The Houston Rockets have agreed to send Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers, so it’s time for NBA Trade Grades.
With the NBA’s trade moratorium lifted on Monday, the league didn’t wait long to start making moves. The Detroit Pistons made a head-scratching move with the Brooklyn Nets, the Phoenix Suns made a big play for Chris Paul and now, the Houston Rockets are having a fire … sale.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Rockets are sending two-way wing Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers for Trevor Ariza and two draft picks. The picks in question are the Blazers’ 16th overall pick in this year’s draft and their protected 2021 selection.
Due to the Stepien Rule, which dictates teams cannot trade back-to-back draft picks ahead of time, this deal cannot be finalized until after this year’s draft, meaning the Blazers will be drafting for the Rockets on Wednesday.
Trail Blazers Get
No. 16 pick
2021 1st round pick (protected)
While the protections on this pick have yet to be reported, this latest deal tells us a lot about what the future holds for both the Rockets and the Blazers. In order to sort it all out, here are NBA Trade Grades for both teams.
Russell Westbrook wants out, James Harden has apparently followed suit and it’s looking like general manager Rafael Stone’s first year on the job is going to be composed of blowing this roster up and trying to recoup as many young players and draft assets as he can for the inevitable rebuild.
If it wasn’t clear this franchise is heading for a massive shakeup, the Covington trade lets the world know the Rockets are having a fire sale.
Ariza is a familiar face, but at 35 years old, and with only one year and $12.8 million of non-guaranteed salary remaining on his expiring contract, he’s really just salary filler to execute this trade and ensure Houston has enough warm bodies on the court for next season. He’s a respected veteran and shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season, but this trade is really about the draft compensation.
With Russ and Harden likely to move on in the next few weeks, Houston desperately needs some extra first-round picks, especially after all the picks they shipped out in trading for Westbrook in the first place. Snagging the No. 16 pick in this year’s draft (even in a weaker class) on top of a 2021 first-rounder is a fairly decent return for RoCo’s services. Next year’s class is supposedly loaded, so if it conveys, it’ll still be a useful asset for a rebuilding team no matter where it lands in the pecking order.
Portland Trail Blazers
Aside from maybe Anfernee Simons, the Blazers haven’t drafted a legitimate contributor to their rotation since CJ McCollum back in 2013. This franchise just doesn’t really value its picks and, by and large, hasn’t drafted very well in half a decade anyway.
Trading two more picks is a sign of respect for Damian Lillard’s loyalty as he approaches his age-30 season. It’s an attempt to put a legitimate contender around Dame, McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic, and it addresses a position of glaring need on the wing. Covington is exactly the type of two-way wing Rip City has been waiting for.
While Covington alone doesn’t elevate Portland into the upper tier of Western Conference teams, he does give the Blazers one of the most versatile and stifling defensive presences in the league. This 6-foot-8 wing spent time at the 4 and even the 5 for the Rockets this season, after all, and mostly held his own, averaging a whopping 2.2 blocks and 1.6 steals per game in Houston.
His 3-point touch has been a tad streaky in recent years, but hopefully a change of scenery — without the toll of defending players much bigger than him — will do his long-range efficiency some good. He’s still got two years and an extremely team-friendly $25.1 million left on his contract, which gives the Blazers their window to contend before considering a full-scale rebuild.
RoCo comes at the cost of two-first-rounders, but depending on the protections for that 2021 pick in a loaded draft class, it’s worth it to continue tweaking this roster around Lillard.