The Limited Trade Market For Thomas Robinson

Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday night that the Rockets are looking to trade Thomas Robinson and “plan to accept the best offer” to get his salary off the books to free up enough money to offer a full max deal to Dwight Howard.

Thomas Robinson

If Dwight Howard to Houston gets serious, trading Thomas Robinson is almost inevitable

Is anyone else getting the feeling that Adrian Wojnarowski has become the Craigslist for today’s NBA general managers? There seems to be no better way to broadcast that you have a player for sale. I think it’s a pretty good bet that this was leaked for a reason — it has a very similar vibe to the “Rockets are shopping Yao Ming” story of a few years ago.

Still, while it is news that the Rockets have placed T-Rob on the trade market, it was not unexpected.

Robinson has the largest salary ($3.5+ million next year) of any player outside of your core rotation and likely has the best trade value. Depending on where the new salary cap is drawn for 2013-14, his contract on the books could be the difference between the Rockets being able to offer a max deal to Dwight Howard (starting at $20.5M) or just a very high salary ($17-19M).

The problem is other teams are well aware of that last fact and it could be used against the Rockets. This is a similar situation to the one the Miami Heat were in with Michael Beasley in 2010. Needing to clear a little extra cap space to make room for both LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Miami dumped Beasley to Minnesota just two years after he was the much-hyped #2 pick of the 2008 NBA Draft.

As a player, the Rockets still like Robinson, but their team goals could be shifting quickly from future contention to present contention. Robinson could become a top-level rebounder, but he has a long ways to go to develop much else, especially on the offensive end. He wasn’t a strong pick-and-roll guy out of Kansas and doesn’t have much shooting range, making it hard to see him getting important playing time at a position on this team that currently requires both of those skills.

So what are the Rockets looking for in a trade partner? The market is limited because the Rockets need a team under the cap (or will be on July 10th anyway) or a team holding a large enough trade exception or non-guaranteed salaries to absorb T-Rob outright. After that, you’re looking for teams that hold future assets, such as a 2014 first or second round pick that would not count against this year’s cap. Given that limited market, cap room alone (along with perhaps a future pick) may be the best return the Rockets can get given their offseason goals. I wouldn’t be surprised if attaching Royce White to unload him (in lieu of getting a draft pick in return) is discussed as well.

Here are the teams that make the most sense:

1. Charlotte Bobcats
Charlotte sticks out as the most logical trade partner. The soon-to-be Hornets strongly considered Robinson with the #2 pick last year and are in the team-building phase where they are looking for as many young building blocks as they can get. They will be under the cap and have plenty of future draft considerations, including a top-8 protected 2014 first rounder from Detroit (not happening) and a top-12 protected 2014 first rounder from Portland. I would consider that Blazers pick to be the high end (if not too high) of what the Rockets could net for T-Rob. A team of Bismack Biyombo, Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and possibly Victor Oladipo (with the 4th pick this year) would be raw and lose a lot of games, but it has a lot of defensive potential down the line.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs have the cap room right now to make a move for Robinson if they wanted — they don’t have to wait until July 10th. Cleveland owns a top-12 protected pick from the Kings in 2014, but what might make them more of a match is they own the first and third picks of the second round (#31 and #33, non-guaranteed deals) in this year’s draft. It’s suspected that the Cavs, like the Rockets, are trying to package their assets for a second star around Kyrie Irving, and they also have a similar player to Robinson in Tristan Thompson, but everything else is a match.

3. Phoenix Suns
The Suns already united the Morris Twins… why not go full #TeamFOE Kansas reunion? Phoenix, like Charlotte, simply needs as many irons in the fire as possible when it comes to young talent. They likely will deal power forward Luis Scola this offseason. They are under the cap right now and also own a protected first rounder from Minnesota next year and the Lakers’ 2015 first rounder (top 5-protected).

4. Orlando Magic
The Magic aren’t winning a championship anytime soon. They lost 49 of their last 57 games as GM Rob Hennigan is trying to stockpile young talent to rebuild. They will be under the cap and could buy a prospect here cheap and watch him develop with playing time, similar to what they did in February with Tobias Harris. Orlando also owns future firsts from the Nuggets, Sixers and Lakers.

5. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks will have a crazy amount of cap room in July and, like the Rockets, are going after Howard and Chris Paul, but more than one team is going to fall short in that pursuit. If they lose out (and especially if they let Josh Smith walk), they could very well be interested in a power forward prospect like Robinson. While it’s not likely the Hawks would consider this until they are out of the free agent sweepstakes, the unguaranteed contract of DeShawn Stevenson ($2.25 million) could be a key piece in getting a deal done in June if they so choose. Atlanta owns both of the Rockets’ draft picks this year (#18 and #50) and also has draft pick swap rights the next two years with Brooklyn.

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20 comments
howlatthemoon
howlatthemoon

I hope T-Rob gets his chance to shine. I watched a video about all the tragedy he and his sister have been through, and it made me cry....He wanted to be with the Bobcats from the start, I hope he gets his chance with a young team, and he flourishes.

da_juice
da_juice

My money's on him going to the Bobcats. As you said, they were high on him last year's draft. Biyombo hasn't turned the corner yet, and for a team as bad as them- they need to acquire as much talent/potential as possible. I can't see the Hawks taking on salary until after DHo or CP3 have signed (doesn't help us out then) and Phoenix already has several PFs (and I personally think they will sign Josh Smith). 


It be great if we could dump Royce and Trob without taking any salary back.

carolbmt
carolbmt

I think T-Rob's value is only that of a high-mid second round pick.

DHYLNP
DHYLNP

Atlanta won't be helping Houston create cap room since they are going after CP+DH. Houston will most likely have traded TRob before ATL is out of the CP+DH pursuit.

MateoFisher
MateoFisher like.author.displayName 1 Like

Not even a little interest from Detroit or New Orleans? I know both those teams have young bigs with potential already, but I would think both are also still trying to stockpile as much young talent as possible, and would bite at the right price. 

basketballholic
basketballholic

Nice article.  Just 2 points I'd like to remind you of.  

Point 1:  The limited trade market for TRob is offset by the limited draft market of this draft class.  Realistically, if TRob was in this draft, he'd be a top 10 pick.  Mark Deeks stated he'd be the #1 pick.  Now, I don't know about that.  But when I look at the crap shoot of this draft after about pick 6, then I could easily see TRob going in the top 10 here.  Yes, his value is distorted somewhat and lessened somewhat by his rookie campaign.  But it's no more distorted than trying to figure out if Trey Burke for instance is going to be anything more than DJ Augustin in this draft.  

Point 2:  We've got 4 guys all playing the PF position coming off their rookie deals.  We really don't have minutes to give 3 of them much less 4.  So, don't forget there could be more than 1 guy shipped out...and it may not necessarily be Royce White that is shipped out.  Consider the possibilities of trading out 2 of 3 of TRob/DMO/Jones....now what value do you have?  Specifically what draft pick value do you have...either in this draft or in future drafts?  

I'll be surprised if we settle for a couple high second rounders in a trade for TRob.  If that's all the value he has, I wouldn't be surprised if we went ahead and pulled the trigger to move both DMO/TJones.  2 of the 3 of these guys should get us a lottery first rounder....either in this draft or a future draft....at least.

clutchfans
clutchfans moderator

@basketballholic Thanks -- good points here. On Point #1, I could be convinced that Thomas Robinson is worth a top ten pick this year, but that's part of the limited market I'm talking about ... that first round pick this year has a cap hit, so unless there is a lot of creativity, the Rockets can't get both top value and a clean cap wipe. For example, Austin Rivers, the 10th pick last year, had a starting salary of over $2.2M.  So while his current value may be good when compared to this weaker draft, it doesn't translate to the future picks (2014 is expected to be a strong draft) that you would think the Rockets need to get clean cap room now.

On point #2, I agree completely. I don't know if any of the young PFs will be ready to make the jump to 30+ minute a night guy for a contender, which is what the Rockets would be judged as if they sign Dwight (bye bye "youngest team in the league" talk).  I could see a bigger move for a starting PF, but they need to net a little more cap room first somehow to get to the max for Dwight.

basketballholic
basketballholic

@clutchfans @basketballholic Creativity.....put together the trade...TRob and our 2014 first rounder for the top 10 pick in this year's draft and a second rounder.  Then execute it this way....Trade TRob for the future second rounder...moves out the salary...allows for the Dwight signing.....then complete the agreed to original deal by trading our 2014 first rounder for the 2013 first round pick we had the other team make for us and they are holding on their roster.  

Remii
Remii

They should be looking to trade T-Rob regardless the Rockets have too many PFs and he's not the best one.

They say there's a sucker born everyday so if Morey can find a GM who's willing to trade for Royce... Go for it.

Koolaid
Koolaid

Royce White for Josh Smith. Set it up Daryl! 

DHYLNP
DHYLNP

Agreed. The Rockets have a VERY specific and VERY immediate need-- cap space neccesary to chase a max FA. This limits their leverage and the range of potential trade partners.

Carl Herrera

fyrebear
fyrebear

@DHYLNP That's why they most likely leaked this Trob shopping info now to maximize their ROI. If the Rockets waited until July, they would have to take much less value back like Miami did with Beasley.

RedRedemption
RedRedemption

I wish we could keep Robinson. He's extremely raw, but I feel like with the right development he could become at least a serviceable role player. -RedRedemption

clutchfans
clutchfans moderator

@RedRedemption The problem is serviceable role players are guys that Daryl Morey can acquire in his sleep.  I think with a guy like T-Rob, you would hope that some skillset he has can become elite or well above average. Best bet there is rebounding. He's certainly energetic and athletic, but if he's not a good fit for a team with a set style that is trying to win 50 games minimum, how does he get the time to develop and (more importantly for the Rockets' selfish purposes) increase his trade value?

RollingWave0720
RollingWave0720

Should also note that, Raw players sometimes develop after the end of their rookie contract, which makes it a rather bad deal for the team that held on to said rookie contract ( see Jermaine O'Neal.)

fyrebear
fyrebear

Not surprised about the Trob "shopping/trade" leak here. Better to do this now to get better value than like the Miami/Beasley situation where their hand was forced. On July 1st, the Rockets want no obstacles in their way to make a full max offer to DH12.

clutchfans
clutchfans moderator

@fyrebear You're right. I would tend to think the Rockets will wait until they know, simply because most teams won't be under the cap until then anyway, but the Rockets aren't strangers to making the move even if they don't have a firm commitment for the bigger move.  They amnestied Luis Scola without any guarantees and dumped Kyle Lowry for a future pick as well.  They may simply be OK with the cap room and a pick for T-Rob, knowing that if they do fall short in the Dwight chase that they can use those pieces/flexibility in a bigger move down the line (as they did eventually in landing Harden).