COMMENTARY | There's just two weeks left until the trade deadline, and history has told us that the Houston Rockets become buyers around this time each season that general manager Daryl Morey has been at the helm.
With the Rockets standing in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff picture, here's a look at some possible upgrades that may be targeted before Feb. 20 rolls around:
The Rockets have already expressed interest in acquiring the 13-year veteran, according to Sam Amick of USA Today. Production has been lacking off the bench behind James Harden and Chandler Parsons at the wing positions, and it has shown as both players are in the top 5 of the NBA in minutes per game(Harden at 38.5, Parsons at 38).
The Rockets expected Francisco Garcia to be that player who would fill in at the 2 or 3 position off the bench as a knock-down 3-point shooter, but he hasn't lived up to expectations. The 9-year veteran is shooting a dismal 34 percent from beyond the arc and is averaging just 5.8 points in 20 minutes per game.
Three-point shooting as a whole is an area that is looking for improvement. After finishing in the top 10 a season ago, the Rockets currently rank 26th in that mark at 34.3 percent with Aaron Brooks, who's not even a part of the regular rotation, the only player on the roster shooting over 40 percent. Dunleavy would be an immediate fixture, as he's right at 40 percent from behind the 3-point line and is averaging 11 points.
The Bulls sent a message around the league back in January that they were partially conceding this season after trading away Luol Deng, but still currently stand as the 6th seed in the East. Should they choose to rebuild for next season, then a straight Dunleavy-for-Garcia swap could be in their best interest. Dunleavy is owed $3 million for this season and next, while Garcia is being paid at the veterans' minimum of just over $1 million and has a player option for next season at the same price.
C.J. Miles, Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs had high hopes of making the playoffs this season, but things have gone sour in Cleveland. One player whom the Rockets could potentially look into is C.J. Miles. The 9-year veteran would fit as the swingman off the bench the Rockets are looking for, as Miles is averaging about 10 points while shooting 39 percent from the 3-point line.
Miles will undoubtedly be available, as reports indicate that the Cavs will look to make changes to their roster (most notably Dion Waiters). He has an expiring contract, which makes him an ideal target for Morey.
A Rockets point guard who parts ways and then eventually finds his way back to Houston? That sounds like a familiar story. Two of the three current point guards on the roster were both once let go by the Rockets (Aaron Brooks and Jeremy Lin), and Kyle Lowry could wear a Rockets jersey for the second time after Feb. 20 passes.
Despite the success for the Raptors this season, they will look to shop Lowry around as he is set to be a free agent after the season. ESPN reported that Toronto's chances of re-signing Lowry this summer are not very high, but trading him away while the team is winning could take away the fans:
"Word is they're (Raptors) not sold enough on Lowry, who will be a free agent after this season, to throw big, long-term money at him. But he's playing so well that trading him now could upset the fan base. One GM told me that if the Raptors start losing, they'll likely trade Lowry. But if they keep winning, they won't move him for fear of the PR hit."
Lowry has taken off this season, averaging 16.8 points and 7.6 assists, and ESPN Insider Amin Elhassan indicated last week that the Rockets could be the likeliest landing spot for him if the Raptors choose to make a deal. He would be an upgrade at the point-guard position, and would give the Rockets salary-cap flexibility in the offseason when his deal expires. In return, Lin would most likely be involved in the trade, and the $8 million cap hit of the $15 million he's owed for next season would be off the books for Houston.
This would be a major shakeup in the Rockets' offensive scheme, and a move that Morey feels like would be best for the team if he chooses to explore it. The rise of Lowry's play coincides with the departure of a ball-dominant player in Rudy Gay from the Raptors, so how effective he will be with another ball-dominant player in James Harden will be in question. Lowry also didn't have the best of relationships with head coach Kevin McHale during his lone season under him in 2011-2012, a dynamic that should also be factored in.
This would be an interesting move, but should be a consideration for the Rockets if they can't find a solution for Omer Asik, who's been unhappy ever since Dwight Howard was signed last summer. Asik has missed the past two months with a knee injury, but was willing to take the backup center role before he got hurt. He's set to make $15 million next year, with $8 million of that counting towards the salary cap.
With the recent rise of Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, would the Rockets want to pay that much for a backup center?
Dealing for Okafor, a Houston native, obviously wouldn't be for player production, as he won't play this season while recovering from neck surgery. But he has an expiring contract and the $15 million that is owed to him this season is in the neighborhood of matching Asik's contract.
The Suns will look to deal Okafor at the deadline, according to Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski, and with the possibility of owning six first-round picks in the next two years, Phoenix becomes a team that has the assets and pieces towards Morey's likings.Michael Ma is a Yahoo Sports Contributor, and covers the Houston Rockets as an editor for Rockets blogSpace City Scoop, and as a columnist for Rocketssocial.com. He's been a basketball junkie since the Illegal Defense rule was still in effect. You can follow Michael on twitter @RealMichaelMa.
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