Rockets trade four players to OKC for package led by Derrick Favors, future second-round draft pick

The Rockets are trading four veteran players to Oklahoma City in a deal bringing Derrick Favors, a future second-round draft pick, and more to Houston. Here’s our analysis of the move.

In a trade between rebuilding rivals in the Western Conference, Oklahoma City is trading Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon, and a 2025 second-round pick via Atlanta to the Houston Rockets for David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss, as first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

All of the players involved have expiring contracts (see Rockets books, Thunder books), so it shouldn’t materially impact either team’s long-term salary cap planning. Oklahoma City is also sending $6.3 million in cash considerations to compensate for the substantial gap in salaries, per Jackson Gatlin of Locked on Rockets.

The Rockets had acquired Brown, Burke, and Chriss for salary matching purposes as part of the trade sending Christian Wood to Dallas in June, but none were in Houston’s future plans.

Keeping those players into the 2022-23 regular season, which begins in under three weeks, would have been difficult because the NBA’s offseason roster limit of 20 players shrinks to 15 standard contracts and two two-way deals. Thus, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone was searching to make something of those assets before the roster deadline would force many (if not all) of those players to be released.

Of the four players acquired from the Thunder, only Favors — a veteran who could figure into Houston’s backup center mix — would seem to have a plausible path to rotation minutes this season. While Houston is likely to evaluate all or most in the upcoming preseason, the roster deadline is likely to force a handful of releases.

Beyond any value from Favors, now 31 years old, as a player, the primary trade benefits would appear to be his salary and the future second-round draft pick via Atlanta. At $10.2 million, Favors could potentially help the Rockets match salary in trades closer to the 2022-23 trade deadline next February, yet he only occupies one roster spot. To reach that figure prior to this trade, the Rockets would have had to commit multiple roster spots due to the smaller annual salaries.

Moreover, because the Rockets are taking in more money than they are sending out and reducing Oklahoma City’s potential luxury tax figure, the Thunder are compensating Houston with a future second-round draft pick and cash. In effect, the Rockets are buying a future pick by absorbing a contract from a team looking to shed payroll, similar to the 2024 second-round pick they got from Brooklyn last preseason in a deal involving Sekou Doumbouya, who was subsequently waived by the Rockets.

According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Houston’s newly acquired 2025 second-round pick via Atlanta is protected for picks 31-40. If that doesn’t convey, the Rockets would then receive the second-best 2026 second rounder between Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Philly (all are currently owned by the Thunder).

Scroll on for recent statistics of players involved in the trade, along with further analysis and reaction to the move.

3 causes for concern as Bears face the Giants in Week 4

As the Bears prepare for their Week 4 game against the Giants, here are some reasons to worry.

The Chicago Bears (2-1) are hitting the road to face the New York Giants (2-1) in Week 4.

It’s a battle of first-year coaches between Chicago’s Matt Eberflus and New York’s Brian Daboll. Both teams have found success this year running the ball, with New York seeing the reemergence of star running back Saquon Barkley.

Meanwhile, the Bears have leaned on the 1-2 punch of David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert to run the ball effectively. However, despite having the NFL’s second-best rushing offense, the Bears are last in passing.

For Chicago, the passing issues are lingering, injuries are piling up, and their defense is facing its most formidable challenge yet in Saquon Barkley.

Here are three concerning things as the Bears prepare for Sunday’s game vs. New York

Bucs still searching for solution to offensive struggles

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have scored just one offensive touchdown in each of their first three games

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-1, and could easily have been 3-0 heading into Week 4, despite scoring just one offensive touchdown in each of their first three games.

Injuries have obviously played a huge part in their early struggles on that side of the ball, but poor execution and self-inflicted errors continue to make a difficult situation even more challenging.

“Well, I certainly expect us and hope we can score more points than we’ve been scoring,” quarterback Tom Brady said Thursday. “I think we’re all disappointed by the fact that we haven’t scored as many points as I think we’re all capable of scoring. We’re three games in [and] I think we realize we haven’t done so well that we’ve got to get corrected. Whoever’s in the game, we’ve got to go in there and do a better job of scoring points. Like I said, it comes down to a lot of different things – penalties, turnovers – and it’s making the right play, executing the play. If we do that, I believe we’ll score points. It hasn’t been at our highest level the first three weeks of the year and hopefully we can get there at some point, but we’re working hard to get there.”

(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich knows the team has to improve on early downs to keep themselves out of challenging third-and-long situations.

“We’re just not good enough, really, on first and second down,” Leftwich said Thursday. “You look at last week – we’re starting off on third-and-12. It’s tough to execute on third-and-12 – especially when you’re a banged-up football team. You’re a banged-up football team and you’re putting yourself in all these third-and-long situations, which means you’re going to punt the ball most of the time. It’s hard to score and punt at the same time. That’s really been our issue, being better on first and second down and giving ourselves an opportunity to score points. What we’ve always done around here is [give] ourselves an opportunity to score at a high level. We’re just not doing that right now. I think that’s something that we will get corrected. I’m excited, but that’s what’s really going on right now.”

Wide receiver Mike Evans missed last week’s loss to the Green Bay Packers due to a one-game suspension, and though he knows his unit can perform better than they have so far this season, he’s quick to remind everyone that the sky isn’t falling just yet.

“We’re not panicking at all,” Evans said Thursday. “We don’t know what people are saying, but we know [that] three touchdowns in three games is not good enough. We can do that in one half or one quarter. It’s early in the season, we’re 2-1. What are we, first in the division right now? Tied for first or something like that? We’re in a good spot. We know we’ve just got to get healthy and we’ve got to do better – clean up the little things, be better, [clean up] the penalties and the execution. We’ll be fine.”

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Despite late-offseason tumult, ESPN projects the Boston Celtics as the East’s top seed in 2022-23

Maybe some are overthinking the impact of the Udoka situation?

The Boston Celtics are projected to win 53.9 games this season according to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton’s statistical projections (check out the full article for his methodology). Good enough for the best record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Standings for the 2022-23 season, it should be noted this modeling of course does not take into account the impact of head coach Ime Udoka’s suspension.

But there’s a case to be made that suspension may not matter so much to how the team fares this season, as well as the health of several frontcourt players at the start of the coming campaign — at least, if Pelton’s modeling accurately predicts how Boston’s campaign is going to unfold.

Noting that even sans Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams III, Pelton writes that “the Celtics have a rock-solid top seven with the addition of Malcolm Brogdon.”

“Additional injuries are a concern with Boston’s depth dropping off quickly,” he suggests, “but the team has the NBA’s best projection by more than four wins after finishing 2021-22 with the league’s second-best point differential and reaching the NBA Finals.”

Lofty expectations to be sure, but the statistical models Pelton draws on focus on tangible aspects of what drives wins in the NBA like availability and previous performance.

Is it possible these models paint a more accurate picture of the season to come than some worry Boston might be up against? We’ll have to see the games played to find out, but with preseason tipping off on Sunday, the start of that process is not so far away.

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

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‘Everybody takes pride in guarding their yard,’ claims Jayson Tatum on the Boston Celtics’ defensive focus

Defense was key in the Celtics’ 2022 run to the NBA Finals — and will need to be this season if they are to return.

Defense was the Boston Celtics’ calling card in their run to the 2022 NBA Finals, and it will have to be a major component of their style of play for the season to come if they want a shot at getting back to the league’s biggest stage again in 2023.

Speaking to the media after practice on Thursday afternoon, Jayson Tatum acknowledged the importance of that side of the ball to the team moving forward in 2022-23. “We had 5 guys last year get an All-Defensive vote and that’s contagious,” suggested the St. Louis native (via Celtics team reporter Taylor Snow).

“Everybody takes pride in guarding their yard and we’ve got to help each other out,” added Tatum.

“That’s what we have got to hang our hat on … defense,” suggested the Duke product. “To try to be the best defensive team in the league again.”

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

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Per Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon ‘for sure going to make us better’

“I think we’ll be able to put him in positions where he can be successful,” shared the Georgia native of his new teammate.

If there are any hints of tension that can come with an established player being traded to an equally established and competitive NBA roster, you won’t find it in recent comments from star Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown about his new teammate Malcolm Brogdon. “Malcolm’s good, man,” said the Georgia native in a recent interview with The Athletic’s Jared Weiss.

“Smart basketball player, hard to guard, he’s got … a sneaky game and he’s slept on a little bit for a while now,” he added. “I think we’ll be able to put him in positions where he can be successful and he’s for sure going to make us better.”

It’s not just Brogdon’s proven abilities as a floor general and defender that has Brown excited, either.

The former Indiana Pacers point guard has made a name for himself as a leader on and off the court, and in the leadership vacuum created by the suspension of coach Ime Udoka, that will be especially important this season.

“The more responsibility grows, the more leadership comes with it,” suggested Brown. “There are steps that we’re all taking individually and as a group, so I think that will be good for us.”

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

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Rival East exec thinks the Boston Celtics should consider trading for Mo Harkless, Justice Winslow

We, on the other hand, disagree.

Should the Boston Celtics consider kicking the tires on Mo Harkless or Justice Winslow? One anonymous NBA executive outside of the Celtics organization believes they ought to according to a recent article by Heavy’s Matt John. In conversation with Heavy’s Sean Deveney, John relates that the unnamed exec thinks “both make sense if they’re not getting what they want off the bench for backup wings.”

In the case of Harkless, we would quickly pass given the steadily-declining game of the 29-year-old forward. But Winslow, still just 26, fits the age curve and could provide some positional flexibility without disrupting the defensive foundation of the team’s recent success.

However, the former No. 10 pick of the 2015 NBA draft for the Miami Heat has had poor availability due to recurrent injury throughout his career, his games player per season in steady decline since his rookie season.

The Heavy article suggests Boston might use one of their trade exceptions to bring in either of the duo.

But, we doubt there’d be interest in Harkless at all at this stage of his career and not much more for Winslow given his availability history barring a late-season trade sending out similar salary so as not to increase Boston’s tax bill.

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

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Is star Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum overrated?

At least one analyst is making the case.

While most of the people reading this will undoubtedly be doing so through green-tinted lenses, is there a possibility we are overrating star Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum?

The St. Louis native broke through to make the top 10 players of ESPN’s annual “NBA Rank” exercise that sorts through the top players in the league, but there are at least some fans of the sport out there who do not believe that Tatum warrants being assessed at quite so lofty a perch. Along with a handful of other such players, a new video makes the case that the Duke product is even one of the most overrated players of this iteration of that annual assessment.

Take a look at the clip embedded below to hear what the folks over at the Hoops Reference YouTube channel have to say about Tatum being overrated.

We might be biased as well, but from where we are sitting, Tatum seems very well-ranked given his contexts.

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

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Los Angeles Clippers assistant Jay Larranaga reportedly declines opportunity to return to the Boston Celtics

The former Boston assistant reportedly prefers to remain in Los Angeles.

It appears the Boston Celtics will not have a reunion in the works with assistant Los Angeles Clippers head coach Jay Larranaga. The former Celtics assistant has reportedly turned down a chance to return to his former team to help interim head coach Joe Mazzulla out in the wake of the Ime Udoka scandal according to new reporting from Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

Per Mannix, Larranaga “will remain on (Los Angeles head coach) Ty Lue’s staff with the Clippers”. The former Celtics assistant reportedly prefers to remain out west with his current team, who are in a similar position as one of the NBA’s 2023 title favorites.

Boston had previously received permission from the Clippers to speak to Larranaga about a potential return, but instead find themselves needing to look elsewhere to find first-year head coach Joe Mazzulla some help.

Listen to the “Celtics Lab” podcast on:

Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3zBKQY6

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3GfUPFi

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3 keys for the Bears defense vs. Giants in Week 4

As the Bears prepare to face the Giants, here’s what Chicago’s defense needs to do to slow down the New York offense in Week 4.

The Chicago Bears (2-1) will battle the New York Giants (2-1) on Sunday, where Chicago will be looking to build on their Week 3 victory.

Chicago is coming off a 23-20 victory over the Houston Texans (0-2-1), where there were some questions in the passing game. While the Bears defense bent but didn’t break, they once again haven’t allowed a touchdown in the second half. Chicago will look to get back on track against a Giants offense that’s pretty similar to their own.

As the Bears prepare to face the Giants, here’s what Chicago’s defense needs to do to slow down the New York offense in Week 4.