With the second-worst record in the league at 18-59, the Houston Rockets are out of position to make the 2023 NBA Playoffs. Subsequently, the focus on the front office should be the upcoming offseason, if it already hasn’t been.
Aside from questions about Rockets head coach Stephen Silas and his future with the team, Houston will be focusing on the 2023 NBA Draft and deciding which top prospect to add to their young core.
Rockets second-year guard Jalen Green is one of the most talented scorers both in his class and in the league as whole. Playing with more focus as of late, he’s currently averaging a team-high 21.9 points per game. Crafty and athletic, the bouncy ball-handler looks like a player that Houston will have in uniform for a long time.
Another pleasure to watch during the Rockets’ season has been starting center Alperen Sengun, a skilled low-post scorer with guard skills and the ability to stretch the floor. While he’s not a strong defensive player, in time he should improve his technique on that end and make up for what he lacks athletically.
Other pieces of the Rockets’ young core — players such as Kevin Porter Jr., Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason, Usman Garuba, and TyTy Washington — have flashed at one point or another this season, though it’s questionable if any of them have the All-Star potential that they would likely need to win an NBA championship in the future.
With that said though, Houston has a tremendous opportunity to add talent via trade this offseason, though it may be an unpopular route.
That said, there may be no better time to try to acquire either player, so the Rockets have one perfect trade that they must complete in the 2023 offseason.
1 perfect NBA trade Rockets must complete in 2023 offseason
The Rockets have shown that they need quite a few things this offseason and they won’t get everything in one single move. However, with $70 million in projected cap space, they can afford to take a gamble or two.
With that said, Houston should contact the Brooklyn Nets about embattled point guard Ben Simmons and disenchanted guard Cam Thomas this offseason.
Simmons, who will have two years and $37.8 million remaining on his contract starting this offseason, has been struggling to get his career back on track after having several successful seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Diagnosed with a pinched nerve in his back and suffering a knee injury that required surgery, Simmons has only played 42 games over the past two seasons.
The biggest problem with Simmons isn’t his body though, it’s his mentality.
Simmons may be overly criticized about his unwillingness to take jumpers because it does limit what an offense can do, particularly if the players around him don’t excel as shooters themselves.
Furthermore, what Simmons has excelled at offensively are often forgotten in the midst of discussions about what he’s not good at. When healthy, Simmons is one of the best transition threats in the league at 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds.
He’s also an exceptional facilitator, capable of running an offense because he has both a high basketball IQ and the skill to make the necessary passes.
So, there’s plenty of reason to believe that he can fit with Houston on the offense end.
How Simmons Fits With The Rockets
The Rockets have plenty of players that excel in catch-and-shoot situation.
Green may be shooting 33.5 percent from 3-point range this season, but he shoots 36.4 percent on catch-and=shoot threes. Similarly, Porter has made 35.0 percent of his threes this season but has made 41.6 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Though having the ball in both of their hands is good for an offense because they’re creative three-level scorers with playmaking capabilities, they both need their time off-ball too.
Simmons would be a significant addition in that regard whether he was a nominal point guard, a nominal small forward, a starter, or a second unit player.
Especially with a starting power forward that can knock down 3-pointers and a starting center that can stretch the floor as well.
To that point, when Green, Porter, and Sengun are out on the break with Simmons, any one of them could run it. Smith could be an excellent trailer, with teams forced to account for the damage that could be inflicted at the rim.
As a team that likes to get out and run themselves, the Rockets would only be adding another weapon with Simmons offensively, despite his limitations on that end.
However, there’s reason to believe that playing on a team with no pressure could improve Simmons’ confidence all-around. Especially with a teammate such as Green, whose youthful energy and lightheartedness could be infectious for a player who has had little peace as of late.
The Rockets, in acquiring Simmons, may need only focus on improving Simmons’ footwork and touch in the low-post. Becoming a legitimate low-post option and passer could be just what the 26-year-old needs to revive his career.
Furthermore, though Simmons was underwhelming in heavy minutes as an interior defender, there’s still plenty to like about his perimeter defense and ability to disrupt ball-handlers. While both Porter and Green have had their nights on that end, Simmons is an altogether more reliable option as a defender and could take plenty of pressure off of either player if necessary.
Getting Thomas from the Rockets, a player that excels as a scorer but needs to work on the other parts of his game, will be another gamble. If he fails to receive minutes, he could find himself as frustrated as Rockets shooting guard Josh Christopher appears to be. However, with a team option on the next two seasons of his contract, he’s an inexpensive risk that Houston doesn’t have to tie itself too.
If he does work out it’ll be for more than his ability to light up a scoreboard, though that makes him an excellent Sixth Man candidate for the Rockets.
Picture a world where the Rockets draft either Victor Wembanyama or Brandon Miller at forward, players capable of doing pretty much everything on offense. Wemby, projected to be an All-Star as well because of his defensive potential.
Porter, Green, Simmons, Wembanyama, and Smith could start — or Porter, Green, Miller, Simmons, and Smith could start — giving the Rockets a starting group that may thrive on both ends of the floor.
Washington, Thomas, Eason, Garuba and Sengun would not only fit well as a bench unit but could be one of the best in the league.
The beauty of the trade though is that even if it isn’t ideal, Simmons and Thomas would still be options off the bench that don’t negatively impact the development of Houston’s current young core.
There may be a question of draft compensation but given Simmons’ trade value, most teams would likely ask for a first-round pick to take him off of Brooklyn’s hands. Thomas isn’t much incentive either, considering that it’s well-known that he’s unhappy in his role.
If all the Rockets have to give up for these two are Christopher, KJ Martin (who requested a trade prior to the season for more minutes), and Jae’Sean Tate, they shouldn’t hesitate. They would be losing useful players but ones that either want to play somewhere else or who aren’t projected to be part of the young core.
Besides what does Houston really have to lose?
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