The Houston Rockets and the Waiver Wire: Who should they get?
The trade deadline is less than a week away, and a side effect is that players on bad teams are looking to get bought out and head to a contender. Center Greg Monroe has already been bought from the Suns and USA Today reports that the Houston Rockets are reportedly long shots to sign him. Marc Stein with the New York Times reports that Joe Johnson with the Utah Jazz could be a buyout candidate as well. Other names that have been thrown around include the recently traded Tony Allen, Brook Lopez, or Vince Carter.
The Houston Rockets need bodies given how much the team struggles in garbage time as well as the constant lingering injuries so many players are having, and are as much a contender as any team aside from the Warriors. So, which players would actually help the Rockets?
Financial and Basketball Difficulties
Unfortunately, Houston may have a difficult time as they cannot offer more than the minimum. A quick glance at NBA salaries through Spotrac shows that the Rockets used their mid-level exception last summer to get P.J. Tucker and Zhou Qi, and then used their bi-annual exception to sign Tarik Black.
Other contenders which can offer more than the minimum include the Celtics, Cavaliers, Spurs, and Raptors, and the latter two teams have not used their bi-annual exception at all. The Celtics can offer the most as they still have not used the Disabled Player Exception which they received from the Gordon Hayward injury, but they will probably get Monroe and have to use a substantial portion on him. Nevertheless, other teams also offer a path towards a title and can pay more than the Rockets.
The Rockets will also have trouble offering playing time to any buyout candidates. There may be some time for candidates here and there during the regular season due to injuries and garbage time play, but Mike D’Antoni is clearly set on an 8-9 man rotation of his starters, Gordon, Tucker, Mbah a Moute, and spot minutes for Nene. Even Gerald Green, who has been great upon seeing the court, has been benched when this Rockets team is healthy. D’Antoni is famous for his short rotations, and that will not change in the playoffs.
On the plus side, the Rockets are still about $3 million under the luxury tax and thus do not have to worry about offering the minimum. But Rockets fans should not be surprised if buyout candidates go with another team which can offer them more money and playing time.
The Top Candidates
But if we set the difficulties aside, who should be Houston’s top targets? The Nils Odds report noted that Andrew Bogut, who last played for the Los Angeles Lakers, is a potential target and the Rockets could use another big man as Clint Capela does have trouble against larger centers. Bogut is not the defensive force he was with the Warriors, but he can set the occasional dirty, I mean hard, screen which Harden or Paul could take advantage of.
If not a big man, the Rockets could also use another point guard who can take care of the ball if Paul suffers another injury. Jameer Nelson would be a terrific fit especially because he remains a respectable 3-point shooter at 36 percent this season, and the Rockets apparently tried to get him earlier in the season as well. But Nelson chose the Pelicans instead because he wanted playing time, and there is no guarantee the Chicago Bulls will even buy him out. Mario Chalmers would also be another interesting choice.
It remains to be seen who will be bought out. But if the Rockets are going to be quiet at the trade deadline like some have predicted, they could be active in the buyout market. An extra player can never hurt.