While they have won four in a row and looked improved recently, the Houston Rockets have turned it around from “wow, they suck” to “they should make the playoffs.” Except, that was never the goal, the Rockets were up at halftime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors last May and they want to take the next step. Even the new and improved Houston team of the last couple of weeks is not on that level.
So GM Daryl Morey is actively working the trade market right now, something a lot of us are hearing and has been reported everywhere. Adding wing depth is the goal (shockingly, the Carmelo Anthony signing didn’t work out).
The top target? Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, reports Marc Stein of The New York Times in his weekly newsletter.
Houston has expressed exploratory interest in Cleveland’s J.R. Smith, who has been sent home by the Cavaliers as they try to find a new home for him via trade. But the Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is said to be the Rockets’ top target in their search for help on the wing, with Smith somewhere further down the list.
Caldwell-Pope can veto any trade as what is known as a One-Year Bird, having signed a one-year contract in July with the same team that employed him last season. All indications are that Caldwell-Pope would agree to a trade that lands him in Houston if the Rockets can indeed construct one.
Constructing one is absolutely the problem. Caldwell-Pope is making $12 million this season and the Lakers are not just taking back Brandon Knight, who is owed a fully-guaranteed $15.6 million next season. After that, the rest of the guys the Rockets would give up make $3.7 million (Nene) or less. Which means bringing in a third team, which always makes things far more complicated.
On top of that the Pelicans are incredibly active and looking for wing help (KCP for Solomon Hill and a second rounder?) and so is Philadelphia. If the Lakers trade Caldwell-Pope they will have options, and the Rockets may not be the best one.
Caldwell-Pope had a rough start to the season but has played better of late, averaging 12.2 points per game and shooting 37 percent from three in his last five games.
That said, when Morey wants something, or someone, he goes at it full speed. Keep an eye on this.