Report: Rockets less likely to trade Eric Gordon, Christian Wood by deadline

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·5 min read
Report: Rockets less likely to trade Eric Gordon, Christian Wood by deadline
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Though the young Houston Rockets remain in a clear rebuilding movement while possessing the worst record in the Western Conference, that doesn’t make it a lock that they will trade away key veterans — and especially not those who are under contract for multiple seasons.

With the NBA’s Feb. 10 trade deadline for the 2021-22 season just over two weeks away, it appears to be becoming more likely that veterans Eric Gordon and Christian Wood will stay put, barring a significant offer.

In a story published Monday, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes:

The Rockets have received a number of offers for the veteran wing, sources tell The Athletic, but all have been turned down. Barring an offer that simply can’t be ignored, it’s becoming more likely that Gordon remains in Houston past the deadline. There is a good deal of internal admiration for how Gordon carries himself on and off the floor and the work ethic he shows on a daily basis, characteristics the staff is trying to impart on some of their younger players. They are in no rush to ship him away, a much different situation than the one involving (PJ) Tucker last season.

The same can be said of starting center Christian Wood. The 26-year-old has been subject to interest around the league, and sources say Miami has been one of the more persistent teams in engaging with Houston on the versatile big man. But barring a blow-me-away offer, Wood should remain in Houston past the deadline, sources tell The Athletic.

First off, it’s worth emphasizing that all it takes is one phone call to change things. It is also possible that this could be posturing from the Rockets, who are seeking to drive up offers for those veterans.

That said, there are reasons for second-year general manager Rafael Stone not to rush into a deal for either. With Wood, he remains only 26 years old, and it’s absolutely possible that he could still be in his NBA prime when Houston is next ready to make a playoff push.

Wood’s long-term contractual status is uncertain, unless he signs an extension this offseason. But the Rockets would still have full Bird rights on Wood upon his 2023 free agency, which is not insignificant.

The calculus is more complicated with Gordon, who at 33 will almost certainly be past his prime when Houston is next ready to contend. However, the optionality of the final year of Gordon’s current contract is a factor to consider. Because the 2023-24 season is non-guaranteed, Gordon could have value on multiple fronts in trade talks during the 2022 offseason — either as an expiring contract for teams wanting to shed salaries, or as a valuable role player under contract for up to two years. The non-guaranteed final year could also mitigate any injury risk.

It’s also worth noting that Houston may not want a draft pick that is late in the 2022 first round. They would certainly take a 2022 pick if it’s potentially high in the order and with elite potential, but as far as those with more limited ceilings — the Rockets already have a deep bench with young role players such as Josh Christopher, Usman Garuba, KJ Martin, Garrison Mathews, and Armoni Brooks who are all on multi-year contracts for fairly cheap rates and worthy of playing time.

As such, given the difficulty that a mid-to-late 2022 first-rounder could have in finding immediate playing time, the Rockets might not be especially thrilled with offers involving those types of draft picks (i.e. the rumor of Cleveland packaging its lottery protected 2022 pick and Ricky Rubio’s expiring salary for a player like Gordon).

From Houston’s perspective, a pick in 2023 or later could have more future trade value than a 2022 selection after it is made, and particularly if that prospect is struggling to find NBA playing time.

Even so, the Rockets could still trade Gordon before the Feb. 10 trade deadline for a pick in 2023 or later. Other rebuilding teams have faced similar dilemmas. However, such a trade would be possible in the 2022 offseason, as well. Thus, to make a move now, Stone and the Rockets would need to be convinced by the superior value of the bid.

With the deadline just over two weeks away, it doesn’t sound as of Monday that Houston’s front office is at that place.

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