Jalen Green: Four trade destinations that make sense

An increasingly common term used in the discourse around roster construction is that of “direction”, and while perhaps overused, it speaks to an important principle. Much as a large degree of NBA roster management is about opportunism, fortune, circumstances and scouting successes, teams are ultimately implicitly required to know who they are and where they are going, behind the obvious answer of “hopefully we will win a title like this”. Knowing the speed of travel, and when the time is to change it, is key.

To that end, the Houston Rockets have unashamedly picked a direction. Since the demise of the James Harden era, they have been last, last and second-last in the Western Conference, winning only 17, 20 and 22 games in the previous three seasons. It was not pretty, but at least it was a direction, and it yielded the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 picks across the last three drafts accordingly.

Since the last of those, though, they have distinctly changed direction. Summer-time expenditure on win-now veterans such as Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks spoke to an intent to move out of the bottom bracket, and last week’s trade of three second-round picks for the 30-year-old Steven Adams doubles down on that position. Their 23 wins so far this season, while far from competitive, have seen them move into the middle ground from the doldrums; the Rockets clearly feel as though there is better value to be had from moving forward with a more competitive environment surrounding their young core, rather than bottoming out further to add to it.

One of those young players, though, appears not to have made the grade. With just two days until the NBA trade deadline, third-year guard Jalen Green’s name has circulated in the trade rumors for some time, and, given the adage that there is no smoke without fire, his time with the team looks as though it might soon be coming to an end, less than three years after being the purpose of the first direction.

Green has averaged 18.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 49 games so far this season, and while this represents a slight decline from his 22.1 scoring average a season ago, there is nothing wrong on the surface. The decline in volume with the addition of VanVleet has not however seen any increase in his efficiency, particularly in the paint, and the defensive progress has been slow. So too has the limited passing vision.

Looking more like Collin Sexton than Donovan Mitchell, Green’s place at the top of the Rockets’ core list has been lost to Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr and arguably also Tari Eason, with Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore still to come. If the Rockets are true to their reported intention of getting older to try and make the 2024 playoffs, his spot is the vulnerable one.

Nevertheless, a third-year player who only turns 22 this week and who already has a season above the 20-point-per-game threshold under his belt will always have some value in the market. Here are four possible trade destinations for Green if Houston can get a deal over the line in the next 48 hours.

Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

It is commonly understood that Mikal Bridges is a primary target of the Rockets. And it is also very well documented that, because of the Harden trade, the Rockets have control over the Nets’ draft pick situation for the next four seasons. It therefore follows logically that the two could meet in the middle, with one team stepping forward from the middle ground, and one stepping back to give themselves a chance of three steps forward later that they do not currently have.

The Nets, though, reportedly do not want that. They seem to see themselves as being in the same sort of range as the Rockets and do not want to rebuild. This does not preclude Bridges, their leading scorer and best player, from still being available for the right offer. But it does seem to mean that that “right offer” is not as draft picks-centric as first thought.

If the Nets want more immediate returns than the four years of draft capital that Houston can give them, then perhaps Green can be a part of it, be it directly or via a multi-way deal. What is certainly clear is that the Rockets are – to use a Wojism – locked in on Bridges, and the Nets are rebuffing them, which only raises the price. If the higher price is no obstacle to Houston, then Green, surely, becomes a part of the deal.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

One rumor that has already come and gone reports that the Bulls offered Zach LaVine to the Rockets in exchange for a package focused on Green. LaVine’s likely season-ending injury, though, will put the kybosh on that.

In his stead, however, could come Alex Caruso. The defensive superstar, who turns 30 this month, is averaging a career-high 10.0 points per game to go along with his defense, which keeps improving. And with the Bulls not going anywhere – nor seemingly having all that much on the way – he is available.

The asking price is high. Caruso is coveted and worth several wins to whoever he is on, and the Bulls – in need of some serious rejuvenation – are reported to be seeking an OG Anunoby-esque package in return for him. For Anunoby, the Toronto Raptors received a package of RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley. An offer focused on Green could definitely compete with that.

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The Pistons have had their name attached to every available star, without having completed a deal for any of them. Even when generously considering the fact that the potential of all their summertime cap space will be mitigated by the franchise’s long-standing lack of lure as a free agency destination, it still seems counterintuitive to try and move forward with veterans, when there are no youngsters to move forward with. Perhaps they just simply think they are too bad.

If they do, then perhaps a redraft player like Green is a compromise. He is not the unspent draft capital that might be preferred, but he is an upside play on a team that needs upside more than anyone.

In terms of what the Pistons could give in trade, the main thing they offer the market is substantial salary relief, which is not something that Houston needs too much of right now. Bojan Bogdanovic is not getting it done, and the likeness between Green and the similar Jaden Ivey is not ideal.

However, precisely because of the massive savings that can be offered by the likes of Joe Harris, Alec Burks, Danilo Gallinari, and Monte Morris, the Pistons have the greatest chance of facilitating multi-way deals of any team in the league. And considering their position, it would make plenty of sense to take Green as payment. This is not a James Wiseman situation. Green has at least been good before.

Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Like the Pistons, the Wizards – at the bottom, just like the Rockets used to be, yet without the young talents to change that any time soon – should certainly be looking at any available high picks. Indeed, their trade for Marvin Bagley Jr – whose upside, if he still has any, is far below Green’s – speaks to the understanding that they should be in for redraft players.

As for how to get Green, their most obvious piece in trade is Kyle Kuzma, whose price is favorable, whose age is suitable, and whose playmaking and shooting talent from the frontcourt positions in the modern game is always going to be wanted. Kuzma is not a needle-mover on his own, but he raises the ceiling of whichever team he is on and fits the billing for the kind of mid-season reinforcement that the Rockets seem to want.

Pairing Green’s salary with that of Jock Landale suffices for salary-matching – the question then becomes one of value. From the Rockets, to trade a Top 2 pick for a decent non-star like Kuzma might seem like an underwhelming where once there was so much promise; for the Wizards, much as they need to take flyers on young talents, they might prefer to target draft picks that will not have to have a new contract in 18 months, and which are not as similar to the incumbent Jordan Poole.

The two teams will need to agree that they have no better partners than each other, which is far from assured. Even with Green’s inconsistency, it is not for certain that Kuzma would actually be better for them in 2024, let alone beyond. Nonetheless, the broad strokes of a potential deal exist. The Wizards, like the Pistons, are stuck with the direction that Houston has been able to turn away from. Perhaps buying low on Green can speed the bottoming-out process up. And perhaps if the Rockets can get enough immediate impact players back from the Wizards, they can accelerate their levelling-up too.

Source link

Back to top button