Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Houston Rockets have dealt perfectly serviceable center Samuel Dalembert and the 14th overall pick in Thursday's draft to the Milwaukee Bucks for the 12th overall pick, Jon Brockman, Jon Leuer and Shawn Livingston. And because the Houston Rockets are run by Daryl Morey, and the Bucks are the Bucks, the Internet is ready to fawn.
And until something else happens, I just don't get it. Yes, the Rockets moved up two spots in the draft, which could mean quite a bit in the heat of the proceedings after assurances are made that the type of player they're going for isn't going to be there at spot 14. But in this early stage, a day away? That jump doesn't mean much. And, yes, Brockman, Leuer and Livingston only combine for either $5.2 million in 2012-13 (if all their contracts are guaranteed) or $2 million (if Livingston and Leuer are let go), and that the Rockets essentially "only" paid half a million bucks (in comparison to Dalembert's deal) to move up two spots in the low lottery.
But … to give up a serviceable center along the way? To take in that risk, on the hopes that Dwight Howard somehow becomes a member of the Houston Rockets this summer, when you might not even be drafting for the Orlando Magic on Thursday (they have to, indirectly, like who Houston likes with those 12th, 16th, and 18th picks; if they decline to deal you Howard on draft night) … to move up two spots?
We understand that Sam Dalembert's effort level can come and go, but he's a pure center. He's the best player in this deal, and with a contract that is both affordable (at $6.7 million guaranteed) and an asset (his team option can be declined, and the team would only have to pay $1.5 million) to a trading partner. We're just a little disappointed that this trading partner turned out to be the Bucks, only for the ability to move up from 14th to 12th.
Brockman has a good NBA body, and a tiny contract. Livingston would return as one of the better backup point guards in the NBA, should Kyle Lowry and/or Goran Dragic somehow find a way to leave Houston this summer. In terms of bit players, Leuer is a capable enough scorer who showed flashes in his rookie year. All can play on my team.
Dalembert's a center, though. Those things count for twice as much, even if they disappoint five times as often. Trading depth in non-centers for a single good center has never worked, if we look at merely the participants involved, and there's no way even someone as plugged-in and obsessed about this draft as Morey knows exactly who and what the difference will be between the 14th and 12th picks until about a half an hour before Thursday's draft.
[Marc J. Spears: Steve Nash won't lack for free-agent options]
It just feels like there should be more, here. Perhaps there will be. Perhaps Orlando will trade the NBA's best player at the hardest position to fill, on Thursday, without even discussing future plans for the player they have under contract for 2012-13. Perhaps new Orlando GM Rob Hennigan admires Morey's abilities so much that the Magic boss (who did his damage in the Oklahoma City front office as a draft-obsessive) will leave it to Morey to make all the right moves in June so that the Magic can trade with Houston in August after determining that Howard is a lost cause.
It's not quite like trading Vlade Divac and gutting your roster for a chance at Shaquille O'Neal, but it's still a risky deal for a team like Houston should The Big Deal never materialize. Vlade was traded for Kobe Bryant (taken with the 13th overall pick) in 1996, you'll recall. And in 2012, Kobe Bryants don't fall to the 13th overall pick. Or 12th, even.
The Bucks are the sort of team that would trade for Samuel Dalembert, if you know what I mean. It's not as if we're over the moon about this for them, but they did retain a middling lottery pick and trade small for big. And affordable, even when Milwaukee keeps Dalembert's contract around.
Dalembert will help when Drew Gooden's head is turned defensively, but for a great shot blocker Dalembert's head is turned just as much. And, like Gooden, he lives for firing up that mid-range jumper. Both had turnaround years in 2011-12, and it was fantastic to see. Both years may have been flukes, though. Hopefully for Bucks fans, the regression to the mean is staved off for another season.
And hopefully for Houston fans, all this poking and prodding results in something that doesn't leave Houston as a center-less, Kyle Lowry-less, rookie-heavy and still star-less team on the outside of the playoff bracket looking in. There are assets in Morey's hands, as usual, but there's still a lot of work to do.
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