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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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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