It was a difficult first two months for the Houston Rockets but their recent 10 wins in 11 games has brought them back to playoff contention. Coupled with reigning MVP James Harden’s surge in performance in which he scored 32 points in 10 straight games, the Rockets have reeled off a couple of five-game winning streaks in December and hope to continue that trend in 2019 all the way to June.
But the Rockets still need help. Their bench isn’t as good as it was last season and that could spell a lot of trouble in the postseason. That’s why The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that they were interested in the Los Angeles Lakers Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in mid-December. Nothing has transpired thus far by way of a trade involving Caldwell-Pope who has veto power on any deal involving his future destination.
The veteran guard signed a one-year, $12-million deal to return to L.A. in the offseason but he hasn’t played consistently well with newly acquired star LeBron James. It’s no wonder that he scored 26 and 25 points in back-to-back games without James in the lineup. The inconsistency has resulted in speculation that Pope will be dealt sooner or later.
Though the Lakers have benefitted from Pope’s presence when his shot is falling, they already have a number of guards that could take his place. What they need is a big man who can man the power forward spot, someone who can guard bigger players in the post and can . This was especially made clear when James went down with an injury.
For the Lakers to agree with the Rockets on a trade, they will have to include another team, at least, that can provide them with the necessary piece or pieces to complement their roster.
The Rockets would benefit from having KCP on their roster as a 3-and-D player to come off their bench. After they lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in the summer, bench depth has been a huge issue this season. Caldwell-Pope will help address the quality of play from the reserves. He’s good enough to adjust to Houston’s switch-heavy defense and he will likely play better in the Rockets’ offense.
Making a deal with the Lakers is a bit tricky for Houston as their best trade asset to acquire Caldwell-Pope is Brandon Knight who is due $14.6 million this year and $15.6 million next season. In order to get a deal done without sacrificing any of their key players, they have to sweeten the pot by including a couple of picks.
Here are the Rockets’ three best trade options with the Lakers for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope:
3. Rockets receive: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (from Lakers)
Lakers receive: PF Kenneth Faried (from Nets)
Nets receive: PG Brandon Knight (from Rockets), two future second-round draft picks (from Rockets)
The Lakers receive veteran power forward Kenneth Faried who will provide energy off the bench. He can play directly behind James when he gets a breather and when L.A. wants to play a different style.
For the Nets, they can add a couple of young players from the draft for the next couple of years. As much as they’ve improved as a team, their goal is definitely to be a more well-rounded team built from a foundation of players that will grow with them. The draft picks from the Rockets can help them get some much-needed young blood on their roster.
2. Rockets receive: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (from Lakers)
Lakers receive: PF Marquese Chriss (from Rockets), PF Kelly Olynyk (from Heat)
Heat receive: PG Brandon Knight (from Rockets), two future second-round draft picks (from Rockets), future second-round pick (from Lakers)
With this trade, the Lakers will have an emerging young big man and a veteran power forward who can stretch the floor, two types of players that they don’t have at the moment. Marquese Chriss showed plenty of promise for the Suns last season but has seen very little playing time from the Rockets. A change in address should give last year’s All-Rookie Second Team member better opportunities. The seven-foot Kelly Olynyk will give the Lakers some size and shooting from the four spot.
For the Heat, Knight will be one of many backup point guards but they will benefit from this deal mostly from acquiring three draft picks which will help them build a young core for the future.
1. Rockets receive: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (from Lakers)
Lakers receive: PG Frank Mason III (from Kings), PF Nemanja Bjelica (from Kings), PF Bobby Portis (from Bulls)
Bulls receive: PG Brandon Knight (from Rockets), two future second-round draft picks (from Rockets)
Kings receive: C Robin Lopez (from Bulls), future second-round pick (from Lakers)
If there’s any trade scenario that the Lakers would go for the most, it would be this. They add a backup playmaker in Frank Mason III, a stretch four in Nemanja Bjelica and a young big forward with lots of potential for the future in Bobby Portis.
For the Bulls, they receive a couple of draft picks to build their future around aside from Knight who will have to fight for minutes in a crowded backcourt.
The Kings, meanwhile, get Robin Lopez who will shore up their center position. With an expiring contract, his $14 million contract comes off the books after this season, giving them an opportunity to pursue other free agents in the offseason.