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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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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