Should the Houston Rockets trade for Donovan Mitchell this summer?

Could Donovan Mitchell suit up for the Houston Rockets next season?
Could Donovan Mitchell suit up for the Houston Rockets next season? / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

We know.

You're exhausted. We're in the thick of the NBA playoffs. Why are we discussing potential trades so frequently?

Welcome to trade season. It begins as soon as teams are officially eliminated from playoff contention. It ends at the NBA's trade deadline. In other words, it basically lasts for most of the year.

We can't help it if major media outlets frequently list the Houston Rockets as possible players in the trade market. Recently, it's happened again. Bleacher Report listed the Rockets as a potential suitor for Donovan Mitchell.

Seeing Mitchell's name in trade rumors comes as no surprise. There have been whispers of his discontent in Cleveland for some time.

Should the Rockets trade for him?

Houston Rockets could make bold move this summer

Let's start with an obvious point. Mitchell is significantly better than any player who's currently on the Rockets.

In 2023-24, Mitchell averaged 26.6 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.1 rebounds per game with a True Shooting % (TS%) of 59.5%. This is a player you can build your entire offense around.

Still, that alone wouldn't justify making a move for him. If the Rockets traded for a player of Mitchell's caliber, they'd have to drain their assets. So, they need to be sure that he's the right star for them.

Is he?

Houston Rockets face major decision

It's a complicated question. Mitchell's 6.1 assists per game suggest he's got the makings of a modern point guard. In theory, he could play next to Jalen Green - but that complicates Fred VanVleet's status with the team.

Perhaps VanVleet would be included in the package. It would make the money simpler. The Cavaliers won't want him with Darius Garland on their roster, but a three-team deal could be viable.

That feels like a seismic shift that could shock this roster. Mitchell can run point in the modern context, but he's not VanVleet. Suddenly, Green would be competing for shots with another guard who prefers to call his own number first.

So, you trade Green, right? Possibly. Still, VanVleet and Mitchell would make for one of the smallest backcourts in the NBA. With Alperen Sengun protecting the rim, that could be problematic.

If Amen Thompson develops into a realistic option at the point, that problem solves itself. On the other hand, the Rockets would be taking a risk to put too many eggs in that basket right now. If Thompson doesn't develop as a shooter or a ball-handler, he's going to be a wing long-term.

The Rockets could include Sengun in a trade for Mitchell. That would be a mistake. The potential offensive dynamic between an interior big and a shot-creating guard should be part of the appeal for trading for Mitchell in the first place.

This is complicated. Is it worth the trouble?

Houston Rockets should pass on Mitchell

We're leaning towards a soft "no".

Let's say the Rockets traded Green, Cam Whitmore and all of their Brooklyn picks for Mitchell this summer. A core offensive trio of Sengun, Mitchell, and VanVleet will win games. Having Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason on the wings will even mitigate some of their defensive shortcomings.

Still, that's a flawed group that likely has a low ceiling. In the playoffs, opponents will target an undersized backcourt and a defensively limited big man. The Rockets would have too many holes in their armor.

Yet, trading for a star without a proven co-star to pair him with is suboptimal as well. The Rockets' only proven co-star for a player like Mitchell is Alperen Sengun. If you trade Sengun for Mitchell, you won't have a dynamic enough offense.

Mitchell is an excellent player. The Rockets simply don't have an optimal structure to accommodate him. This is a rumor that we should be putting to rest:

Then, we can wait until the next one emerges.