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's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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