SALMAN ALI

Analyzing the Rockets-Suns trade

Daryl Morey pulled off another deal. Rockets.com

Full trade:

Houston receives:

Marquese Chriss

Brandon Knight

Phoenix receives:

Ryan Anderson

De'Anthony Melton

You don't see big NBA trades in late-August, but that didn't stop the Rockets and Suns from coming together on one Thursday night. The motivations of this trade are pretty clear for both sides: Phoenix wanted to get rid of two distressed assets while Houston wanted to save significant luxury tax money.

The Rockets have reportedly searched out trades for Ryan Anderson for nearly a year now. The 30-year-old forward is two years into a massive 4-year, $80 million contract and had become both a financial and on-court liability for Houston. Anderson had seen his role diminish slowly over the past year from starter to eventual reserve who didn't see much playing time in the postseason. He had effectively become close to dead salary for a contending team like the Rockets.

By trading Anderson and rookie De'Anthony Melton to the Suns in exchange for Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, the Rockets will be saving $3.4 million in salary and $7.9 million in luxury tax for a total savings of at least $11.3 million. This is assuming Melton would have signed with Houston for his rookie minimum. If he had planned on signing for more, that's even more in savings. It's easy to see why this sort of trade was attractive to the Rockets.

Houston will also have a noticeably bigger amount of their taxpayer mid-level exception to sign players this season as they were due to pay Melton his rookie minimum and they no longer have to do that, leaving up to $4.5 million to spend. The Rockets will have the option to save the money, use the exception this summer or spend it midseason to make roster upgrades (the most likely scenario).

Unfortunately losing Melton is a blow to Houston. Melton had shown real promise of being a second round steal after his one year at USC and in Summer League with the Rockets. Defensively, Melton has the tools to be a swiss army knife in the backcourt and is a fine pickup for Phoenix.

As for what Houston got in the trade, Brandon Knight is a player that might be able to crack the rotation right away. Houston has needed another point guard since they traded Patrick Beverley away in the Chris Paul deal last summer and Knight fits the mold of a guard can can succeed in Mike D'Antoni's offense. Defensively, he has some real warts and may struggle to see the floor in key moments, but he can be a nice off-guard and injury replacement if called upon. It should be noted that Knight is coming off a serious ACL injury and will take some time to regain form.

Marquese Chriss on the other hand, is more of a project for the Rockets. Although he was the 8th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Chriss has yet to show promise in the NBA as an impactful player. He isn't particularly efficient, he can't shoot, and often gets lost on defense. However, his age, size, and athleticism makes him a tantalizing project for Houston.

Chriss can battle with Isaiah Hartenstein for Houston's coveted third center spot, which often gets used when backup center Nene Hilario takes rest days. The Rockets have always had confidence that certain players develop and play better in their organization than others and this is a prime example of that. Houston also has a player option with Chriss that they can choose to not exercise and save an additional $4.1 million should he not work out.

There are several ways to view this trade and a lot of it depends on what you think of Melton. However that may be, it was still good asset management on Houston's part to unload Ryan Anderson's salary without having to forfeit a first round pick. Even if both Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss don't work out for the Rockets, they save a ton of money in luxury tax at the cost of  Melton, who they got for just a 2nd round pick. It's not a home run deal per se, but it's definitely a solid one - textbook Daryl Morey.

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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