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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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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