The Rockets ended their brief Christian Wood era.
Wednesday night, Houston unofficially traded Wood to the Dallas Mavericks for Boban Marjanovic, Trey Burke and former Rockets Sterling Brown and Marquese Chriss along with the #26 pick of the 2022 NBA Draft. The trade can’t be made until after the Draft due to the Stepien Rule (Dallas owes their 2023 pick to New York and can’t trade consecutive “future” picks).
All of the players that arrive in the deal have contracts that expire in 2023, so Houston’s projected cap room a year from now remains unaffected. Likely all of them, except potentially Boban, will be bought out/waived.
For the Rockets, getting the 26th pick is what matters on the return, but the main point was to move on from Wood.
The Rockets have been trying to trade Wood since the 2021 NBA Draft and this was the first offer they’ve received in a year that included a first-round pick, a source told ClutchFans. Also, look for the Rockets to aggressively try to use #17 and #26 to move up OR to move out of the draft by trading one of those picks for a future pick.
Thoughts on the Trade
I was actually in the air, flying from California to Dallas, when news of the trade broke. So when we landed a few hours later, my phone completely blew up. My delayed reaction to sending Christian Wood elsewhere? It’s about time.
Wood’s lower market value is a combination of factors. The NBA market is not great for centers — most teams have one they’re happy with and don’t need a second one like this. Wood puts up good offensive numbers, but his defense was a big problem. He also wasn’t the best influence in the locker room. He was prone to poutiness. He believes he’s a star and his numbers are important to him, especially with a new contract on the line in 2023.
Getting the 26th pick, Houston’s third first-round pick in this draft, seems an underwhelming return on paper based on what we perceived Wood’s value might be (I initially expected it to be around pick #15), but yet it’s absolutely worth it.
I’d rather have the 26th pick of the draft than Christian Wood. That’s the honest truth. The Rockets get an asset that can be used for the future and we knew Wood was not part of that. They did not have to take back salary beyond 2023. Getting #26 feels like a free asset.
It has the potential to work out for Dallas but it’s definitely good for Houston, so I don’t have a problem with the trade.
Asset Management has to improve
While the trade is fine, I would like to see more from the Rockets as far as getting good value on their investments. The department of Asset Management is where the Rockets really need to shine and they’ve missed on a few.
They traded for Victor Oladipo and then traded him for nothing of future value a few months later. They signed Daniel Theis to a four-year deal and then traded him for nothing of future value a few months later. They gave up the 16th pick of the 2020 NBA Draft in part to get Wood (and a heavily-protected first) and then traded him for very little of future value a few years later.
I love that the Rockets are going through a true rebuild and doing it the right way. Player development over winning is the mandate until 2023 and GM Rafael Stone has been doing a bang-up job leading it. He’s about to navigate the rebuild to a point where they have two young potential stars as this team’s core in Jalen Green and (likely) Paolo Banchero and that’s what matters the most.
But until they are ready to place winning as the #1 priority, I would like to see the Rockets get a little better return on their rotation investments. At this stage, playing time is a commodity, either to develop players or showcase them. Flipping players that you don’t see as part of your future for assets that could be used in the future is an important part of this process. This is the time to collect young players and picks to be in the very best position to shift gears and make win-now trades in the summer of 2023 because the Rockets are not as loaded with future picks as it may seem.
There's a perception that the #Rockets are loaded with draft assets, but after this draft, there's only a surplus of one first over the next 5 years:
2025 HOU (OKC can swap if outside top-10, HOU can swap w/ BKN)
2027 HOU (swap rights w/ BKN)
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) April 25, 2022
In fairness, the Rockets are operating with a $50 million disadvantage for another year. John Wall is eating up their cap and there’s really no good solution to that. How the Rockets manage assets may not be put to the real test until next offseason when they have cap room to operate with, but still, Wall’s contract had no impact on these decisions.
So losing Christian Wood? That’s a win. Getting the #26 pick? That too is a win. But when it comes to their investments, hopefully we see more doubles and triples instead of sacrifice flies.