From a sluggish start to injuries to Chris Paul and Clint Capela, and even having to finally end the Melo drama, the Houston Rockets have had a far-from-smooth season so far. Thanks to yet another MVP-caliber season from James Harden, as well as the midseason acquisitions of Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried, the Rockets sit fifth in the Western Conference, very much in the mix. But despite being in the middle of the pack, this year’s Rockets appear less likely to unseat the Warriors than last year’s team. (Though, realistically, is anyone in the NBA close enough to unseat this year’s Warriors team?) With the Warriors in mind and the February 7th trade deadline approaching, what should Daryl Morey’s approach be?
Who is available? Who could be a good fit?
Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the big fish to openly ask for is New Orleans megastar Anthony Davis. Per the Woj, Davis would like to play for a team that has a legitimate chance at contending for a championship – so, really, the Warriors. (I’m kidding.) Although I sincerely have my fingers crossed against it, Davis will not wind up with Golden State.
Other stars on the market are the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. Memphis is eyeing a rebuild, but will only deal Conley and Gasol for the right price. That’s understandable, considering both have been cornerstones of the Grizzlies franchise for the past decade.
A couple of non-premier names potentially on the market are Bucks center Thon Maker, who, per Woj, would like to go where he can get more playing time. Also potentially seeking a trade is Knicks forward/center Enes Kanter. Kanter and Maker are not huge names, but a team that doesn’t strike gold at the deadline, or a team struggling to make a playoff push, could be interested in their services.
Conley and Davis could fit well into D’Antoni’s framework if Morey can pull that deal off with the Pelicans. Conley would fit simply because of Chris Paul’s injury history; and I am assuming the Rockets would include Eric Gordon in any trade, so Houston will need another guard who can give them at least fifteen points a night. Acquiring Conley would also mean an extra load off the shoulders off James Harden, who has played at a godlike level just to keep Houston in the postseason mix.
Regarding Anthony Davis, everyone will be calling the Pelicans about their asking price. Davis would be a great fit with Houston. He can do everything, from blocking shots to controlling the boards, and with his athleticism he can play and even guard every position on the floor. The good news for Houston, if they acquired Conley or Davis or both, is that they are both under contract until 2021.
The obstacles for acquiring Davis are Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers. Both the Lakers and Celtics have young players and draft picks, New Orleans will believe they can still be relevant. Also favoring the Lakers, Rich Paul, who represents Davis, also represents Lebron. Oh, and majority of the sports talk shows are dominated by the Brow-to-L.A. rumors.
Morey Looking for Perimeter Help
If the Rockets failed to acquire Conley or Davis, Enes Kanter would be a decent pickup because of his shooting ability, and because he is also a solid rebounder. In an interview with Fox Sports One’s First Things First (below), Morey said he was actively looking to improve the wing position and not wanting to waste Chris Paul’s and James Harden’s primes. (I found it funny that two guys in their 13th and 9th seasons respectively would be “in their primes.” Paul, when healthy, is still a good player, but he is more in his twilight than his prime. Harden is in the middle of his prime but heading towards the twilight of his career as well.)
Second, while the Rockets do need to look at upgrading the wing position, they also need to add more size. Adding Faried was a good boost towards helping the interior defense; however, the Rockets are still at 26th in the NBA in rebounding and are 24th in rebounding differential at -2.6. Getting Capela back from injury will be a big boost, but do you know who would be an even bigger boost to both the interior and perimeter defense? Anthony Davis.
Daryl Morey was bold enough to offer four first-round picks to try to acquire Jimmy Butler. With Anthony Davis on the market, and knowing Morey is a big game hunter, the question is: What kind of offer will he make to New Orleans? When Morey begins trade negotiations, he must keep in mind the star-studded summer expected to hit free agency in the NBA, headlined by Kevin Durant, Demarcus Cousins, Kawhi Leonard, and Klay Thompson.
The Warriors have taken a lot of intrigue away from the NBA, but the stories that emerge by this trade deadline could instantly change the narrative and raise some eyebrows. Houston should either make a big splash by this deadline, or just wait to jump in the water until free agency.