The Athletic’s Kelly Iko joins Michael Scotto on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast. The pair discuss potential trade scenarios for the Houston Rockets involving Victor Oladipo, PJ Tucker, Ben McLemore, and more. Plus, a look at the difficult task Stephen Silas has dealt with in his first season as a head coach. Listen to the podcast above or check out some snippets of the conversation in a transcribed version below.
1:40 Which teams are interested in Victor Oladipo?
Scotto: We’ve heard rumblings about teams like the Knicks had an eye on him and the Miami Heat. With the Knicks, he’s got the Scott Perry connection from when he drafted him years ago (with Orlando). In Miami, there have been rumblings around the league he’s wanted to go there in free agency.
Iko: They like Oladipo a lot. They brought him in wanting to hang onto him if they could. At the same time, they’re also becoming a bit more realistic and saying that if a team comes in and can offer something that’s of higher value to them than hanging onto him, they’ll obviously trade him. Victor is the kind of guy where you see why Stephen Silas wanted to bring him in as a two-way player… As the deadline approaches, there are teams like Miami, New York, and possibly Denver, that would take him off their hands.
Scotto: I remember when Oladipo did his press conference when he was acquired by Houston. He said, “Essentially, it’s like a business plan. You’ve got to go through every aspect of the business plan before you kind of figure out if you want to invest in it.” From my standpoint, if I’m in Victor’s shoes, he’s going to be a guy that’s up there as one of the top regarded big-name free agents on the market. We saw the report about him passing up an extension. I didn’t make much of it. They couldn’t offer too many years, and he’d look for a long-term deal. It gave you a gauge that he’s clearly looking for a raise from his $21 million salary, and he’ll try to get as much as he can.
5:10 Why did Houston send Caris LeVert to Indiana for Victor Oladipo?
Iko: As I understand it, Stephen Silas was very big on Victor. He’s somebody who had a big part in the decision to bring Victor in because he fell in love with his two-way ability. Probably something where they saw how John Wall had played since coming back. That played a part in the decision to bring in Victor thinking he could come in and be a 20-25 point scorer alongside John and help them transition off the James Harden era.
8:50 What are the Rockets looking for in return for Oladipo?
Scotto: In speaking with other executives around the league, they definitely think he’s going to get moved at some point.
Iko: I’d assume they’re looking for a starting-level two-guard, a scorer who can come in and compliment Wall and Christian Wood.
10:40 Is there a team in the Oladipo trade sweepstakes that’s a frontrunner now?
Iko: Everyone knows where he wants to end up with the Miami link. Honestly, I think if there was going to be a front runner, this is my opinion, I’d have to say New York because they’re a team that desperately wants to make the playoffs, and they’re the exact team that could put a deadline package together to get Victor over there. We all know Victor wants to end up in Miami.
Getting James off the books and getting the picks and pick swaps is pretty good business. But at the end of the day, if you’re going to lose Victor, you have to get back something because you don’t just want to be left with picks and pick swaps after losing one of the greatest players of this generation.
Scotto: If you’re a team that’s debating acquiring him, you’re looking at him then as a rental if he really wants Miami. Now, it takes two to tango. Does Miami have as much interest in him? That remains to be seen.
I do think, ultimately, they have to move Oladipo. He’s 28 and not really a part of the timeline for the rebuild they’re doing, which is centered around Wood. He’s the guy that’s close to untouchable for that team as possible.
14:25 Which teams are frontrunners in the PJ Tucker trade sweepstakes and what does Houston want in return?
Scotto: Some of the main teams we’ve heard more recently are the Bucks, Lakers, and Heat as well. There were other teams mentioned. The 76ers because of the Daryl Morey connection. The Nets because of the connection to Mike D’Antoni and James Harden. I thought the Nuggets would’ve been a little more in there than they were, but it doesn’t necessarily seem that way.
Iko: They want a young player back as well as draft compensation. That’s pretty much the standard for any Tucker deal. In terms of front runners, there have been deals that were on the table. The Rockets get calls about Tucker pretty much every day.
Scotto: PJ wants to go to a contender. I think Houston will ultimately do right by him the way they did right by Harden. When I looked at the trade market for him and the Nets came up post-Harden trade. If Tucker was going to the Nets, I thought it would’ve happened during the Harden four-team blockbuster. Morey has tried to build shooters around Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. PJ is a guy he trusts and can hit the corner three. Young asset-wise, I don’t see Morey necessarily trying to move a guy like Tyrese Maxey who’s a guy Houston would be interested in as a piece long-term.
For the Nuggets, I was talking about this with our salary cap guru Yossi Gozlan at HoopsHype, they could’ve taken PJ into their Jerami Grant trade exception. That leaves you with the Bucks, Lakers and Heat. Miami has plenty of expiring contracts, which Houston is going to want. They’re not going to want to take back salary unless it’s a younger guy that’s cheaper and they can have control on.
In terms of draft pick compensation, I don’t know if they (Houston) can pull a first-round pick. If they can get multiple second-round picks, that would be something I think would be more likely at this point because he’s going to be a free agent afterward and will be sought out again on that market.
The Bucks would be interesting if they can part with maybe D.J. Wilson. We’ve seen with Kevin Porter Jr. that Rafael Stone, the GM of the Rockets, has taken guys that have been drafted with potential but didn’t succeed in their first stop and try to bring them in as a reclamation project.
As far as the Lakers, I don’t see them necessarily trying to move Talen Horton-Tucker for him.
20:30 Trade market for Ben McLemore and Danuel House
Scotto: Kelly, you reported McLemore as a shooter who’s getting some interest from teams. I’d put Danuel House in that same boat as well. Both are 27 in the prime of their careers and cheaper alternatives on the trade market than a guy like JJ Redick, who hasn’t gotten the type of demand on the trade market the Pelicans would’ve expected coming into the season thus far.
Iko: I think Ben McLemore is a guy that if you’re a contender looking for shooting, he’s an easy pickup. I believe you can get him for a second-round pick right now.
24:42 Rockets bright spots: Kevin Porter Jr. and Jae’Sean Tate
Scotto: Kevin Porter Jr., his talent if you talk to any executive around the league, no one ever questioned his talent. The question was more can he keep his head on straight? So far in Houston, they’ve had good reviews on him.
Iko: Tate’s been one of the hardest workers on the team daily. He listens. He’s like a sponge. He’s been effective as a roller. He’s been a sturdy defender.
Porter Jr. is an incredibly gifted and talented player who just needs the right system around him to succeed. He needs that love and support. I think he’s gotten that in Houston so far.
27:43 How the Rockets view Christian Wood
Scotto: To me, he’s a guy that’s firmly in that Most Improved Player award conversation. I think it’s going to really come down to him and Jerami Grant by the end of the season.
Iko: Yes, I think he does want that award. He didn’t appreciate not being voted as an All-Star, but he missed a ton of games, so there’s no argument there. In terms of what the Rockets view him as, I think you can consider him a franchise corner piece right now given his age, the money he’s on, the production he’s had, and how they’ve looked without him. They haven’t won a game since he left (was injured).
He recently changed his shoes going to the high tops now. Maybe that’ll prevent more ankle injuries.
You can follow Michael Scotto on Twitter: @MikeAScotto