2023 Rockets Trades, Free Agent Signings Continue, Alas. But at least the trades are even worse.

I have spent the day and evening in a quiet, dark, cool room trying to find my center.

No, that’s not true. I have spent most of the day enjoying myself with friends and family. Now I have to see the fear and horror of The Rockets Free Agent Signings and Trades.

I’ve covered the Fred Van Vleet, aka Velvleeta, deal here. After learning more, I’m now happy with the deal as it appears the Rockets will have a team option in the third year of the contract. So the first announcement was to get the years and money out to the agent and player and maybe give a one-finger salute to Raptors management. (It’s always wise to wait until the details come out before going crazy. Then put on that bear shirt).

Per Jackson Gatlin of “Locked on Rockets” the final year of Fred Van Vleet’s contract includes a team option. This is as much as many of us discussed, and it shouldn’t be a problem when it comes time to sign Rockets draft picks like Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun. Below “Brewster’s Millions” scenario created by the new NBA collective bargaining agreement, this is a decent deal. Van Vleet should immediately help the Rockets in areas where they really need help.

Next, the Rockets followed their fairly recent path of “Oh, you didn’t like THAT player? YOU REALLY WANT TO HATE THIS ONE.” This started for me with Dwight Howard, moved on to Chris Paul, who I really came to admire, and then turned downward, straight into the abyss, with the disastrous Russell Westbrook trade. Westbrook – the living antithesis of the Rockets’ basketball philosophy at the time, but friends with powerful NBA superstars who hold him in high esteem.

Now comes Shirtless Vest Enthusiast and Failed Lebron James Taunter, Dillon Brooks. Brooks is at a much lower level than the other guys, which makes it easier to say “Nah.” There’s just not much I like about his game. He is a bad offensive player. He is a boring agitator. He takes cheap shots and acts so much like a victim.

Worst of all? He really thinks he’s cool. His behavior in Lakers v The Grizzlies franchise seemed to get the Memphis team’s owner involved in saying that under no circumstances would Dillon be re-signed by the Grizzlies. If you’ve ever seen Grizzle, you know that as a team, they’re pretty annoying. So, wow, well done Dillon, you made a vulture sick.

Now, to my amazement and delight, Dillon Brooks will be a rocket for four years, $80 million dollars. According to Kelly Iko, formerly of this parish, the agreement contains no team options or non-guaranteed salary. What it contains, fortunately, according to The Woj, is a declining salary.

Now we learn that this deal will also function as a sign and trade, which so far seems mostly to benefit Memphis Grizzlies.

Because picking up Dillon Brooks isn’t bad enough, the Rockets ALSO engaged in a program of trading most of the actually effective players from the last two to three seasons.

Josh Christopher has been traded to Memphis as part of the Dillon Brooks deal. What the Rockets get from Memphis, other than signing a guy they could just sign anyway, is unclear. Some more cap room that they desperately didn’t need. Did the Rockets essentially pay the Grizzlies to take Josh Christopher? It looks like it.

But wait! There is more!

The Rockets also traded KJ Martin to the LA Clippers for, I don’t know, a bag of basketball and some practice money. No, wait, that’s two second round picks, one by Memphis in 2027 and a Clippers second round pick in 2026. Any protection is currently unknown. Maybe the Rockets will get lucky in the second round and select a player as good as KJ Martin in 2027. Outstanding.

But wait! There’s still more!

The Rockets also traded Usman Garuba, technically the best shooter on the team, and TyTy Washington, who was taken in the first round last season and played about 200 minutes in the NBA. Is TyTy bad? Well? Promising? Who knows? It was 200 minutes or so. He and Usman will be Hawks. We seem to have solved some of the Hawks problems, but what did the Rockets get?

This is the best part. Nothing. They paid to do this.

The Rockets paid the Hawks $1 million, plus a Timberwolves 2nd rounder and their own 2028 2nd rounder to take two first rounders off their hands, presumably for a Brook Lopez deal that didn’t pan out.

Well, to be fair, the Rockets got the rights to Alpha Kaba, whatever that might be. A male “nutritional supplement”? Some kind of “tactical” product named after an animal’s behavior that doesn’t actually work like most people think? No, a guy from the Balkans was drafted in 2017 who has never played a minute in the NBA.

Yes, my favorite new rockets, except for the Alperen Sengun, from this latest wave of picks are gone. The Rockets more or less paid to make them go. One could argue that the Rockets mastered the art of “Buy High, Sell Low” on these deals, as the value was basically nothing like a first round pick in any case. The fact that much of this was done to facilitate a signing that never happened makes it especially delicious.

Practically speaking, most of these players may have languished without getting minutes on the Rockets. TyTy would have been severely blocked from minutes by the never-ever-injured Fred Van Vleet, Amen Thompson and Kevin Porter Jr.

Usman Garuba spent most of his time injured.

But what about KJ Martin? What did he do wrong other than far exceed expectations for his draft position? Was 2 seconds a good return for a guy who might be the Clippers starting SF in a year or so?

Despite being in the Stephen Silas doghouse, presumably due to the sins of higher picks that couldn’t be benched, Josh Christopher remained an interesting player. Away. For the pleasure of helping the Grizzlies dump a guy they had under no circumstances signed. Maybe there’s an angle we haven’t seen, but right now it looks like something that will come back to bite the Rockets.

Yes, the Rockets really had a developmental crunch in terms of players. Yes, some players were blocked. Yet the management made the crunch happen and now the solution with a new coach in town was to simply fire sell half the players selected over the past three years?

Are we sure the Rockets got rid of the right players, or just the ones drafted lower, thus not such a resume problem for a GM? In any case, it seems like a poor return on investment by any measure.

Was there anything I liked today from the Rockets?

Yes, the Rockets signed surprisingly useful Phoenix backup center Jock Landale to a 4-year, $32 million deal, only the first year of which is guaranteed.

The Rockets also finally traded for Patty Mills somehow. Maybe he’s going to Memphis? It’s unclear, but if he doesn’t, his deal will expire after this year, but Ime Udoka would at least have a mate on the bench.

Aside from my disgust at the sheer waste of today’s dodgy trades (again, much of it necessitated by the new CBA), most of it probably doesn’t mean much for the Rockets’ future.

Fred Van Vleet is an adult in the space and an excellent placeholder PG and either Amen or someone will be ready to take over in two years or he won’t and we might get a third.

Dillon Brooks will hopefully be rehabilitated as a player that contenders want, and with his declining salary, and the steadily increasing salary cap, he and his vest collection will be mobile. $20 million is basically “just an NBA guy” these days. A low-end starter or a high-end backup. He will get less than that in the future, to an extent that has yet to be revealed.

Jock Landale is fine.

For the Rockets to flourish, Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith, Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore and Tari Eason must flourish. The road is clear. There’s no drive to play other guys who might actually play better at times because those guys are gone.

It is fine. That’s the bet. But the returns so far are miserable. And Dillon Brooks is getting real minutes.

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