By: Forrest Walker
The season is half over, and the Rockets haven’t made a trade. Given how often general manager Daryl Morey makes moves at the deadline, every day seemingly brings us closer to the next shakeup in Houston. Now that we have about three months worth of experience and information under our belts, we can do a rundown of what each player, pick and asset is worth, both to the Rockets organization and to the league at large. Where does Houston stand in the trade world?
First things first: these are real people, not assets. Some people use the word assets, and like Daryl Morey, I never do. Now then, let’s talk about these assets. The simplest assets are the draft picks, as they have fewer moving parts than players (who are both assets and people). The Rockets have a fairly good spread of draft picks coming up, many of which are quite worthwhile.
The only outgoing pick for Houston is their second round pick for the upcoming draft, which probably has more value to Houston than to Philadelphia, to whom it was traded. Houston has every other of their own picks, and a small bounty of incoming picks to boot. They have two extra second rounders for this draft, three owed to them in the draft after that, and one last second round pick in 2017. That’s a lot of draft picks.
First round picks might be at a premium for this year, and having their own will help them in any trade. Morey and his front office value second round picks higher than most teams, and this actually might be bad, even if they’re exactly correct. In terms of value added to the team, that cavalcade of second round picks may be the least valued option out there. That’s the problem. Even if you’re sitting on a gold mine, someone has to believe they want the gold before you can get rich. A trade asset is only as good as the best offer, and without some first rounders to sweeten the pot we may see the Rockets need to give away a first rounder to make a deal work. Thankfully, the Rockets have their own, and are willing to make sacrifices if it will take them to the next level.
Here, however, are some sacrifices they will not make. Barring a trade for LeBron James or Kevin Durant, these players all mean too much to Houston’s core identity and basketball production to ever let go. James Harden and Dwight howard are the untouchables in the organization, and that seems unlikely to change any time soon.
Chandler Parsons is nearing that line, but instead sits on the unfortunate side of it with a few other players. He’s important to Houston due to his history and his increasing skill. He is, however, a victim of circumstance as a trade asset. His value is high at the moment due to the affordability of his contract, but as a piece, his value in Houston is far greater than what it would be elsewhere. He might be a nice asset, but don’t expect anything to happen there unless the prize is a top-ten player and Parsons is one of several players moved.
Ömer Aşık is the biggest trade piece the Rockets are likely to move, and he’s also one of the most cryptic. It’s unclear exactly what’s happening with Aşık at the moment, but the official report is that he’s still rehabbing from injury and having a hard time doing so. Whatever the case, this situation is not helping his trade value, and not helping the Rockets feel comfortable moving him. His value to the team is huge when he plays, and this is actually bad in a trade situation made worse by his trade requests. Other teams don’t see him as being worth anything near what Houston values him at, and Morey is willing to wait out this seeming lack of demand. Of course, many teams would love a player like Ömer Aşık, but few want him enough to give back the small fortune Morey would prefer. Every day he stays sidelined is another tick downwards in the eventual value of whatever they can get back for him, and that might be a disaster down the road.
Jeremy Lin occupies a similar space, just without the bad blood and injury rehab. he’s a great backup guard and a solid starting point guard for Houston, and most importantly he seems willing to accept either role. Lin is a great piece for Houston, but his contract, like Aşık’s, is a dealbreaker for many teams. When push comes to shove, teams are going to want a different point guard.
Patrick Beverley is a solid point guard, a decent shooter, a capable defender and a sparkplug in general. He’s also making less than a million dollars this year, has unguaranteed money to the tune of one million next year and is still only in his second year in the league. He’s a solid trade asset and would be easier to move or throw into a deal with another set of players than Jeremy Lin. If Ömer Aşık does get traded, don’t be surprised if Beverley goes with him.
Terrence Jones is in a strange position where Houston doesn’t really know what they have with him. He’s improving by leaps and bounds, but it’s not clear what his ceiling is. If his level of play improves slightly, he could command a sizeable price. If he regresses, it’s a very different story. Either way, the jury is very much still out, and neither side has much to gain by rocking the boat. Houston would like to see what he can become, and other teams typically don’t like to pick up question marks unless they’re in a gambling mode.
Isaiah Canaan and Robert Covington are still rookies. They won’t be offered up in trades and it’s unlikely anyone else will try to target them. Next year, things might be different, but this year they seem safe.
The rest of Houston’s pieces belong in a rather ignominious pile. Donatas Motiejunas, Francisco Garcia, Aaron Brooks, Omri Casspi and Greg Smith are all in the expendable backup category of players, relegating them to throw-ins in most trades. None of them has distinguished himself enough to warrant a real look, but none are really bad enough to say no to, barring the age and play of Garcia this season. These players may end up as a pot sweetener for a team looking to become more competitive next season.
Houston has a lot of assets, and they will be able to make a move sooner or later. It may not be the move we expect, and it may not initially seem to make sense, but soon, some of these assets who are players will be gone from Houston. And for the record, I still didn’t call them assets.