Buyout season is upon us

Grading the signings: Rockets add DeMarre Carroll and Jeff Green

With Marvin Williams signing with the Bucks, it looked like it was going to be a pretty barren buyout market for the Rockets to exist with two open roster spots. However, the San Antonio Spurs made the inexplicable decision to waive veteran swingman DeMarre Carroll with over $8 million remaining on his contract and the Rockets quickly pounced.

Not long after, Houston filled their second roster spot with a 10-day contract with journeyman forward Jeff Green.

Unless Houston decides to move in a different direction after Green's contract days are up, it looks like they've settled in on what will be their roster going into the playoffs.

So, let's analyze what they did on the buyout market.

DeMarre Carroll

B+

I wrote about DeMarre Carroll as a potential trade deadline target for Houston two weeks ago, but getting him on the buyout market is impressive.

Let's be clear: there's a pretty decent chance that Carroll's best days as an competent NBA rotation player are behind him. We often underrate how smart head coaches are and Gregg Popovich certainly leads the pack. Carroll was already out of the rotation, and if the Spurs made the executive decision that Carroll is no longer worthy of a roster spot, he may very well not be.

In 15 games this season, Carroll only played a total of 135 minutes after playing 1703 minutes in 67 games the season before. He shot 23.1% from beyond the arc, despite being a career 35.9% three-point shooter. To put it gently, Carroll was unimpressive for San Antonio this season.

The reason this deal is a bargain for Houston is aside from money, the only thing they're sacrificing to sign him is a roster spot. They didn't have to give up assets to trade for him and take on the potential dead salary for next season. This is as close to risk-free as it gets.

And if it works out, Houston gets a veteran wing defender that can play multiple positions and space the floor, perfect for the ethos the franchise has undertaken this season. If he plays, Carroll's best contributions will probably come at the power forward and center positions. This takes away some burden from Danuel House, PJ Tucker, and Thabo Sefolosha.

As with all contenders who take on buyout players, there's a good possibility that Houston already has their playoff rotation set. With Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Eric Gordon, Danuel House, PJ Tucker, Ben McLemore, Austin Rivers, and Thabo Sefolosha, there aren't going to be many minutes to go around for Carroll. At the very least, Carroll can be an injury replacement kind of player. It's always nice to have some insurance in the playoffs.

Jeff Green

C-

It is very important that Rockets fans not sell themselves on Jeff Green. This is a trap that several other fanbases have fallen for and will continue to fall for. "Maybe he'll finally have success in X's system" is a phrase used entirely too much with Green. Green's package of size (6'9" according to nba.com), athleticism, and perceived potential has been tantalizing to NBA teams for years.

The reality is Green has always been a poor defender, bad shooter (33.3% from deep for his career), and a better prospect on paper than on a basketball court.

However, it's unlikely the Rockets actually believe Green will be a real contributor for them this season. This reads like a "What the hell? Why not take the 20% chance he works out for us?" kind of signings. Again, the buyout market is really unattractive this year, so the opportunity cost with the used roster spot is quite low.

I suppose it may be worth a look at Green playing full-time center for Houston and seeing if that sparks something. For what it's worth, one of best seasons was a year ago with the Washington Wizards, where he played 21% of his minutes at the center position (highest of his career) and shot 34.7% from three-point range. The Rockets have had success with misfit projects before (Ben McLemore being the poster child of that), so this is kind of a heat check.

Overall

B-

The Rockets are doubling down (literally) on micro-ball and yesterday was an extension of that reality. Many may have wanted the Rockets to seek out a center on the buyout market, but Houston's clearly committed to this unorthodox style of play and they aren't breaking from it. It's kind of respectable that they believe so much in their new identity, to be honest. The Rockets want to have the versatility to switch one through five on defense and these signings allow them to do even more of that (if they work out).

As stated earlier, it's likely that Houston already has their playoff rotation ready to go in-house, but things don't always go your way with injuries. If things go awry for Houston at the wrong moment, both Green and Carroll can end up being decent insurance policies.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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