With the NBA trade deadline now done and dusted, we’ve had some time to wait for the dust to settle before reassessing each team’s moves as we head into the second half of the year. As some teams looked to improve their lists, one team in particular made some eye-catching moves.
The Lakers did nothing, which is interesting in itself as they clearly have deficiencies, the Clippers added Marcus Morris who is having a career year shooting wise and not only provides a strong offensive option when Kahwi and George are out, he’s a strong catch and shoot option when they are fit. He’s also another strong on defense and had historically guarded LeBron well so you can see why they paid more than they should have to acquire.
The Heat got some quality in Iguodala and Crowder to make their push in the East, The Grizzlies traded well, adding some young quality to their list, as did Atlanta whilst Minnesota tried to change things up from what wasn’t working. Then we had the Mavericks, who added another big in Cauley-Stein to support Porzingis, but it was the work of the Rockets which created the most interest.
The biggest knock at the moment on the Clippers is their lack of a quality big. Zubac lacks size and quality whilst Montrezl Harrell just lacks size. To win the West, you’ll come up against the likes of Gobert, Jokic, Davis, Adams and Porzingis, to win the Championship you’ll have to take on the likes of Giannis and Embiid. Whilst it’s a shooters world these days in the NBA quality big men still play a part, especially in play-offs, so the move of the Rockets to trade out their quality young Centre in Clint Capella for defensive forward in Robert Covington was intriguing.
Whilst the numbers back up the move that the Rockets as the acquisition of Westbrook has reduced the need for Capella’s rim protection, and certainly worked in the first game of the experiment as they knocked off the Lakers and only the lost the rebound count by 1, the next night they were soundly beaten by the Suns and smashed in the rebounds so the jury is still out.
It’s a complete change from the norm in basketball, and Mike D’Antoni has gone all in on his vision, a vision which basically has seemingly no positions and all players are largely interchangeable, where their ‘centres’ can bring down the ball and can shoot pull up 3’s like a traditional guard. And while other sides have trialled this, including the Clippers and the Heat, it will be interesting to see if this can work in the heat of play-offs, when the pressure increases and the space reduces.
For the Rockets, it’s a big call. They went all in with Chris Paul to win a title 2 years ago and nearly knocked off the Warriors, but fell short when the chance was there. Having swapped Paul for Westbrook, and having seen the Warriors separate, they would have been confidant of going one step further though knowing they only have to go through an LA duo this time to win the West, not a trio. To go all in on this vision, of going to small ball and nothing else, means they have to win it this year, or risk possibly having to start again. By throwing away a quality big, means a replacement is unlikely to come cheap, so D’Antoni would want to see this work.
The Rockets have made a huge move, a bold move to win the title. If it works, it could change the NBA forever. If it fails, well Harden and Westbrook might see their title chances evaporate for good.