Grade the trade: Rockets, Suns liven up NBA offseason with four-player deal that may or may not help either side
Houston dealt Ryan Anderson and De'Anthony Melton to Phoenix for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight
Well, so much for the end of August being the dead period of the NBA offseason. Late on Thursday night, the Houston Rockets and Phoenix Suns popped in out of nowhere to execute a reported that saw the Rockets finally move Ryan Anderson's contract. There have been plenty of rumors about the Rockets wanting to shed Anderson's money, but talks had seemingly died down in recent weeks. Now, Anderson is off to the Suns along with 2018 second-round pick De'Anthony Melton in exchange for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight.
It's a bit of a strange deal, with plenty of questions on both sides. Furthermore, the deal continues what has been a fascinating offseason in Houston. Now that we know all the pieces in the trade, let's break it down and grade the move for each team.
- Marquese Chriss
- Brandon Knight
The main objective here for the Rockets was clearly to get out from under Ryan Anderson's contract. After signing a four-year, $80M deal with the Rockets back in 2016, Anderson still has two years and $40M left in guaranteed money. Taking into account their loaded cap sheet, especially heading into the 2019-20 season, when James Harden and Chris Paul are both set for big raises, it's obvious why the Rockets wanted to move Anderson's money. Especially considering that Anderson was at times unplayable in the postseason -- primarily against the Warriors.
However, Anderson is still pretty solid, and by far the best current player in the deal. Even if he can't hold his own defensively against the Warriors, his ability to space the floor and knock down 3s is absolutely valuable in the regular season and early playoff rounds. It's fair to wonder if this was really the best return they could have gotten for him. There were rumors of a potential deal involving Kent Bazemore at one point, but instead the Rockets ended up with Chriss, who really struggled in his first two seasons, and Knight, a point guard who is coming off a torn ACL.
The hope here for the Rockets is that while Anderson is a better player in a vacuum than Chriss, the younger, more athletic big man will fit better into their system. In theory, that makes sense. Chriss won't give you anywhere near Anderson's shooting, but if the Rockets are looking for a back-up big man in the mold of Clint Capela, Chriss at least has the physical capabilities. However, after watching Chriss' first two seasons in Phoenix, the Rockets better have supreme confidence in their player development team.
As for Knight, the Rockets will hope that he is fully healthy after over a year off, and will be able to solidify their backcourt depth. While probably not a starting point guard in the league anymore, Knight certainly isn't the worst option for a third guard. In the long run, De'Anthony Melton may turn into the better player -- he likely wouldn't have fallen late into the second round if he didn't get caught up in the FBI scandal at USC -- but the Rockets are trying to win a title right now, and Knight will be more helpful over the next few seasons.
In the end, the Rockets achieved their main goal of offloading Anderson's contract. However, to do so they essentially had to give up a high-value pick in Melton, who a lot of people are very high on, and in return got two players who may not end up helping them so much. Yes, there are reasons why the Rockets have faith this deal can work out for them, but there's a definite possibility that Chriss and Knight never have significant roles with the team. Grade: C
- Ryan Anderson
- De'Anthony Melton
It was a bit of a surprise to see the Suns jump into the Ryan Anderson sweepstakes, but apparently they're eager to get back into the playoff mix and hope a veteran power forward like Anderson can help them do that. And to be sure, Anderson will be a more valuable player for them over the course of the season than Chriss. The Rockets may have moved on because Anderson couldn't get on the court when it mattered the most in the WCF, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still have value on a young team.
The Suns were the worst 3-point shooting team in the league last season, and Anderson's ability to stretch the floor will not only directly improve that number, but should open up space for the rest of the offense. Plus, Anderson has always been regarded as a great teammate and locker room guy, which will be helpful on a very young Suns team. It definitely should be noted, though, that in dealing for Anderson, the Suns ate into a lot of their potential cap space for next season -- something that may not be insignificant.
Additionally, the Suns made a very interesting low-risk, high-reward bet on De'Anthony Melton. Scouts and draft types have always been high on Melton, but he slipped in the draft due in large part to the fact that he didn't play in college last season after being suspended by USC in relation to the FBI scandal. He was awesome in summer league, and has a lot of upside on the defensive side of the ball. It's not hard to imagine him slotting in nicely next to Devin Booker in the Suns' backcourt. But, of course, only time will tell on that.
Along with eating into their cap space by taking on Anderson's money, the Suns also had to give up Chriss, their No. 8 overall pick from just two years ago. While he hasn't looked very good for the Suns, he's still only 21 years old, and there's always some risk in giving up so early on a big man with his kind of athletic abilities. As for Knight, he wasn't going to help them in the long run anyway, so that's not much of a big deal -- though it may hurt their point guard rotation in the short term.
As is the case for the Rockets in this deal, there are plenty of reasons why the Suns should be excited about the potential of this swap, but also cause for concern. Likely, this move for the Suns will come down to whether or not Melton pans out. If he does, and becomes a long-term backcourt partner for Booker, then awesome. The Suns win the deal. But at the same time they just paid a lot of money for a guy in Anderson who, while he'll be helpful, isn't going to turn you into a playoff team by himself, and a prospect who isn't a guaranteed success. Grade: C+
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