The Houston Rockets made a surprise move sending Robert Covington to the Portland Trailblazers. Portland played the majority of the 2019-20 season without a genuine small forward thus the arrival of Covington addresses this need.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the story.
The Rockets are finalizing a trade to send Robert Covington to Portland for Trevor Ariza and 2020 first-round pick and 2021 protected first-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 17, 2020
With Houston in a state of flux, this move potentially signals that the Rockets are heading toward a rebuild. Let’s break down this deal.
The Portland Trailblazers Acquire Robert Covington
While the Trailblazers acquired Covington, they had to give up Trevor Ariza and two first-round picks to do so, including the 16th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The motivations behind this deal for Houston are obvious – acquire as many picks as possible. Rookie General Manager Rafael Stone made some noise in his very first transaction, acquiring two picks and Ariza’s expiring deal. The Rockets needed to recoup some draft capital after trading the majority of its picks prior to this transaction.
HOUSTON ROCKETS FUTURE 1ST ROUND PICKS
2020 – 16th pick
2021 – 1-4 (OWN), 5-30 OKC swap, POR (protected)
2022 – OWN
2023 – OWN
2024 – 1-4 (OWN), 5-30 OKC
2025 – 1-10 (OWN); 11-30 Own or OKC swap
2026 – 1-4 Own; 5-30 to OKC
Nice low-key move by Rookie GM Rafael Stone. pic.twitter.com/eYD75ikTJA
— THUNDER MONEYBALL (@geola388) November 17, 2020
Former General Manager Daryl Morey sent out Chris Paul, two picks, and two pick swaps for Russell Westbrook last summer. While it represented a chance to compete for a championship, it also left the franchise asset poor should the experiment go awry. Fast forward to the present and things appear to be blowing up so this is a great move for Houston.
Financially, this deal potentially saves Houston approximately $11-million-dollars. Ariza’s one year, $12.8-million-dollar deal is only guaranteed for $1.8-million. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta is known to be cheap thus this saves him some money if they waive him.
Stone’s first transaction as GM was superb and he deserves a ton of credit.
Portland Trailblazers Receive Robert Covington
The Portland Trailblazers finally addressed their need at small forward, acquiring a defensive-minded two-way wing. Covington was the primary big in Houston’s small-ball experiment last season, forming a tough, undersized frontcourt with PJ Tucker. He averaged 12.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.3 blocks on 42.2 percent shooting and 33.5 percent from three.
Covington is somewhat a recovery project after Portland inexplicably allowed its defense to walk out the door last off-season. Al-Farouq Aminu (Orlando) and Maurice Harkless (Los Angeles Clippers) went to new clubs last off-season but were never replaced. Portland was forced to sign and play Carmelo Anthony at small forward. While Anthony did a good job, his defensive limitations exacerbated Portland’s existing issues on that side of the ball. Covington’s arrival plugs some of these issues. He isn’t the best on-ball defender but he’s a terrific team defender. The 29-year-old averaged 2.2 blocks per game for Houston so I suspect he will have a similar role with the Blazers.
Two first-round picks is an overpay but the Blazers were desperate to fill a position of need. It’s a nice under the radar move but the two picks take the shine off the deal for Portland.
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