Former Rocket Aaron Brooks, back in town tonight for the first time since the deadline day trade, had a quick rise and fall with the Houston Rockets. He was the backup for a season and a half. A trade cleared the way for him to take the full-time starting position. He showed significant improvement in a breakout season. Less than a year later, he was traded to make room for another starter.
Sound familiar? It should, because don’t look now, but current starter Kyle Lowry may be heading down the same path.
Lowry, who many forget is only 24 years old (he turns 25 later this month), is enjoying a bust out year. His biggest weakness, perimeter shooting, has seemed to become a strength. The 6-foot, 200-pound point guard entered 2010-11 as a career 26.4% three-point shooter, yet he is now hitting 37.9% from distance this season, including nearly 44% in his last 17 games. Houston GM Daryl Morey said Lowry has probably been the Rockets best player this season.
So what’s the problem?
The Superstar Pursuit Trumps All
The Rockets need a superstar (or two), and the goal is to do that via trade. They will continue to try to add young talent until that does happen, but their hope is to pull off a flip or two that will catapult the Rockets into the upper echelon of NBA teams, much like the Boston Celtics did in 2007. When it comes to acquiring rare, elite talent, beggars can’t be choosers. Right now, the superstar that looks to be “next” on the trade market is a point guard — the New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul.
The Rockets already tried to do it!
Just before the deadline, the Rockets were involved in talks with the Utah Jazz for Deron Williams, and believed they had a good shot to get him. I’m told there was a mutual interest, that the Jazz had continued talks. Ultimately, the New Jersey Nets won out with a Herschel Walker-like offer, but Deron had become the Rockets #1 priority at the deadline.
So what did that mean for Lowry? While Luis Scola was battered with Chris Bosh questions when the Rockets pursued him, no one has really asked what this chase meant for Kyle. Either Lowry was in the package deal (something he would have had to approve), or he would have returned to the backup role, taking scraps behind a 36+ minute a night superstar one. And if it was the latter — now that he’s tasted the starting role and thrived in it, is that something he would have been OK with? (And the similarities to Brooks continue.)
Lowry’s contract is going to be very attractive
When Lowry signed his 4-year, $24 million contract, it was considered top dollar for a backup point. However, now that he’s a starting point guard and has shown significant improvement, his contract is looking like a bargain. Couple that with his relatively young age (a year younger than Paul), and he could be attractive to a team like the Hornets, who don’t have a clear replacement for Paul after trading away Darren Collison last summer.
Lowry will be easier to trade
Back in December, BimaThug outlined how it was difficult to trade a player like Lowry this season. Lowry is a Base Year Compensation (BYC) player, making it complex to trade him cap-wise. Because the Rockets matched a restricted free agency offer sheet, Lowry must also consent to being traded. All of that goes away in July, making it much easier to deal him.
There are several ways the Rockets could go this summer. They certainly could rekindle talks for Nene and/or Danny Granger, or they could try to bolster their position in the NBA Draft, but if this past trade deadline taught us anything it’s that the Rockets will focus on youth until they can pounce on elite-level talent, like a Deron Williams or a Chris Paul. You put either of those players on a team that has a slim shot of getting a healthy Yao Ming back, and suddenly you’re in the conversation.
Unlike Brooks, the Rockets do not have to deal Lowry — there are absolutely no similarities in contract situations. The Rockets are getting tremendous bang for the buck at that spot and have him locked up for three more seasons so I would go so far as to say Lowry is the least likely to be dealt if there are no superstars available at his position — but that’s choosing to ignore the current NBA landscape. Teams like the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks are stockpiling stars, and the Rockets must get one to start the process, so as Scola and Shane Battier suffered through the courtships of Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, it may just be Lowry who has to field those questions next.