In each NBA regular season, Dec. 15 is unofficially known as the start of trade season. That’s because it marks the date that most players who signed contracts during the prior offseason are eligible to be dealt.
Even if a trade doesn’t involve a recent free agent, teams are often more willing to pull the trigger on trades at that time, since waiting until Dec. 15 allows each team to know the entire market for a given player.
In the case of the young and rebuilding Rockets, the motivation for potential trades is quite clear. Even with the recent winning streak, Houston still has one of the NBA’s worst records, and the franchise’s timetable for legitimate contention is years away. Thus, veterans like John Wall and Eric Gordon seem to be better fits with teams ready to win now.
With that in mind, Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale proposed a pair of financially workable deals sending Wall and Gordon to teams with more of a win-now emphasis. Read on for insight on those proposals (these are meant to be thought exercises, not actual rumors), along with an early look at why Daniel Theis could also be a strong trade candidate.
A John Wall Blockbuster to Save Rockets PG, Plus 3 Brand-New NBA Trades https://t.co/cExPf3HPt8
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John Wall to Clippers
Photo by Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Rockets (salaries) receive: Eric Bledsoe, Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard
Los Angeles Clippers (salaries) receive: John Wall
Verdict for Houston: Most likely, yes. As a veteran guard, Bledsoe may not be a much better fit than Wall, who is being held out of games so that the Rockets can prioritize playing time for younger players. But with a salary of under $20 million annually for two years, a potential contract buyout between Houston and Bledsoe is far more reasonable than it is with Wall, who is owed more than $45 million annually over that same period. Ibaka is an expiring contract, so a buyout is doable there, as well.
One potential reason for pause is Kennard, who is owed roughly $14 million per season through 2024-25 and could clog Houston’s salary books in future years (his contract runs for two more years than Wall’s does). However, Kennard is a career 41.2% shooter from 3-point range — and in a league that craves shooting, that financial figure isn’t that unreasonable and could allow him to be moved later. If the Clippers are frustrated enough by their sluggish start to trade for Wall (who appears to be on great terms with Paul George), Houston should take advantage.
Eric Gordon, Danuel House Jr. to Mavericks
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
Dallas Mavericks (salaries) receive: Eric Gordon, Danuel House Jr.
Rockets receive: Willie Cauley-Stein, Josh Green, Dwight Powell, 2025 first-round pick (top-seven protection)
In this arrangement, the primary asset is the lightly protected first-round pick in the 2025 draft from Dallas. Gordon’s contract runs through next season, so even though Powell is on a two-year deal and is widely viewed as overpaid, it doesn’t change Houston’s long-term salary outlook — since it’s the same length as Gordon’s deal. Danuel House Jr. is an unrestricted free agent after this season, so it makes sense for the Rockets to trade him for some value if they do not believe he will be re-signed.
Verdict for Houston: Most likely, yes. The bottom line is that it’s impossible to say for sure without knowing any other offers that general manager Rafael Stone may have from elsewhere in the league. But on paper, a lightly protected 1st is good asset value for a non-star veteran like Gordon — who happens to turn 33 years old on Christmas. If Dallas is desperate enough to make that type of win-now move to surround Luka Doncic with a superior supporting cast, Stone should listen.
Future of Daniel Theis
Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images
Prior to Christian Wood’s ankle injury on Wednesday, Theis hadn’t played at all in the three previous games since Houston’s decision to go small and abandon all two-big lineups. But Theis no longer being a fit with the Rockets doesn’t mean that he can’t be a fit somewhere else.
Plenty of contenders around the league would love a veteran defensive presence for frontcourt depth on a reasonable contract. After all, Theis’ deal has him making less than $9 million per season, on average). As one example, the Denver Nuggets have struggled finding depth behind reigning MVP center Nikola Jokic, and Theis could be a better solution for that role than the undersized JaMychal Green. Conversely, Green — who has a very similar salary, albeit for two less years — might be a better fit next to Wood and Alperen Sengun in Houston’s athletic frontcourts.