The Houston Rockets shook things up late on Thursday night, by completing a trade with the Phoenix Suns. Houston agreed to ship out Ryan Anderson and De’Anthony Melton in exchange for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight.
Houston has traded Ryan Anderson and De'Anthony Melton to Phoenix for Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight, league source tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 31, 2018
For the Rockets, the biggest incentive was to free themselves of Anderson’s albatross of a contract. Anderson was owed $20.4 million this year, and $21.3 million next season, and is completely unplayable against the Golden State Warriors, or any other modern offense (he played just 29 minutes in the Western Conference Finals).
Like all moves that Houston makes, this was all done with hopes of finding a way to surpass the Warriors. They freed up some cap space that should help them next offseason, and Melton - the 46th pick in this year’s draft - wasn’t going to move the needle for them anytime soon.
The question for Houston is whether this move was strictly about dumping salary, or whether they’ll be able to extract value from Chriss and Knight as well. Knight, still just 26, is a fine player when healthy. During the 2015-16 season, he averaged 19.6 points and 5.1 assists per game for the Suns, and he’s a career 35.7% shooter from deep.
He is, however, rather defensively inept, and is rehabbing an ACL injury that kept him out all of last year, so it remains to be seen what he can offer. He’s unlikely to be very good, but he could provide them much needed depth in the event of yet another injury to Chris Paul.
Chriss is something of a question mark. The 8th overall pick in the 2016 draft has shown flashes due to his terrific athleticism, but, for the most part, has been really, really bad, looking lost defensively and uncomfortable offensively.
If there’s a bright side for the Rockets, it’s that Houston is a much better environment than Phoenix for developing a young player, and Mike D’Antoni, who has played a big role in Clint Capela’s ascension, is likely excited to work with a very athletic 21-year old. Who knows what Chriss can develop into.
Ultimately, this move doesn’t change the make up of Houston all that much, and they’ll still be large underdogs against the Warriors. With their defensive struggles, neither Knight nor Chriss is likely to play too much should the teams match up again in the playoffs. But it seems to be a move in the right direction for James Harden’s crew.