Buyout season is upon us
Feb 18, 2020, 4:47 am
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.
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 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.
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.
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.