The Rockets are all-in on their championship chase, but they are limited in terms of roster construction with Russell Westbrook ($38.5 million), James Harden ($38.2 million), Clint Capela ($16.9 million) and Eric Gordon ($14.0 million) taking up more than $107 million in total salary this season. That means Houston general manager Daryl Morey must always be on the lookout for solid players on manageable contracts.
Ahead of the 2019 trade deadline, Morey already seems to have one such player in mind. The Rockets have “serious interest” in Timberwolves forward Robert Covington, reports The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, who says Houston is searching for wings to work next to Harden and Westbrook.
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Covington makes a lot of sense as a 3-and-D guy in Mike D’Antoni’s system. He is shooting 36.9 percent from 3-point range on 5.5 attempts per game, and he has launched more than 100 catch-and-shoot 3-pointers this season, per NBA.com tracking stats, a good indicator that he would be comfortable working off ball.
With Harden and Westbrook isolating more than any players in the league, the presence of outside threats is critical for the Rockets in order to open driving lanes and create kickout opportunities. It would also benefit Houston to have a defender capable of at least bothering the Western Conference’s top perimeter stars such as LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Luka Doncic.
The soon-to-be 29-year-old only earns $11.3 million in 2019-20, so acquiring Covington isn’t that challenging. The Rockets can sell off their 2020 and 2022 first-round picks to sweeten the deal, but the real issue might be a potential bidding war.
Multiple playoff teams are monitoring Covington’s availability, O’Connor says. That means Minnesota could drive up the price for Covington’s services and force Houston to get creative — and that’s only if the Wolves feel like moving Covington is necessary. Minnesota is one game out of the final playoff spot in the West, so it could use a wait-and-see approach ahead of the Feb. 6 deadline.
Trade restrictions on players who signed contracts in free agency this past summer will be lifted on Dec. 15, so expect the rumors to continue flying this month. The Rockets will definitely be a major part of the trade chatter.