Siakam? Brown? How Rockets Could Pull off a Blockbuster Trade

The Houston Rockets are in a special position for a team entering the 2023 offseason after three straight seasons in the Western Conference basement. For a team with little success in recent years, the Houston brass continue to preach optimism about the state of the franchise, with a presumed return to respectability (and possibly even the playoffs) next season. Such confidence is not exactly misplaced.

Houston’s record in recent years belies the well-considered path taken by general manager Rafael Stone in the post-James Harden era. The Rockets dove headfirst into a deep rebuild rather than wade into the waters of the NBA’s feared middle, and in turn, Houston is now armed with a pair of the first three picks from the last two drafts (Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr.) as well as a number of intriguing players caught outside the lottery (Alperen Sengün, Tari Eason and KJ Martin among others). But to really turn the tide on the current moribund franchise, a serious influx of talent needs to arrive this summer. There are several paths to such additions.

The easiest path will become increasingly clear later this month. The Rockets hold the best chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, with a lottery win securing the arrival of historically high profile French teenager Victor Wembanyama. Consolation prizes in G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson and Alabama forward Brandon Miller could also bring a dose of upside talent.

Land outside the top three, however, and Houston will have a real dilemma on its hands. There appears to be a significant drop in talent outside of the top three in the 2023 draft, and in any scenario outside of the Rockets landing the No. 1 pick, we could very well see Stone getting creative next month. Could a draft swap be in the works? Let’s explore some possible options.

Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam #43 checks it all past Jabari Smith Jr. #1 of the Houston Rockets during the first half at Toyota Center on February 03, 2023 in Houston.

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Look north of the border?

The Raptors are one of the most intriguing teams of the offseason, seemingly in transition following the departure of former coach Nick Nurse last month. Incoming third-year forward Scottie Barnes is the franchise’s most important piece heading into his 22-year-old season, and after years of competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, there could be a move to pair Barnes with players more on his development schedule. Maybe Houston can help.

Toronto sports an impressive pair of forwards, both of whom have been trade rumored in 2022-23. OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam would give Houston talent a serious boost on the wing, with Anunoby being both a good scorer and a hellish defender. Siakam is going through a few lulls as a shooter, but his scoring acumen (24.2 ppg in 2022-23) and his ability to fight his way to the edge are particularly impressive.

How exactly could Houston make a deal in exchange for potential fringe All-NBA talent? The price will not be cheap. I imagine the Rockets should take their pick from the top six, along with Kevin Porter Jr. (who could replace Fred VanVleet) and at least one from Tari Eason and KJ Martin. Such a price is probably unpleasant for many Rockets fans. Still, I guess the Toronto faithful might not even be inspired by such a proposal. Looks like we can have a match based on such feelings.

An unlikely dream

The most online contingent of Rockets fans have already laid eyes on the many photoshops of Jaylen Brown in a Rockets uniform, and while the hiring of Ime Udoka makes such a deal potentially likely when Brown enters free agency in the summer of 2024, I would caution against being optimistic about an offseason trade involving the All-Star forward. Boston is highly unlikely to trade Brown unless presented with an upgrade, as was explored when the Kevin Durant disgruntlement returned this winter. A trade package revolving around a 2023 top-five pick and a collection of other early players is unlikely to do the trick, but I’d be happy to be wrong on this one.

Interesting additions

Let’s briefly review some less dramatic, but still impactful trades Stone could explore on draft night.

John Collins’ experience in Atlanta remains unsatisfactory, and he could be the type of winning player now that Stone could seek to acquire with a draft pick outside of the top three. Bulls guard Alex Caruso would be a perfect plug-and-play guard for Udoka, although Chicago would need to add additional young talent (perhaps forward Patrick Williams) or future first-round talent in order to get a Houston pick. Look at the Western Conference, and there’s a scenario where the Rockets are looking to acquire Mike Conley to bring a veteran presence to the front line.

Are any of these deals particularly likely? Not necessarily. But expect Stone to explore all of his options before the June draft if the lottery doesn’t break Houston’s path.

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