Shortly after shipping out persona non grata veteran point guard Andre Miller as part of a three-team deal earlier Thursday, the Denver Nuggets agreed to terms on a deal to fill their open backup-point-guard slot, sending swingman Jordan Hamilton to the Houston Rockets in exchange for veteran reserve Aaron Brooks. The deal was first reported by Shams Charania of RealGM and Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski.
Before we get too far afield: If you're wondering what Jordan Hamilton looks like, the answer is, in part, "Not like this."
— jose3030 (@jose3030) February 20, 2014
Now, then: to business.
After completing the Miller deal, the Nuggets had reportedly been engaged in talks with the New York Knicks to send Hamilton to Manhattan in exchange for Beno Udrih, but they apparently preferred the services of Brooks, a 29-year-old lead guard who won Most Improved Player honors back in 2010 but has bounced around a bit since then.
The Rockets traded the former Oregon standout to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Goran Dragic and a 2011 first-round pick, and when his contract wasn't extended, he headed overseas to spend the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season in China. Brooks returned last season to join the Sacramento Kings; while he played decently enough in reserve minutes, the team waived him on March 1, freeing him to return to the Rockets for their playoff run. Houston brought him back on a minimum deal this summer, and he's gone through fits and starts of use and effectiveness for Kevin McHale, but with Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin back to full health and playing well, plus rookie Isaiah Canaan available in the D-League as an in-case-of-emergency backcourt option, Brooks figured to be on the outside looking in down the stretch and in the postseason. That would make it awful difficult to establish any sort of value as he heads into unrestricted free agency this summer.
This is likely why he agreed to be moved at the deadline for the third straight season (save for the year he was in China, natch), despite reports by Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle and Fran Blinebury of NBA.com that Brooks said Wednesday he would not assent. Brooks — who averaged seven points, 1.9 assists and 1.4 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game in 43 appearances with Houston this year, shooting 39.5 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range — will enter Denver with a chance to earn significant backup minutes behind starter Ty Lawson with Miller gone and Nate Robinson out for the season following surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee. Whether he'll actually move the needle much for a Nuggets team that has lost five in a row, seven of nine and 10 of 15 since mid-January to drop to 24-28, 6 1/2 games back of the Dallas Mavericks for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference remains to be seen.
While the Rockets were well stocked in the backcourt, they'd been looking for another piece at small forward behind Chandler Parsons, with Francisco Garcia (39.3 percent from the floor, 35.2 percent from 3-point range, sub-10 Player Efficiency Rating) not exactly setting the world on fire. The 23-year-old Hamilton hasn't been any great shakes on the wing in Denver — he averaged 6.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 17.2 minutes this season, his shooting percentages are actually a bit lower than Garcia's, and he wasn't earning major minutes behind starter Wilson Chandler — but he's a rangy and athletic young wing who hit better than 36 percent of his 3-balls in each of his first two pro seasons, a small forward who has proven helpful on the boards when in the lineup (clearing 18.5 percent of opponents' misses during his floor time, a strong defensive rebounding rate for a small forward), and a Texas product who might do well with a change of scenery.
Plus, Hamilton represents a low-cost gamble. He's on the books for just under $1.2 million this season, and he comes off the books this summer, thanks to Denver not picking up the '14-'15 option on his rookie contract. If he pushes Garcia to step up or outperforms the veteran, then he gives McHale an athletic minutes-filler behind Parsons for the playoff push; if he doesn't, the mistake doesn't have ramifications beyond this season.
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