Red94 Mailbag: Brandon Knight and potential trade targets

Another Wednesday means another installment of the Red94 mailbag! As the Rockets continue to struggle with consistency, at least the team appears to be nearing full strength. Currently, Houston sits at 11-12, good for 13th in the Western Conference. However, they are only one and a half games out of the playoff picture and five games back of the top seed, so the rest of the conference isn’t exactly lighting things up. With that being said, let’s get to this week’s set of questions!

Two questions regarding Brandon Knight, who played in a rehab game in the G League last week as he continues his recovery. In case you forgot or aren’t aware, Brandon Knight hasn’t played in a NBA game since February 15, 2017. By the time he sees the floor with the Rockets, he will have gone nearly two full years without playing in a NBA game! Therefore, I wouldn’t expect much early on from Knight as he works to find his footing again in the league.

If he does well with his minutes and his body holds up, the Rockets will be getting a talented, but inefficient scorer. For his career, Knight owns a True Shooting percentage of 52% and he hasn’t hit his 3-pointers at a league average rate since the 2014-15 season (he is a career 35.7% shooter from beyond the arc).

Knight should be fine in the spot minutes he will receive in the rotation, but I caution anyone to have any serious expectations surrounding his ability to contribute. Let’s see how well he holds up in the early stints he receives and just how much his defense will be exposed when on the floor.

What the Rockets are most likely looking for out of Knight is someone who can take 10-12 minutes on a semi-regular basis to spell James Harden, Chris Paul and Eric Gordon some extra rest. Think of Knight as the Nene of the backcourt, a player that can be adequate against most match-ups, but won’t always see the floor and won’t play more than limited minutes. All the Rockets would like Knight to do in those minutes is handle the ball a little and knock down his 3-pointers at an average rate or better. There will be some nights that Knight has it going, but the best part of having him in the rotation is that he provides another ball-handler, a (somewhat) capable shooter and a player to ease the minutes burden off the top guards.

Batum was a player thrown around during the offseason as a potential trade target back when the Rockets were looking to unload Ryan Anderson’s contract. Batum is a very expensive role player, as he is set to make $25.5 million next season and has a player option for the 2020-21 season at $27.1 million. Acquiring Batum would make the Rockets an even more expensive team moving forward, which I’m sure isn’t the ideal goal for ownership, especially for a player of Batum’s caliber.

Batum has struggled this season, as he is averaging just 9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game. He is only attempting 7.6 shots per game even though he plays over 30 minutes each night, and his defense has left something to be desired (the Hornets’ defense has been better when he is off the floor).

Sure, the idea of Batum is intriguing, as he is a long, 6’8″ wing that can handle the ball, play somewhat compelling defense and knock down 3-pointers at an average clip. However, Batum really hasn’t lived up to that on a consistent basis in several years now, making it tough to see a team valuing him enough to trade for him at his contract.

While a package of Chriss, Knight, Qi and a first round pick would likely get it done, why not try and use that package for a cheaper, better wing like Kent Bazemore? Perhaps Kelly Oubre or DeMarre Carroll would be available for a smaller trade package. There are other options out there that would be better trade targets for the Rockets both on the court and in the books.

It would take a miracle (and potentially a lot of alcohol) for a team to trade for Carmelo Anthony at this stage. There most likely won’t be a team to trade with in the first place, but even if there was the Rockets would not get anything back of value in such a deal (they would probably have to give up a second round pick or something to get a team to take him on, which you wouldn’t want to waste in such a deal).

Competitive teams won’t want Anthony due to his poor defense, questionable shot selection and the fact that he isn’t a very strong shooter at this point. Meanwhile, rebuilding teams won’t want to add Anthony to a mix of young players that are developing their skills, as Anthony most likely won’t accept a very reduced role off the bench on such a team. Most rebuilding teams have the veterans they need on the roster to help the young players, making it nearly impossible to figure out a team that could actually want Anthony.

The Rockets are still holding out hope that a team would claim Anthony off waivers or trade for him, as they wouldn’t have his salary count against the cap (and luxury tax) in that scenario. The most likely outcome is that no such team arises (unless one gets struck by a plethora of injuries in the coming weeks) and the Rockets waive him to eat the salary but (officially) get him off the team.

 

About the author: Eric has previously covered the Rockets for The Dream Shake and Hoops Habit, and is also the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The 94. Favorite Rockets include Patrick Beverley and Omer Asik!

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