With the NBA trade deadline right around the corner, what moves can the struggling Houston Rockets make to shore up any weaknesses?
It’s that time of year again, the time of year when lottery-bound teams are looking to sell off unwanted pieces to contenders hoping for a shot at playoff success. The Houston Rockets certainly fit the latter category at 36-16 and third in the Western Conference.
The Rockets have been the surprise of the NBA season and currently hold the front-runners for several awards, including Coach of The Year (Mike D’Antoni), Sixth Man of the Year (Eric Gordon), and Most Valuable Player (James Harden).
For the season the Rockets are 19th in the league in blocks per game at 4.6, and only Capela averages more than a block per game at 1.4. Speaking of Capela, since his return from a fractured fibula, he has simply not been a good defender.
In January Capela posted a 114.9 defensive rating and when coupled with his season-low 101.9 offensive rating, he was a net negative (minus-13.1) when on the floor.
Now on to the second issue with the Rockets’ big men: they aren’t rebounding. While the Rockets are 11th in the league in rebounds per game over the entire season, they have been 24th in the league in the New Year.
Harrell is simply too undersized to rebound well enough at the center position, Nene is posting a career-low in rebounds per game (3.7) and Capela hasn’t been an elite rebounder since coming back from his injury. The Rockets surely need some help defending the rim and cleaning the class.
In terms of possible trade targets, Jusuf Nurkic could be had for cheap seeing as though he has essentially fallen out of Mike Malone’s rotation in Denver. Per-36 minutes, Nurkic averages 12 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game and boasts a career 2.4 defensive box plus-minus.
Nurkic would provide the Rockets with a rim protector and rebounder to shore up their frontcourt.
The question is what it will cost to upgrade at the backup wing position (and center for that matter). Are the Rockets willing to give up a first-round pick? Will any team take back Brewer’s relatively expensive contract?
These are all questions to monitor as rumors come up as the trade deadline inches closer.
What the Rockets end up paying for an upgrade at either center or on the wing will go a long way in shedding light in to what general manager Daryl Morey and ownership believe the potential of this current team is.
As currently constructed, the Rockets are a solid playoff team that could pose a threat to the San Antonio Spurs, but are probably an afterthought to the Golden State Warriors. One or two trades could certainly change the Rockets’ playoff fortunes.