No Risk, High Reward: Daryl Morey Does It Again
I was planning on writing an article about how the Phoenix Suns could have a very dynamic (possibly top 10) offense now that Brandon Knight will be rejoining the team’s active roster after missing the 2017-2018 season with an ACL tear, but Rockets GM Daryl Morey had to throw a wrench in that with a miraculous trade that he seemed to pull out of thin air.
After a summer of disappointment, Rockets fans, such as myself, seemed to find little optimism in the future of the team. The Rockets have an aging roster and replaced two of its most important role players with an unproven defensive wing in James Ennis, an inconsistent playmaker in Michael Carter Williams and an aging and egotistical Carmelo Anthony. To make matters worse, the $20 million paperweight, Ryan Anderson, was still on the roster, with very few teams showing interest; even as we dangled our 1st round picks as bait. Chris Paul was getting older, and the Rockets seemed to have no contingency play for the eventual injury.
Wait a minute, Brandon Knight hasn’t played a full season in his career and is coming off an ACL tear. On top of this, Marquese Chriss hasn’t fully lived up to the hype of being a lottery pick. So why should Rockets fans be excited by this trade?
For starters, Morey has finally gotten rid of Anderson with a 2nd round pick that doesn’t fit the team. Anderson’s contract was deemed by most analysts to be untradeable. Especially after this last offseason where most teams that could take the salary hit got better with their free cap space. All the Rockets had to do to get the Suns to take the hit was De’Anthony Melton, who is an intriguing prospect that seems to be Marcus Smart at best. Getting rid of Anderson’s contract at practically no cost is already a huge reason why this trade benefited the Rockets. Acquiring Knight and Chriss pushes this trade over to highway robbery territory.
At worst, the acquisition of Knight and Chriss means two new trade pieces for the Rockets. Knight’s contract is friendlier than Anderson’s and he is young enough to recover from earlier pitfalls if healthy. Chriss is more enticing as a trade asset due to his youth and his contract. Despite having an underwhelming first two years, the former 8th overall pick is still athletic enough to garner a lot of attention from teams who need a big.
Realistically, both players will be more than just trade bait. Knight, despite having an injury history, is still 26 years old. He has also had a lot of inconsistencies with shooting while in Phoenix, but how much of that was due to the lack of floor spacing on the team? In Knight’s last three active years in Phoenix, he only teammates who shot above league average from three were Mirza Teletovic, Eric Bledsoe, TJ Warren, Jon Leuer, and Devin Booker; and only Booker and Teletovic had more than 1.5 three-point attempts per game during that stretch. On a team that emphasizes floor spacing, there is very little doubt in my mind that Knight will be a major contributor as a backup playmaker off the bench, given he is 100% healthy.
Chriss is the same. His underwhelming production in his first two years are also products of the lack of floor spacing for him to operate. Playing alongside playmakers like James Harden and Paul, along with being surrounded by shooters, Chriss will be the perfect backup center to Clint Capela. It is obvious that Nene is now struggling to fill that role due to his age, and Zhou Qi and Isaiah Hartenstein may not be ready to play a full NBA season due to size and back issues, respectively. It would make the most sense for Chriss to now fill that role. His defense isn’t up to par, but neither is Nene’s. He sometimes settles for awkward jumpers instead of rolling to the rim, but so does Zhou Qi. Despite these shortcomings, his athleticism and size allow the Rockets to have an explosive big man on the court at all times, which is something Houston has needed since Capela took over the role.
Getting rid of Anderson alone for almost no cost was enough to make me love this trade. Getting a backup to Capela and another playmaker that will reduce the injury risks to Paul and Harden by taking some minutes off their hands just makes this trade marginally better. Allowing the Rockets more financial freedom to make moves this upcoming season and offseason pushes it into highway robbery territory. After an offseason of disappointment, its nice to finally have something to cheer about.