Point Blank

What is next for the Rockets in the buyout market?

DeAndre Jordan might be a nice fit. Getty Images.

Now that the trade deadline has come and gone and General Manager Daryl Morey has said all the moves the team made were to put them in position to swoop in on buyout candidates, who are the best fits for the Rockets?

We all know that heading towards the deadline the team desperately needed help on the wing but after acquiring Iman Shumpert, it appears the team's biggest need may be to add depth to the front line. We have seen both recently and all season long that the team has struggled to contain bigger, more physical centers like Denver's Nicola Jokic, Orlando's Nic Vucevic, Philly's Joel Embiid, and the Spurs' LaMarcus Aldridge. With Nene only able to contribute 10 to 15 minutes per game when healthy and seemingly injured every year no matter how much they try and rest him, an extra "big" could really help come playoff time. With Clint Capella's slight frame and the likes of Karl Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert and DeMarcus Cousins all potential playoff foes, it would behoove Morey to add at least one experienced low post player to the roster. So with that being said, who is out there or could be available?

The first big man to hit the market was Enis Kanter. After a tumultuous season with the Knicks and New York failing to find a trade partner, the Turkish 7 footer who specializes in offense hit the open market. He could definitely give the Rockets some scoring punch on the low block and run the floor a little bit, but defensively he has never been known as a rim protector or power rebounder. He could be a fit for Houston but only if other opportunities dry up or sign with other contenders.

The Pelicans may not have moved Anthony Davis before the deadline, but they were able to make a move and add Markeiff Morris to their roster. With Julius Randall having a breakout season and the "Brow" still playing 25 minutes a game, Morris was sent packing to hopefully find greener pastures. Although he has had an up and down season, he was still averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds and shooting 34% from 3 point range, right on par with his career tendencies. Playing in a free-flowing offense that gives a chance to get some easy baskets on the break and open looks on the wing, he could really flourish in the Rockets system. If the feeling is mutual, I like the thought of adding this 6' 10" athletic and yet powerful post man.

Another big man that could fit in nicely in Houston for short doses off the bench is Marcin Gortat. Nicknamed the Polish Hammer, he has established himself as a tough and powerful post player that plays both ends of the floor and won't back down to anyone.

The Clippers are expected to set him free in the next few days and he would be a nice addition for the H-town squad. He may not be a weapon on the wing or facing the basket, but he more than makes up for it with his ability to score and finish on offense while packing the post and defending the paint. He has averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds for his career while shooting 55% from the field. He would instantly upgrade the toughness and power of the Rockets front line and provide a quality insurance policy in case Nene once again cannot answer the bell.

The Bulls' Robin Lopez is also expected to be bought out in the next week or so and he will have plenty of suitors. He may not shoot the 3-ball like his brother Brook in Milwaukee, but he is big and physical and could provide Houston with similar characteristics to what Gortat brings to the table. Lopez has struggled this season playing with a young and underachieving Chicago team, but he is a quality defender, shot blocker and rebounder. He is underrated on the offensive end and can get you an occasional bucket on the block if you need it. The other big advantage to signing him is that the other team interested in his services is the Warriors and keeping anyone of quality out of the Bay area is a positive for the Rockets.

The final name on my list is a Houston native that would love to come home and help Houston compete for a title. DeAndre Jordan is a center that has been on the Rockets radar for years and for the right price he would be an overwhelming addition and quite possibly the ideal post-buyout signing in the entire league. Jordan has been first team NBA once, third team twice and is a two time all defensive team member in the league. He has lead the league in rebounding and has been an NBA all-star, as well as having plenty of playoff experience. He would immediately upgrade the Rockets post defense and having played with Chris Paul he would have chemistry on the high pick and roll and lobs to the basket. The Knicks have said they planned to hang on to Jordan for the time being, but if he is set free he could be a huge addition to the Rockets roster. He has averaged a double-double over his 11-year career and can run the floor better than most big men and finishes well around the rim. Sure his free throw shooting is a liability but the positives far outweigh the negatives if he is available and interested in coming home.

If the Rockets are able to land at least one of the postmen on this list it would be a huge upgrade to the roster and give them a big boost come playoff time. Add two of them and Morey will have completely transformed his roster and rotation from one of the worst in the league to one of the best. With all the criticism this season that Morey has had to own regarding his inability to keep a team that was one hamstring away from a Finals appearance together, he could save face and give James Harden a team capable of another long playoff run. For now, we will all wait and see what is yet to come, but an extra big man would be a great kickstart to a strong playoff push in the second half of the season.

Bob Levey/Getty Images

NBA wheeling and dealing dominated the first half of July, now it's baseball's turn with the one and now only trade deadline looming the 31st.

I've steadfastly been saying the Astros are extreeeemely likely to win the American League West and that their real race is for homefield advantage in the playoffs, with the Twins and Yankees in the American League and maybe the Dodgers for World Series homefield edge. Catching the Dodgers looks unlikely. The Astros have a better team than the Twins, and an easier remaining schedule in trying to catch the Yankees.

For at least a few days though take the Oakland A's seriously. If a team scores about as many runs as yours does, and allows about as many as yours does, that team is basically about as good as yours is. Looking at the rosters I'm not sure how it's the case but that basically is Oakland this season. Since a 19-25 start, the A's have ripped off a 36-17 stretch to enter the weekend within five and a half games of the Astros. They've kept rolling since a month ago losing their best starting pitcher (Frankie Montas) to an 80 game performance enhancing drug suspension. The Astros and A's have 11 head-to-head games left, the first three coming at Minute Maid Park Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

The Astros can win the World Series with the club they have now, especially once Carlos Correa rejoins the lineup. They could also get bounced in the Division Series. The addition of a starting pitcher has clearly grown in need. Who is selling and what prices are the questions. The Jays' Marcus Stroman? The Tigers' Matthew Boyd? The Marlins' Caleb Smith? The Mets are on the fringe of the Wild Card picture, would they auction Noah Syndergaard? The Giants have surged into the mass of mediocrity that is the NL Wild Card pic, that would seem to make them trading Madison Bumgarner less likely. It's not as if the Astros would be the lone bidder on any of these guys.

A big move

I was off last week when news surfaced of the Russell Westbrook to the Rockets/Chris Paul and draft picks to the Thunder blockbuster trade. With it becoming official this week, some thoughts. Of course the Rockets wanted to move the three years, 124 million dollars left on Paul's contract. Of course there was concern over lingering problems between Harden and Paul. Maybe they'd have worked through it, maybe not. Of course taking on an additional year and 47 million more guaranteed dollars entails risk. But right now Westbrook is clearly the better and more durable player. It will be fascinating to see how well (or not well) Westbrook and James Harden mesh. What they did together seven years ago (with Kevin Durant too!) when Harden was a 22 year old sixth man isn't particularly relevant now. As he did with Harden and Paul, Mike D'Antoni will stagger their minutes to have at least one on the floor at nearly all times. Yeah, well, how are things handled down the stretch of close games? Harden is the man, Westbrook is a lousy spot up shooter. So is the ball in Westbrook's hands with Harden spotting up? Hard to see a steady diet of that. When off the ball both guys generally play as statues. That needs to change.

Westbrook may be the most explosive inch for inch player we've ever seen. Absolutely Jordanesque-not as a player, but for sheer stunning athleticism Westbrook has been amazing to watch. He brings a one man transition game ability the Rockets haven't had in ages. The consistent force with which he plays is captivating, even when he lapses into out of control Russell mode. There has to be concern that slippage in his game began last season during which Westbrook turned 30. However it was a season in which he was still third team All-NBA.

While averaging a triple-double for a third consecutive season, Westbrook's shooting numbers were poor. His free throw shooting tumbled to an awful 66 percent. His mid-range make percentage was not good. Westbrook is literally one of the worst three point shooters in the 40 season NBA history of the shot. His 30.8% career number is woeful, and in four of the last five seasons Westbrook hasn't hit 30%. The only player to take within a 1000 3s of the 2995 Westbrook has jacked up, and make a feebler percentage of them: Charles Barkley. Westbrook has played 11 NBA seasons and not hit the league average percentage from three in any of them. The notion that he's suddenly going to become a marksman for the Rockets is silly. The idea that Westbrook will get better look threes? Come on. Defenses have loved Westbrook shooting threes for years.

In the end, I like the trade for the NOW of it. The Rockets have a title contending upside, and an it could crater downside. They could wind up forfeiting lottery picks (top four protected) in 2024 when Harden is ready to turn 34 and Westbrook approaching 36, and again in 2026. While Daryl Morey has probably gotten too loose with discarding first round picks (they haven't made one since 2015), are you really going to be hung up on the risks of five and seven years from now?

Buzzer beaters

1. Kyle Tucker should not be untouchable for a pitcher the Astros would control beyond this season. 2. By the advanced WAR (win above replacement) metric the Rangers have the two best AL pitchers this season. The Astros face Mike Minor Friday night and Lance Lynn Sunday. Justin Verlander ranks third as he starts opposite Minor 3. Best sports Halls of Fame to visit: Bronze-hockey, Toronto Silver-pro football, Canton Gold-baseball, Cooperstown


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