What’s Next For Rockets After Trading For Steven Adams?

There had been wide speculation that the Houston Rockets were going to make a trade prior to the NBA’s trade deadline. The question was, which direction were they going?

Were the Rockets going to make a run at making the playoffs this year? Or were they going to try to improve and keep an eye towards the future?

Apparently, the Rockets are going with the latter. At least, that is how it appeared with their acquisition of injured center Steven Adams last night.

NBA Rumors: What’s Next For Houston Rockets After Trading For Veteran Center

Houston received Adams while sending out three second-round selections and Victor Oladipo’s expiring contract to the Memphis Grizzlies.  Two of the picks are from this upcoming year’s draft.

Houston will send Memphis the 2024 second-round pick they received from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Grizzlies will also receive the Brooklyn Nets (protected 55-58) or the Golden State Warriors selection (protected 56-58), whichever is more favorable.

Then, in 2025, Memphis will also get either the Rockets’ 2025 second-round pick or the Thunder’s 2025 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable).

How Does Adams Fit With The Rockets?

Adams, who is sidelined all season after knee surgery in October, hasn’t played in over a year.

Still, the 7-footer is the ideal backup for Alperen Sengun. Sengun has established himself as a legitimate starting center during his breakout season.

But Jock Landale, who the Rockets had high hopes for, recently lost the backup center job to Jeff Green. So, the Rockets were looking for a center. The Rockets were reportedly eyeing Portland’s Robert Williams and Atlanta’s Clint Capela.  But they ultimately decided on Adams.

Adams is a rebounding machine who is a physical defender. While his athleticism has deteriorated slightly with all his injuries, Adams is still an excellent lob catcher and rim-protector. He sets solid screens, particularly excelling in pick-and-roll situations, and is a quality passer for a big man. Additionally, Adams will serve as a mentor to Sengun.

Dillon Brooks, who played with the Adams in Memphis, told Adam Spolane of Sports Radio 610 that Adams is excited about being a Rocket.

“He’s super excited,” Brooks said. “I told him Houston is a great place, he would love it. He asked me about Ime [Udoka]. I told him Ime’s a player’s coach, everything’s for the players.”

Adams will make $12.5 million next season before hitting free agency in 2025.

What Is Next For Rockets?

With Houston electing to trade for Adams, instead of Capela, it appears that the Rockets are focused more on next season than this year.

Houston sits in 11th place in the Western Conference at 22-25, though the Rockets are just one-half game behind the 10th-place Utah Jazz. Similarly, the Rockets are one-half game in front of 12th-place Warriors.

Houston is 3-7 in their last 10 as they host Toronto tonight.  The Rockets have not been very good on the road, posting a 5-12 record away from home. The Rockets are only 10-7 against teams with a sub .500 record, meaning on any given night, they can get beat.

In other words, Houston doesn’t appear to be a playoff team, so they are making the right choice to stay the course in developing their youngsters.

Jabari Smith Sr. has made strides in year two of his development. Tari Eason, who has struggled with injuries this season, has also showed improvement. Meanwhile, Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson have demonstrated their potential to be stars in their limited opportunities.

It is believed that the Rockets could make some more deals. Landale is the most likely player to get traded or waived.  Landale’s $8 million salary for next year is nonguaranteed.

In surprising news, ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported earlier today that there is some trade buzz surrounding Jalen Green.

“The Rockets have first-round picks galore and so many good young players that — if enough of them hit — there will be no viable way to pay all of them. They want to chase a playoff spot now. This is why Jalen Green’s name has generated some trade buzz, per league sources.”

Green has yet to develop as the Rockets had hoped. But he is just 21 and has a talent that every team desires: the ability to put the ball in the basket. So, it would be surprising if the Rockets move on from him now, although it would be surprising if his name comes up this summer. Houston should tread carefully when considering dealing with the former No. 3 overall pick.

Look Ahead To 2024-25

Houston has 12 players under contract for next season, totaling $146.3 million. However, Landale and Green ($8 million have nonguaranteed contracts, while Jae’Sean Tate’s $7 million deal is a team option. Landale and Tate likely won’t be back next year. In that case, the Rockets would be around $40 million under the luxury tax threshold.

Houston doesn’t have any significant free agents. However, Jalen Green is eligible for an extension this summer.

The Rockets own the Nets first-rounder this year. Their pick is likely headed to OKC unless they miss the playoffs and hit the lottery by getting a top-four pick. With their trade for Adams, the Rockets have only one second-round pick this year.

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