The Ryan Anderson trade finally happened. After players like James Johnson, Kent Bazemore, and Nicolas Batum were connected to the Rockets, an unexpected suitor swooped in and got the best of Daryl Morey.
After about a month of the Rockets apparently looking for Ryan Anderson suitors, which included rumors floating around about a deal with the Heat due to social media likes/follows, the Rockets finally pulled the trigger on a deal that will send Anderson to the Suns along with De’anthony Melton, bringing back Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss, and crucially, involving no picks in either direction.
The trade might have been made today on account of tomorrow being the deadline to use the stretch provision and have it take effect for the current year. While it’s unlikely that the players involved will be waived due to the multiple years remaining for the bad contracts involved, it’s possible that, say, the Rockets ship Knight out for someone making 15 million or less on an expiring and immediately waive and stretch them, because that would take them out of the luxury tax outright. But that’s unlikely; it’s more likely that they looked for such an offer directly but couldn’t find one, so they took this instead.
Houston Rockets Get
Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss
Phoenix Suns Get
De’anthony Melton, Ryan Anderson
My initial reaction to this trade for the Rockets was fairly neutral. They swapped prospect for prospect and bad contract for bad contract. Further, they got out of Anderson’s contract without having to ship out any picks, when it had been speculated that they might have to give up multiple picks to get anything of value back. They saved about $9 million in tax money as well, a number that will go down a little once Rob Gray is inevitably waived but still be large enough to be worth mentioning.
But the more I thought about it, the less good this seems. Anderson, though not good, is still a much better player in the short term than Brandon Knight was before he tore his ACL, and then of course you have to account for the regression due to injury. Knight, likely, will be unplayable, and his only real upside is that for the first time in his career he’ll actually get to play off ball reliably.
Similarly, Melton is likely a stronger prospect than Marquese Chriss, whose basketball IQ has really never materialized. Despite being a second-round rookie, Melton was already highly regarded as a steal of the draft and is likely the best point guard currently on the Suns’ roster following the trade. Overall, the Rockets likely set out to accomplish two goals: Cut costs, and retain all their first round picks. They accomplished those but did so in a way that made them worse talent-wise, and at this point in their franchise cycle, they can’t afford to be getting worse.
The Suns, however, received upgrades on both pieces, at only the cost of spending money without a multiplier like the luxury tax. Anderson will likely be played a little out of his modern NBA position, as the Suns have only one modern power forward on their roster, and that’s Darrell Arthur, a guy that it’s been reported they intend to buy out. TJ Warren, Trevor Ariza, and Josh Jackson may fill some minutes as well, but overall, it seems likely that they’ll use Anderson in real rotation minutes, and he should still be passable, especially for a team like the Suns, who still are not likely to be good quite yet this year.
Melton, however, is the prize piece of this trade. In swapping prospect for prospect, the Suns avoid having to make a very real decision on Marquese Chriss’s team option, and instead pick up a player who is arguably likely to be the best point guard on the Suns’ roster from day one. And part of that is because the Suns’ point guard rotation is terrible — but also Melton actually has looked NBA ready in many regards so far. Further, Melton’s defensive ability makes him a great pair with the defensively disinterested Devin Booker for the long run, so even more than just picking up a prospect, it’s picking up a great foil to their hopeful future star. Overall, the Suns did a good job of fixing two of the major problems facing the front office moving forward, and they did so at little opportunity cost.