Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN dropped a bombshell, stating that the Houston Rockets have made their entire roster available in trade talks after falling to the Golden State Warriors in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. While a deal involving James Harden is extremely unlikely, all other players being on the table make sense for a team that has appeared to have peaked.
Teams may be wary about trading for a now former superstar in point guard Chris Paul. He is 34 years old and has not played more than 61 games since the 2015-2016 season. He’s become a less effective player as well. His true shooting percentage dropped by four percent this season, while his assist percentage dropped as his turnover percentage increased. He is no longer the player he once was. Clint Capela is an interesting trade target, as he did not quite maintain his level of play that saw him have a career year in 2017-2018 but was still solid nonetheless. But his struggles in the playoffs cannot go unnoticed. His efficiency dropped drastically and his overall play did not rise when it was most necessary.
Past Harden, Paul, and Capela, there are a pair of interesting players who would be very helpful to playoff caliber teams throughout the league. Will the Rockets trade them? Who is to say, but if they want to, it can only be assumed that they will have plenty of suitors lined up to inquire about their services.
Eric Gordon, Shooting Guard
He didn’t have a great first three months of the season, but Eric Gordon largely turned his year around in January. The last two months of the regular season were the best of the year for him. In March, he averaged 16.8 points on nearly 47% shooting from the field and over 45% shooting from the 3-point line. He was a plus-10.9 on the court. In April, he averaged 16.2 points on a 47.4/46/80 shooting slash while being a mind-boggling plus-16.8. He ended the regular season being second on the team in plus/minus, with a plus-5.6 rating.
In the playoffs, Gordon was a key contributor as expected. He averaged 17.8 points with a 44.7 FG% and 40 3P%. He was second on the team in scoring and third on the team in 3-point percentage of players to average 0.6 or more 3-point attempts per game. For a team that widely underperformed in the playoffs, that cannot be attributed to Gordon. He was their second-best player in the postseason, behind only an MVP candidate in Harden.
Gordon is under contract for just one more season before he will become an unrestricted free agent once again. He is due a little over $14 million, a palpable contract to a team serious about contending. Throughout his career, Gordon has been a steady contributor and has never really had a “down” season. He has had a slew of injury issues, mainly during his time with the New Orleans Pelicans, but has played 75, 69, and 68 regular season games respectively over the last three seasons.
The former Sixth Man of the Year can provide a shooting and scoring punch off the bench and should be able to contribute at a high level for at least a few more years in the league.
Best match: Considering their lack of guard depth and potential to be without Victor Oladipo for a large chunk of next season, the Indiana Pacers should heavily weigh the option of trading for Gordon.
PJ Tucker, Small Forward
Under contract for another two seasons and a vital part of the Rockets tenured success, while making an average of about $8 million a season, PJ Tucker is perhaps one of the best bargain contracts in the NBA. Last season only continued to confirm just that.
While scoring his not his forte, he averaged 7.6 points per game on 37.7% from beyond the arc, the highest mark of his career since the 2013-2014 season. This time around though, he achieved that percentage on nearly double the number of attempts compared to the 13-14 year in which he took just 2.4 3-pointers per game. He shot 37.1% in 2017-2018, showing that he has become a consistent threat from long-range, the aspect of his game that had held him back in prior years of his career.
At 6-foot-6, Tucker has become one of the most versatile small-ball power forwards in the league as a scorer, rebounder, defender, and leader. He has even been used with the Rockets as a miniature center, although he only spent six percent of his minutes at the center spot this year. He can also play small forward, the most natural position of someone of his size.
Tucker has become known as a ferocious defender and a fierce leader throughout the league. Having just turned 34 years old, it is hard to imagine Tucker’s play declining, as his game has seemingly only improved as he has aged, an incredible feat.
If the Rockets are really taking calls and vital players to their roster, Tucker may be the most sought after. His production and value relative to the money he is paid is pennies on the dollar. A playoff team would be wise to do what they can to bring Tucker aboard if the Rockets are foolish enough to move him.
Best match: With Al-Farouq Aminu’s free agency and their lack of serviceable wings, the Portland Trail Blazers would benefit greatly from the addition of PJ Tucker. His defensive capacity would help mask some of the shortcomings of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on that end of the floor, and his positional versatility would shore up a weak depth chart in Portland.
The Rockets will likely want to remain competitive, with Harden, Paul, and Capela all locked up long-term. They have spent many years and millions of dollars investing into a winning team, one they hoped would win them an NBA Championship. Unfortunately, that means they may have to shake the roster up.
They may have to deal some role players who can be moved for actual value, rather than Paul who they would be netting a loss of a return for. Gordon and Tucker are the only role players under contract that are of real value for Houston. The offseason in Texas could be one of change for the Rockets.