As the Feb. 8 deadline approaches for trades during the NBA’s 2023-24 regular season, the Houston Rockets have frequently been mentioned as an interested suitor for a backup center and perhaps additional playmaking and shooting depth.
But, as the young and improving Rockets (22-24) enter February within a game of the Western Conference play-in tournament, could they look for an even larger upgrade to help their chances?
Per Kelly Iko, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, such a move is at least an option for the Rockets and fourth-year general manager Rafael Stone. As of Wednesday, here’s what The Athletic had to say regarding the Rockets and their approach to this deadline:
Houston has been pursuing upgrades to the roster, searching for another All-Star-caliber type who fits the two-way mold (Ime) Udoka is looking for, and the organization has the available resources to do so. The Rockets have four first-round picks eligible to be traded — two via Brooklyn in 2024 and 2026 and their own in 2028 and 2030.
At its core, rival executives believe it’s evident the Rockets want to bolster their firepower and will do their due diligence to take swings for a star — even if it costs them a blue-chip prospect part of their core six in Şengün, Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason, Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore.
The Rockets are going star-hunting again.
Armed with a profusion of young talent and draft capital — and at Ime Udoka's insistence on making the postseason— Houston has quietly repositioned its internal strategy.@ShamsCharania, @KellyIko and @sam_amick have more ⤵️
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) January 31, 2024
Elsewhere in the article, the authors write Houston is not interested in trading Smith or Eason, and the story refers to Sengun as a “potential building block” and a “new, heightened priority.” That would seemingly point to Green, Thompson and Whitmore as the more realistic trade candidates in such a proposal. While Green has had an inconsistent season, it’s worth noting he played extremely well during the final few days of January, and it’s at least conceivable it could boost his market value.
With that said, the question is whether a true All-Star talent will be on the market at the in-season deadline, or if Stone and the Rockets might have to wait on any larger pursuit until the offseason.
The Athletic’s story confirms recent reporting that Houston tried to go after Mikal Bridges of Brooklyn, but it appears the Nets told the Rockets he’s staying put. Time will tell as to whether Stone has any satisfactory alternative plans available at this deadline.