The Houston Rockets entered the season with heightened expectations after stockpiling all their draft picks over the years, signing Fred VanVleet as a big free agent and trading for Dillon Brooks this summer.
Houston Rockets Expected To Be Active At Trade Deadline, Seeking Rim-Protector, Per Insider
While Houston is improved and on-pace to increase their win total from a year ago by double-digits, the Rockets are no locks to make the Western Conference play-in tournament. Let alone the playoffs. This is why Jonathan Feigan of the Houston Chronicle believes the Rockets won’t stand pat at the trade deadline. But Feigan also added they will remember to continue to allow their youngsters time to develop.
Houston entered their Saturday night game against Utah in 11th place with a 19-21 record, as the Rockets have lost three straight. The Rockets are a half-game behind the 10th-place Los Angeles Lakers and one game ahead of the 11th-place Golden State Warriors.
So, what are the Rockets looking for at the deadline?
According to Feigan, Houston will likely be looking to upgrade their backup center position. Specifically, Feigan says the Rockets need someone who can protect the rims and score off lobs. Now, that Jeff Green has officially unseated Jock Landale as Alperen Sengun‘s primary backup.
Landale has seen limited action this year and has struggled in those minutes, though he has shown the ability to block shots, which the undersized Green doesn’t provide. Saying that Green does have four blocks in the last two games and a block percentage of 3% on the season.
As Feigan pointed out, the Rockets have potential issues in attempting to acquire another big man. First, Senguin has established himself as one of the best young centers in the game and is seeing nearly 33 minutes a game. That playing time has increased lately, as Senguin has been on the floor for at least 37 minutes in three of the last five contests.
Coach Ime Udoka seems comfortable to allow Green about five minutes a game at the five spot. That would leave 10 minutes maximum to fill. Plus, there is a fit issue even with Green at the four, as he is limited offensively.
This begs the question: what is Houston comfortable giving up for a player likely to see limited playing time?
The Rockets’ best option may be to go the free-agent route. Bismack Biyombo is the top center available, but the 6-8 is also expected to garner much attention after balling out for Memphis. Other free agent options are Darius Bazley, Kenneth Faried, Skal Labissiere, Jordan Bell, Greg Brown III, and Tony Bradley, as each plays in the G-League.
Houston has 15 players on standard contracts. Landale, Reggie Bullock, and Victor Oladipo, who has yet to play this season, are on expiring contracts. So, they are the Rockets’ major trade chips. The Rockets also have Brooklyn’s 2024 and 2026 unprotected first-round picks.
Additionally, Feigan mentioned that another playmaking guard and some help on the wing are other possibilities.