Sports

Rockets should be aggressive sellers at the trade deadline

With less than three weeks remaining until the trade deadline, we’re getting into one of the newsier portions of the NBA calendar. If you wanted to go find it, there’s hard reporting on what every NBA team plans to do at the upcoming deadline by this point. Up until Monday morning, the Houston Rockets were thought to be one of the league’s most aggressive sellers. However, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, it seems Houston is taking an ultra conservative approach this year.

Per Iko’s reporting, the Rockets have received multiple calls on veteran guard Eric Gordon, but are hesitant to move the 33-year-old “barring an offer that simply can’t be ignored”. The same is said to be true for 26-year-old center Christian Wood. There was probably a 50-50 chance that Houston would actually trade Wood at the deadline, but Gordon being moved was a virtual certainty before this report. And for those questioning the veracity of the reporting, Iko is one of the most trusted reporters in this market and The Athletic would not allow him to report this without first confirming.

Although it’s a completely jarring decision, it does seem like Houston sees value in keeping both players around past the deadline. Iko is reporting where Houston stands right now obviously, but things can change in a couple weeks given how fluid the NBA is. It’s worth seriously questioning the logic behind sticking with the status quo though. Eric Gordon is healthy, having one of the best offensive seasons of his career (45.2% from three-point range), and has two years remaining on his contract. He’s at the height of his value and unlikely to be a long-term fixture for Houston, so it doesn’t make any sense to not capitalize on this.

If Houston were to change their mind next season and decide to move Gordon at the deadline, there’s no guarantee he’ll still perform like remain healthy. He’ll also have one year remaining on his deal which means one less playoff appearance for a potential suitor. If they trade him now, they could potentially get a nice first round pick to add to their war chest. It just doesn’t make any practical sense to waste this opportunity.

While the logic behind not trading Christian Wood is more justifiable, it doesn’t make any sense for the Rockets not to at least entertain offers. Wood is in awkward middle ground where it may not be likely that he’s a part of Houston’s long-term core, but it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. If Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun hit their primes at age 25, Wood would still be 32 years old. The problem is the liabilities he presents for Houston defensively and the contract he may demand in 2023 as a free agent. With a year and a half remaining on a reasonable deal, he’s in the same camp with Gordon in terms of being at the peak of his value.

Iko reported that Houston may choose to flip players like Daniel Theis and David Nwaba instead of Gordon and Wood. The logic in this is so backwards as both players are currently at their lowest values on multi-year deals. The Rockets can flip Nwaba and Theis at a future deadline once they’ve been more productive than they have been this season. Moving them should not be a priority considering there are other players that will actually recoup real assets. Gordon and Wood’s absence on the team could also open up significant playing time for both of these players which would allow Houston to rehabilitate their values and flip them later.

The whole purpose of rebuilding is to acquire assets and hoping one of those assets turns into a star player. Those assets could also be used to trade for a star. The trade deadline presents a unique opportunity for Houston to try and do both of those things and abstaining like this completely against what should be their core objective. It will be interesting to see if the front office changes their tune on this before the February trade deadline.

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