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's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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