None of these pieces were available to Houston last season: Jordan Hill, a lottery pick, the rights to flip first round picks with the Knicks in 2011, a 2012 Knicks first round pick, Chase Budinger, the expiring contract of Jared Jeffries and Sergio Llull.
Add Shane Battier (expiring contract and desired by contending teams) and Aaron Brooks (rising star at a bargain price for one more year) to a considerations list and look out — it’s not a matter of “if” the Rockets acquire a bigger name star but “when”.
The “who” is another story altogether. Free agent Chris Bosh and potential free agent Amare Stoudemire will get the most attention, but the Rockets are actually better positioned to acquire a player already under contract to a team looking to get out from underneath the financial burden, as they did with Martin. While not the ideal fit in Houston, Timberwolves power forward Al Jefferson could find himself in that exact position. It’s a stretch right now, but depending on the direction Boston heads after these playoffs, the declining Kevin Garnett may as well.
Whoever they target, you can just about guarantee the Rockets will make a big trade before the February 2011 deadline.
Dave Hardisty, founder of Houston Rockets message board Clutchfans.net, writing in his annual season recap, mentions Minnesota Timberwolves forward/center Al Jefferson as a potential offseason trade target for the Houston Rockets.
While not Bosh, Jefferson would be an enticing addition. While the injury history is frightening, I have for some time considered Al to be the most offensively gifted center in basketball. The 25-year-old would immediately become option A in the Houston offense.
Viewing the numbers at 82games, it immediately caught my eye that Jefferson shoots 57% from the floor in 4th quarter or overtime with under 5 minutes remaining and neither team ahead by more than 5 points. For a Rockets team that often struggles scoring in the clutch, that late-game dominance could be attractive. (Unfortunately, Jefferson shoots only 68% from the stripe which greatly mitigates that prowess.)
Utilizing the Synergy Sports database, I found that Jefferson shoots 56% in pick&roll situations, boasting a very fluid jumpshot, something which could come as a serious boon in this offense.
However, what I find most interesting was that Big Al has three years remaining on his contract, the same number as Kevin Martin. With the window on Yao Ming’s prime closing, the Houston Rockets could set themselves up with a timely escape route in 2013.
Chris Bosh should still be the primary target this summer for the Houston Rockets. Jefferson’s overwhelming preference in the paint is a concern – not nearly as many options as would be provided with Bosh.
Still, if the Bosh route fails, Al Jefferson would be quite the consolation prize. Given the concerns over his compatibility with Kevin Love, and Minnesota’s purported preference for the latter, I do think Jefferson could be available at a palatable cost.