Update: According to Fox 26′s Mark Berman, the Rockets and Jeremy Lin have agreed on an offer sheet.
Once the 2011-12 season fell off a cliff, we knew Daryl Morey would do something to solve the Goran Dragic/Kyle Lowry point guard dilemma this offseason. Whether it be trading Lowry and re-signing Dragic, keeping Lowry and letting Dragic walk in free agency, or re-signing Dragic, retaining Lowry, then thriving off a small ball fueled attack, a fluctuating plan had to of been in place since April—one that would solidify Houston’s backcourt and answer the ever-important question that’s been lingering in the air since Lowry went down with a strange bacterial infection shortly after the All-Star break.
Getting rid of them both certainly didn’t rank high on the list of probable scenarios, but in the past 48 hours, that’s exactly what we saw happen.
Writing in-depth on this issue right now would be pointless. The team’s point guard situation—and roster as a whole—is so fluid, so unpredictable, that analyzing this team that currently features Shaun Livingston (/Royce White??)—and an offer sheet to Jeremy Lin that he either isn’t willing to sign or the Knicks would be willing to match—at the point guard position doesn’t even begin to resemble real life.
Yesterday it was announced that the Phoenix Suns had signed Dragic to a four-year, $30 million contract ($34 million if he makes the All-Star team every year of the deal). He was reportedly searching for $10 million per season, but unless he was willing to play in Charlotte, that was a bit of a reach. Instead he settled on an annual average of $8.5 million, which is pretty good for a player who’s now 26-years-old and has never assumed the role of full-time starter in his four-year career. Would the Rockets have been wise to give Dragic what he wanted instead of chasing Lin? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s still too early to make any assumption on what type of players they’ll be moving forward, but because of his off court value (as Rahat mentioned yesterday), Lin may be more attractive to teams as a tradeable asset. (Separate from all this, watching Dragic walk to Phoenix badly stings no matter how all this plays out.)
To make matters more interesting (or worse, if you’re judging these two situations separate from anything they lead to in the future) today Kyle Lowry was traded to Toronto for Gary Forbes and a first round pick in next year’s draft, most likely one in the lottery, according to the Houston Chronicle. (Since 2006, the Raptors have had overall picks 1, 17, 9, 13, 5, and 8, but with Lowry on board alongside two incoming lottery picks—Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas—who knows where it’ll end up.) In a vacuum, I don’t like this deal at all. Lowry is an above average player on both ends of the court who’s currently playing as one of the NBA’s best bargains, and to flip him—while he continues to improve and enter his prime—for an unknown commodity by itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
But knowing the Rockets, it makes even less sense to try and dissect anything they’re doing on its own. All their transactions up to this point appear to be with a larger goal in mind. With the Lowry trade, however, it’s a bit harder to see how. Dealing him has left the team at Jeremy Lin’s mercy, and with no legitimate point guard to speak of. To try and say what Daryl Morey is planning to do would be impossible. We know he wants Lin, and, more importantly, we know he wants/craves a superstar.
Could the incoming lottery pick (reports say it’s protected both ways) be seen as another asset in his ongoing maneuver to obtain that elusive superstar? Could it signal the beginning of Houston blowing up ship and beginning their rebuild through the draft (unlikely). Or, could this trade, along with Houston’s decision to pass on Dragic, be seen as action to clear even more cap space as the team goes after Chris Paul/Dwight Howard/Free Agent X in free agency next season (an even less likely, less intelligent scenario than the previous two, especially when you factor in the announcement that Houston is offering Lin the exact same deal Dragic took from Phoenix).
Reports came out shortly after the Lowry trade that the Rockets have their eyes set on the trigger happy Aaron Brooks. Brooks hasn’t played in the NBA in over a year, so depending on him as a starting point guard next season can’t possibly be what Morey has in mind, can it? Maybe it can. Three years ago he was a 20 point per game scorer, and right now he’s just 27-years-old with supposedly fresh legs. But even if he reproduces this production from the 2009-10 season, all that would signify is that the Rockets are currently moving in circles.
As I wrote at the beginning of this piece, it’s basically impossible to know what this team’s plan is or what direction they’re headed. We know they’re smart, we know they want to win now (maybe), and we know they’ll make as many moves as it takes to at least attempt to accomplish what they set out to achieve. The decisions we’ve seen over the last two days regarding Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic have been frustrating ones for fans of both players, but let’s wait a little longer before that disappointment turns to panic.