It’s become an annual rite in Houston. Whatever roster the Rockets have in October is certain to undergo a major shake-up by the time February—with the league’s trading deadline and buyout market—comes around.
It’s no different this time around, as team general manager Daryl Morey pulled off another February overhaul. Just this week, two new players joined the fold, buyout recipients Jeff Green and DeMarre Carroll. All told, the Rockets have added four players: Carroll, Green, Robert Covington and Bruno Caboclo. A fifth player, point guard Chris Clemons, was originally on a two-way contract but was granted a full contract in December.
Five players from Houston’s opening roster—Clint Capela, Gary Clark, Ryan Anderson, Nene, Gerald Green (who was injured)—are gone.
Covington, of course, was the big prize. He (along with luxury tax relief) was the main return the Rockets got back in the mega-trade that sent starting center Clint Capela to Atlanta ahead of the trade deadline.
Carroll, meanwhile, was a surprise buyout target, having signed a three-year contract with the Spurs in the offseason. He struggled to find a role in San Antonio, though, and made plain publicly his dissatisfaction with his lack of playing time.
Carroll, who is 33, averaged 11.1 points in 67 games with Brooklyn last year, but only 2.2 points in 9.0 minutes (and only 15 games) with the Spurs this season.
Green, also 33, averaged only 7.8 points in 18.4 minutes with the Jazz this season.
Rockets Roster & Projected Starting Lineup
C: Robert Covington
PF: P.J. Tucker
SF: Danuel House
SG: James Harden
PG: Russell Westbrook
C: Bruno Caboclo, Tyson Chandler, Isaiah Hartenstein
PF: DeMarre Carroll, Jeff Green
SF: Thabo Sefolosha
SG: Eric Gordon, Austin Rivers
PG: Ben McLemore, Chris Clemons
Rockets’ Small-Ball Commitment is Complete
The trade of Capela, who had been with the Rockets for six years, the last four-and-a-half as the starter, signaled Houston’s complete commitment to small-ball principles. Capela had been a solid defensive presence in the middle for the Rockets but a valued offensive contributor, too—before this season, he was one of the most productive pick-and-roll finishers among the league’s big men.
Capela averaged 4.4 points per game in the pick-and-roll last year, which accounted for 26.7 percent of his possessions. He averaged a total of 16.6 points that season. But that was playing with pick-and-roll maestro Chris Paul at point guard. With Russell Westbrook—much more isolation-oriented—at the position, Capela scored only 2.4 points per game in the pick-and-roll. That was 17.0 percent of his possessions. His scoring average was just 13.9 points.
Capela is injured and has yet to debut for the Hawks, but is expected back soon.
Since sending away Capela, the Rockets have started Covington at center. They’ve gone 2-2 in those games. Covington, who began his career in 2013 with the Rockets, is 6-9 but has been a small forward for the bulk of his career.
Carroll and Green will give the Rockets a pair of veterans who can provide depth at the forward positions. Each has extensive playoff experience, too. Carroll has appeared in 62 playoff games, including the Eastern Conference finals in 2016. Green has been in 60 playoff games and reached the Finals with Cleveland in 2018.