The Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers are franchises headed in very different directions. The Lakers are desperate to build a championship supporting cast around the still excellent but geriatric LeBron James and the brittle but not currently broken Anthony Davis. The Rockets, on the other hand, are content riding the ups-and-downs of a young roster and racking up losses.
Why the Lakers and Rockets a perfect trade partners
The best trade partners are on the opposite end of the contention spectrum. When you're trying to win, immediate upgrades take priority, and when you're in a rebuild, future value is the name of the game. The Rockets and Lakers are a match made in trade heaven, and this little trade helps both inch closer to their goals.
Why this works for the Lakers
The Lakers just signed Dennis Schroder to a one-year $2.64 million, added Patrick Beverly through trade, Austin Reaves and Russell Westbrook are still on the roster, and that guy LeBron James is going to be handling the ball an awful lot. The Lakers have too many guys who need to dribble the ball and not enough shooters.
Kendrick Nunn remains the single biggest mystery on the Lakers roster. He missed all of last season with a knee injury and has seen his avenue to playing time be cut with their new additions. In Nunn's first two seasons in the league, he was an efficient 3-point shooter (36.4%) and shot creator (15 PPG), but should the Lakers really gamble on a player that's already surplus to requirements?
Kenyon Martin Jr. is the perfect fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He's a career 36% 3-point shooter, is dangerous in transition, and is a fantastic cutter. On offense, Martin is the perfect type of player to play off of the LeBron-Davis pick-and-roll. He's also incredibly young (21), cheap ($1.7M), and is under contract for another non-guaranteed year.
His defense is still a work in progress, but as a small ball four, he could thrive next to Davis. The Lakers need energy, shooting, and toughness, and Martin provides all three in spades.
Sterling Brown isn't nearly as exciting as Martin, but he offers the Lakers a serious bounce-back candidate. Last season, he shot a career-worst 30.4% from 3-point range, but the season prior, he shot a career-best 42.3% on 4.2 threes a game. The simple mean between these two is 36.4%, which is exactly his career average and also Nunn's.
Why this works for the Rockets
Kenyon Martin Jr. isn't happy in Houston and has quietly angled for a trade this offseason, Sterling Brown is in Houston to fill the salary requirements of the Christian Wood trade, and the Rockets enter training camp with 20 players and 15 spots for the opening night roster.
Landing a 2023 second round pick doesn't seem like much, but that's Martin and Brown's value on the market. If Christian Wood only gets you the 26th pick, how in the world is Martin going to even get you the 35th pick.
Kendrick Nunn would also be a nice little pick up for the Rockets. No one knows how he is going to look, and a rebuilding roster is the best place to see where he's at. If he bombs or his mysterious knee injury continues to be a problem, he's an expiring contract. However, if he regains his old form he'll be a useful player for the Rockets or a trad candidate for a team in need of another ball handler (perhaps the Phoenix Suns).
Why this deal needs to happen now
The Lakers and the Rockets need to get this deal done now. Integrating players mid-season is difficult, and the Lakers have no margin for error. They're on the periphery of contention, and their only chance is to hit the ground running.
The Rockets don't have the same urgency but having the Martin trade request hang over the team is unnecessary. However, they entered training camp with a full roster and needed to cut someone to add Willie Cauley-Stein. The roster crunch is looming. Why not get ahead of it?