Most NBA fans are locked into the Finals with the back and forth between Golden State and Boston. In Houston, fans are a little more focused on the NBA Draft, which is only a week away. And, on Monday, the Rockets added excitement to draft night by sending forward/center Christian Wood to Dallas for the 26th pick in the first round and a bunch of players to match Wood’s salary.
From the outside, this may seem like a gift. While Boban Marjanovic might be a fan favorite and Sterling Brown, Marquese Chriss (both former Rockets) and Trey Burke are all decent players, this was clearly the 26th pick in the draft. The Rockets now own picks 3, 17 and 26 and many have speculated that they would like to move up, perhaps even in the draft lottery to take an additional player. Combining 26 and 17 could allow them to do that.
Here are some thoughts.
Why change your best goalscorer now?
Wood’s was a complicated situation. Being the top scorer and clearly the most accomplished player on a lottery team is a dubious distinction. At 27, he’s already at or near his prime playing with a group of youngsters who are still at least a couple of years away from competing for more than pride. Also, Wood’s defense (or lack thereof) made it difficult to play alongside Alperen Sengun, someone the Rockets believe in. The combination of factors made it almost a foregone conclusion that Wood would eventually be traded.
Will the Rockets at least keep Boban?
Since all the players acquired by the Rockets are signed only through next season, it certainly doesn’t affect their cap space (which should be significant) after this year. Boban (as he is affectionately called) might be the only guy who could stay. The seven-foot, four-eared giant is only 22 years old and could certainly provide some defensive help in the paint for a team that was nearly the worst in the NBA at rim defense last season. How he plays this year and how he relates to the other youngsters will likely determine whether the Rockets keep him.
Why not try something more than this?
Reports indicate that the Rockets are very happy with their loot. Wood is a free agent after this season and expects a near-max deal from whoever signs him, but there are still serious questions about his game. Can he play anything other than center? Will he ever improve his defense? He leaves it as a question mark for teams considering a long-term deal. For Dallas, this could be a great short-term option for a team that is ready to push for a title. For the Rockets, he was the wrong guy at the wrong time.
Who do they turn to if they want to move up?
At 26 and 17, could the Rockets move up to say, 14 or 15? If so, could they catch someone like Tari Eason? If they were really serious and willing to move another future pick, it’s possible they could go to 10 or 11 and target Duke’s Mark Williams, who is perhaps the best defensive big in the draft. In any case, GM Rafael Stone clearly values the chances of this draft above what he had in Christian Wood.