Rockets NBA Trading Deadline: 4 Winners, 4 Losers

James Ennis went from starter to salary cap dump at the trading deadline for the Rockets.
James Ennis went from starter to salary cap dump at the trading deadline for the Rockets. Photo by Jeff Balke
The NBA trade deadline is superior to all other deadlines because of the wild flurry of activity leading right up to what was, this year anyway, Thursday's 2 p.m. end to trades for the 2018-19 season. As usual, the Rockets were active, though perhaps not in the way that some may have thought. There weren't any big splashy moves like the ones that saw guys like Tobias Harris, Marc Gasol or Kristaps Porzingis find new homes. Or the somewhat surprising NOT trade of Anthony Davis, who remains with the Pelicans, probably wrapped in bubble wrap and placed in a stasis chamber until the offseason.

In fact, many of the moves for the Rockets were predicated on numbers off the floor, as in salary cap and luxury tax numbers that hamstrung many of the potential moves as they try to keep from being stuck as repeat luxury tax offenders.

Still, the Rockets landed a solid three-and-D wing in Iman Shumpert and have a little wiggle room left for what promises to be a robust buyout market over the next week. Here are our four winners and four losers.


Daryl Morey's cell phone provider.

Years ago, we knew a guy who would walk into all-you-can-eat restaurants and loudly announce, "I'm your worst nightmare." We picture Morey strolling into a Verizon or T-Mobile store and saying, "Unlimited? I'll show you unlimited!" We've got to believe the Rockets GM crushes his data limits every month. Good thing the Rockets pay him well.

Iman Shumpert.

Lost in all the crazy goings on is the fact that the Rockets landed a very capable wing player in Shumpert. The 28-year-old guard/forward is a very solid defender and reliable three point shooter who was languishing in Sacramento. He has also played in more than 70 postseason games including a championship run with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

Salary cap nerds.

The NBA salary cap is one of the more confusing concepts in sports, maybe in math. We are pretty sure it requires an advanced calculus degree, a slide rule and maybe a protractor? But many of the deals, including the ones that saw the Rockets ship off a number of players, were done strictly to avoid complications with the luxury tax. Congrats, math nerds, you're now cool!

The NBA buyout market.

With all of the teams trying to get under the luxury tax and avoid the repeater tax like ebola, a fairly sizable number of decent players will be on the mid-season free agent market. Players like Wesley Matthews, who has already agreed to join the Pacers, will command interest from a range of teams around the league when they are bought out by their respective teams. The Rockets landed both Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried after buyouts from their respective teams. No doubt, they'll be hunting for deals over the next week.


James Ennis.

Ennis never really fit in with the Rockets, particularly after suffering early injury problems. While his three point shooting was solid, his defense was worse than advertised. He had begun to come around a bit, but with the acquisition of Shumpert, the writing was on the wall.

Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin.

No sooner than both of these guys you know nothing about were dealt to the Rockets, they were gone again and ultimately released. Sports cruelty works quick around the trade deadline.

Fans who don't follow the salary cap.

If you don't like or understand the salary cap in the NBA even slightly, Thursday was probably a really frustrating day for you. Often deals are made that seem to make no sense. Good players are dealt only to be released. Draft picks are added to sweeten deals that only return cash. While league GMs play chess, most us aren't even playing checkers. More like Go Fish. So, don't be too freaked out if you don't get it. How many of you truly understand the pick and roll?

Rockets free agent summer 2018.

Can we all just agree to pretend the summer of 2018 never happened for the Rockets? Not only did they lose both Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency, their signings included Carmelo Anthony, Michael Carter-Williams and James Ennis. Is that bad? That seems bad.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke