ROCKETS TRADE DEADLINE: TO TRADE OR NOT TO TRADE?
Written by: Jermaine Every
Date posted: 2/2/2015
As the trade deadline approaches, the Houston Rockets are always expected to be active. Active in the sense of seeing what's out there to potentially improve the team.
With different rumors swirling and players rumored to be on GM Darryl Morey's wish-list (Goran Dragic namely), there are moves to be made and some to be avoided. Should they stand pat and hope it all works out in the end? Or, should they roll the dice and shake up a team in the top half of the very tough Western Conference?
With the recent news of Dwight Howard suffering from edema (swelling in his right knee), I truly believe any trade involving Donatas Motiejunas could be bad. "D Mo" has grown by leaps and bounds over the course of his three years.
Okay...so mainly from last year to this year he's grown the most. But that growth has come by way of the necessity of him playing more minutes (15.4 minutes/game in '13-'14 to 28 minutes/game this year) because of injuries to Terrance Jones and Dwight Howard.
With D12 seemingly hitting what I call the “Big Man's Wall of Injuries”, the Rockets don't have a big they can consistently rely on to score from the block. Howard isn't at this point in his career as durable as he once was, plus his scoring has dipped, so D Mo's value as his backup/fill-in when injured has been increased.
I hear you already Josh Smith fans. He's not consistent enough scoring from the post to warrant dangling D Mo in a trade. Jones is more of a slashing/shooting power forward with athleticism, so is Smith.
When Omer Asik was traded, that left the Rockets without a backup center. D Mo has filled in nicely in his time at both power forward and center positions while simultaneously improving his game. He's also under contract for next season at $2.29 million, a bargain for a 7-footer who can play the 4 or 5 spots and score inside or outside.
One of the interesting things I've seen involves veteran guard Jason Terry and draft picks the team has acquired in a package to attract another piece to the puzzle. Morey and staff really want Dragic. They actually came this close to retaining him a couple of years ago, but a guaranteed fourth year in his contract was the impasse the two sides couldn't agree on.
Fast forward two years, they seem to be in hot pursuit, and Dragic has two years at $7.5 million per left on his deal. Per the Trade Machine on espn.com, a Terry and Jones for Dragic deal would work. However, due to the fact that (a) Jones has missed half a season with a nerve injury to his leg and only recently returned and (b) the Suns are going to want more than an expiring $5.8 million dollar deal with a 37 year-old guard along with reason (a) for a player who could demand near-max money on his next deal.
I'm not saying that it can't happen that way, but it's just highly unlikely from reading the tea leaves. Just to throw this out there: it was mentioned as an option on pure speculation from basketballinsiders.com, that the Rockets may want to pursue exchanging Terry for Knicks guard, Jose Calderon.
Calderon is 33 with two years at $7 million per left on his deal. After their salary dumps of JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, it's believed the Knicks are positioning themselves for cap room and this is a move they'd likely take.
Although it isn't a move Morey would like (seeing as it would tie them down to an older point guard and create less flexibility moving forward), it could be used as a back-up plan. Calderon is a pass-first point who can knock down open shots, isn't turnover prone, and doesn't mind playing defense (not like their point guard defense can get any worse at this point with Patrick Beverly seemingly backsliding in that area this year).
This is a far cry from the splashes Morey likes to make, however, it can be a contingency plan should the price for Dragic be too high.
The mid-season acquisitions of Smith, Corey Brewer, and Alexey Shved (to a much lesser extent than the first two) are typical Morey moves. He's been able to wheel and deal to acquire pieces without seemingly giving up much in return.
Brewer and Shved were acquired using the trade exception from Jeremy Lin, Troy Daniels, and a couple of second-round picks, while Smith was signed off the scrap heap following his surprising waive from the Pistons.
Brewer's play has allowed decreased minutes from James Harden and Trevor Ariza, which will hopefully keep them fresh for the playoffs.
Smith has come in and done a good job so far at the power forward spot meshing with the team, even going as far as asking to come off the bench because he felt it would help the team more.
But will these moves be enough? Is this roster as presently constructed real championship material? No and probably not.
This team needs someone that can create his own offense from the perimeter outside of Harden, and a reliable big man, since Howard can't seem to stay healthy and is expected to miss some time. A trade for Dragic would put Patrick Beverly as a back-up point guard (which may be his best fit), take some of the offensive pressure off Harden, and give the Rockets a playmaker at the point guard position (which they haven't had since ......).
Have you noticed how hard Harden has had to work to carry the team when Howard is out? Lessening his burden on offense will leave him fresher to continue his much improved defense, and leave him fresher for a playoff run.
As far as Howard/D Mo and the backup center spot goes, keeping an improving D Mo is the way to go in my eyes. Being able to score from the post with either hand is rare, not to mention he's shooting a respectable 34% from three this year, as well as playing back-up center to Howard or start when he's hurt only increases D Mo's value.
The only debate I see here is finding a way to acquire Dragic without sacrificing arguably your best bait and hook in D Mo. 7-footers that rebound and score from both the post and from outside don't grow on trees. Neither do playmaking point guards that can get you 17 a night.