How Houston Rockets are uniquely positioned after crazy NBA trade deadline
The Houston Rockets, like much of the NBA landscape in the past 24 hours, has completely changed its roster makeup as it heads toward the final months of the regular season.
Houston sent long-time veteran Eric Gordon to the Los Angeles Clippers, traded away Garrison Mathews and Bruno Fernando, had a reunion with John Wall, sort of, and then added a plethora of draft picks, including two future second-round picks and an intriguing right to a pick swap using Milwaukee’s first-round draft pick that could be switched out with the Clippers’ first-round draft pick in the 2023 draft.
Above it all, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is grinning from ear-to-ear following the complete implosion of the Brooklyn Nets over the past week.
First Kyrie Irving went to Dallas and then the Nets sent Kevin Durant to Phoenix, meaning Houston is in prime position to have numerous high first-round picks in 2024, 2025 in a potential swap, 2026, and 2027 in another potential swap.
The Rockets also have the option to swap first-round picks with the Nets this year, but Houston will likely end the season with the higher one when it is all said and done, regardless of the Nets’ close to the season.
Why is this such great news for the Rockets? Because they have plenty of capital to get back to competitiveness again, and quite frankly, relevance.
Houston has used its last two first-round draft picks in Jalen Green and Jabari Smith. Arguably the Rockets’ best player is also a first-round draft pick they got in 2021 in Alperen Şengün. They are in great position to once again finish with a top three pick in this year’s draft, and this season, finishing top two likely means Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson.
While in theory, Houston could hold on to all the draft picks and have a chance to select the top talent in the coming drafts, the reality is that the Rockets just secured a deep budget to rebuild the team.
Outside of Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Jabari Smith and Jae’Sean Tate, no one on the current Rockets roster is owed more than $6.5 million next season. While Porter is on the books for $15.86 million guaranteed in 2023-24, his contract is more than movable considering he only has guaranteed money for that season, and the Rockets have all the draft picks they can attach to entice a team to take him if needed.
Houston has all the resources it needs to be able to jump at the next time a disgruntled star demands a trade, similar to Donovan Mitchell this past offseason. If the Philadelphia 76ers’ season goes awry, a James Harden reunion could be in the works too, according to a report earlier in the season from Adrian Wojnarowski.
While Harden himself is not enough anymore to move the needle for the Rockets back to contention, Houston’s draft capital can help surround the team with key pieces to quickly turn the landscape around in what could be a team headlined by three top three draft picks.
With players like Khris Middleton, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Jaylen Brown potentially hitting the free agency market in the next two offseasons as well, having flexibility is key for any team seeking to lure them away, and that is exactly what the Rockets have with the Nets’ implosion.