Earlier this fall, the Rockets reportedly showed interest in trading for Detroit’s Alec Burks, and his name could soon resurface as NBA trade season nears.
When the Houston Rockets canvassed the NBA for potential Kevin Porter Jr. trades in September and October (following his off-court arrest), general manager Rafael Stone eventually settled on a package from Oklahoma City headlined by Victor Oladipo.
Oladipo wouldn’t seem to have much, if any, basketball value this season, since the veteran guard is still recovering from a serious knee injury suffered in the 2022-23 playoffs. But his expiring $9.5-million salary does provide Stone and the Rockets with added financial flexibility to help match salaries on future trade proposals.
Before settling on Oladipo, Houston reportedly canvassed the league for possibilities that could provide both a salary slot and basketball value. However, the period leading up to the start of each regular season is usually a relatively quiet one, for trades, since many potential sellers aren’t motivated to do so on the eve of a new season. In theory, that new season offers unlimited potential.
But as results trickle in, that optimism can fade quickly for some teams. One example is in Detroit, where the Pistons (2-18) entered this week with 17 straight losses. Thus, the incentive to keep veteran players on expiring contracts is rapidly diminishing, since the value of the 2023-24 season is minimal in Detroit, and there’s a potential risk of losing players for no compensation after that.
In his latest column on the Pistons, Yahoo’s Jake Fischer writes:
As of now, Detroit is only expected to factor into this winter’s upcoming trade window as a potential seller of veteran talent, most notably combo guard Alec Burks and sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanović. Burks was of particular interest to the Rockets, league sources told Yahoo Sports, when Houston was navigating trade scenarios for Kevin Porter Jr. prior to this season, and Houston still has Victor Oladipo’s $9.5 million salary to play with before February’s trade deadline. There’s also veteran point guard Monte Morris, who’s been sidelined with a quad strain and has one season left at just $9.8 million.
On paper, Burks and Morris would seem to be the types of established veterans who teams are reluctant to trade prior to giving their current group a chance to succeed. But once it becomes evident that the current season is lost, and thus has no value, securing future draft capital for their services is a better outcome than potentially losing the player for no compensation in the next free agency window.
The Rockets (8-9) currently have three second-round picks in the 2024 draft, and they’d likely prefer to move at least one of those, since it’s not as if they would have room to roster so many young players. In theory, the Rockets could package Oladipo’s expiring contract and one of those second-round selections, and that could meet Detroit’s needs from the perspectives of both salary and an asset.
If Houston is eventually able to acquire Burks, the 32-year-old would likely fill the backup wing role that was once earmarked for Porter. Over an extended NBA career, the 6-foot-6 veteran has averaged 10.8 points (38.3% on 3-pointers) and 3.5 rebounds in 22.9 minutes.