Veteran guard Eric Gordon isn’t in age alignment with the young and rebuilding Houston Rockets, and the 34-year-old is in the last guaranteed year of his current contract. Thus, as this season’s Feb. 9 trade deadline approaches, he’s likely to be sought after by contending teams as they gear up for a push in the 2023 playoffs.
One such team could be the Milwaukee Bucks, who do have a number of mid-sized salaries (Grayson Allen, Joe Ingles, George Hill, and Serge Ibaka among them) that could conceivably be used to meet the NBA’s salary matching rules for teams above the salary cap.
From Houston’s perspective, the incentive for a rebuilding team to trade Gordon needs to come in the form of additional draft compensation. With that in mind, according to a new report Saturday by veteran NBA scribe Marc Stein, the Bucks have offered to trade four future second-round picks for Gordon. Houston, however, has yet to act on that offer and reportedly is seeking a first-round pick.
It’s not uncommon for teams who are seeking a first-round pick for a veteran to eventually relent and accept a package based around second-round assets, if they are otherwise at risk of getting nothing. That could especially be the case for the Rockets, since Gordon could become a free agent in the 2023 offseason, depending on what the team chooses to do with what is effectively a 2023-24 team option.
But with this particular offer, the devil is in the details. Of the five second-round picks the Bucks have available to trade, two are their own picks in 2023 and 2024, and the least favorable of Cleveland and Golden State in 2023. Those are all likely playoff teams, which means those second-round picks should be late in the order.
For perspective, picks in that range are often traded for cash each draft cycle, meaning a team can acquire one without giving up a basketball asset. That’s how Houston acquired the No. 52 pick in the 2020 second round, which became KJ Martin. Furthermore, there’s a chance the player a team might target with a late second-round pick could become available as an undrafted free agent, anyway.
With second-round picks, quality typically trumps quantity. One pick high in the order is more valuable than several late ones. Thus, while Milwaukee’s proposal might sound good at first, a deeper look suggests it may not be too tempting to general manager Rafael Stone.
The bottom line is that while Houston eventually settling for a second-round Gordon package wouldn’t be a shock, expect Stone to try and angle for a pick that is higher in the order, in that scenario.