The Houston Rockets traded away 2018 NBA MVP James Harden in a blockbuster deal. But what will the new version of this team look like?
Under first-year head coach Stephen Silas, Houston will run their offense through John Wall and Christian Wood. They will also incorporate two-time NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo, who was acquired from the Indiana Pacers in the deal as well.
Overall, this move was more focused on the future than the present, as the Rockets landed a total of four unprotected first-rounders and four unprotected pick swaps.
There were also immediate financial implications considering, as noted by our own Yossi Gozlan, Houston went from $5.2 million over the luxury tax to $3.7 million under the tax. Houston can also generate a traded player exception worth $10.7 million if they want to continue tweaking this roster, per Gozlan.
Below, however, as what the rotation looks like for the Rockets after trading away their longtime superstar:
Mason Jones (Two-way)
After trading away Russell Westbrook during the offseason, the Houston Rockets landed five-time All-Star John Wall from the Washington Wizards. Wall, who is coming off injuries to his left heel and his Achilles tendon, has looked much better than expected for the Rockets this season. He had shared the primary ball-handler responsibilities with Harden before the blockbuster deal.
Houston will need someone to run the offense when Wall is not on the floor. While they may sign someone, among the players currently on their roster, Eric Gordon makes the most. Gordon has come off the bench for the Rockets in all but one game so far this season, providing value as a sparkplug scorer off the bench. Dante Exum is currently injured but he will earn some of those minutes when he returns. Victor Oladipo and David Nwaba both have some experience playing on-ball as well.
Brodric Thomas (Two-way)
The most surprising part of this trade was that the Rockets moved the big names they received from Brooklyn to other teams. Rather than seeing what they could get out of Caris LeVert, they went big-game hunting in order to land Victor Oladipo. While he is a two-time All-Star, he missed the majority of his previous two NBA seasons.
Considering the Rockets opted for a future first-rounder instead of Jarrett Allen, Houston’s management may be making financially-oriented decisions at this point. This has led to some speculation that the Rockets could actually end up flipping Oladipo, who is currently in the final year of his contract, as well. Either way, that means Nwaba and Ben McLemore should expect a bit more playing time than before.
Kenyon Martin Jr.
As of now, the wing rotation for the Rockets remains largely unchanged. Nwaba and House have played the most minutes at the three for Houston thus far. House has started in all four of the games that he has played this season. He is a low-usage player on offense who can yield to more of the higher-powered players that surround him. Meanwhile, Sterling Brown will continue getting minutes off the bench.
While the Rockets experimented with playing PJ Tucker at the five last season, the 6-foot-6 veteran has slotted back down to his more natural fit at power forward this year. Houston has also given more than 20 minutes per game to rookie Jae’Sean Tate, who earned All-NBL 1st Team in Australia last season. Rodions Kurucs, a second-round pick in 2018, has not played much this season and is currently recovering from an ankle sprain. Bruno Caboclo has a non-guaranteed contract so he will likely get waived to make room for the recent additions.
One of the most interesting stories of the year is the emergence of big man Christian Wood. The 25-year-old already looks like the early favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Player. He is averaging 22.6 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. DeMarcus Cousins has not had a ton of playing time in the frontcourt, averaging just 13.4 minutes per game thus far since joining the Rockets. Tucker will presumably get more time at the five, much like he did last year, when Wood is not on the floor.
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