ground for the Suns. Sending one of Landry Shamet or Dario Saric would be enough to have the salaries work out, but there are a few hurdles to clear.
The Dario Saric and Landry Shamet of it all
First, if the Rockets are taking on the final year of Saric’s deal, they’d likely want something in return. Their roster is full. Swapping one guy for two would force them to cut someone. Saric would likely be the odd man out, but the Rockets already have $62 million in dead cap. Adding Saric’s $9.2 million would see them zoom past $70 million, and with Gordon going out and Allen coming in, it would bring their active cap to $63 million. The Rockets would likely want something in return for having the lowest functional payroll.
The other option would be for the Rockets to take on Landry Shamet. Shamet is not an expiring contract and is owed $10.25 million next season, a non-guaranteed $11 million in 2024-25, and has a team option for $11.75 million in 2025-26. That’s a solid deal for a solid player, but the Suns need backcourt depth, and moving Shamet for Gordon doesn’t really move the needle that much for them. There’s also the fact that Shamet and Allen are somewhat redundant players.
If the Rockets were unwilling to take Shamet, and the Suns were unwilling to compensate the Rockets for taking Saric, it would drag the Bucks into the salary switcheroo and further complicate matters. Then there is the issue of compensation.
Trades can get complicated fast
In a trade built around three role players on differing salaries, draft pick compensation can get messy and heated. Crowder is likely the most valuable player but is on an expiring deal, Allen is on the best deal but is mainly a catch and shoot maestro, and Gordon provides the most on-ball shot creation but makes more than Crowder and Allen combined this season.
Do the Suns feel like they’re owed a pick? Do the Bucks feel the same way? What about the Rockets? At its core, the Crowder-Allen-Gordon switcheroo is a good trade for each side. The Bucks get the frontcourt depth they need, the Suns get a guard who can reliably take pressure off of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, and the Rockets get a solid rotation piece on a good contract.
Because of how early it is in the season, there’s a chance this deal gets revisited. A different third team or a fourth team being dragged in could resurrect the deal. The Rockets being active this early is a good sign. They’re still in a rebuild, and capitalizing on teams desperate to go all in is a savvy decision.