When Minnesota selected Brandon Roy at number 6, the outlook was bleak as Portland would almost assuredly select the Rockets' guy with the 7th pick. But when David Stern announced the name "Randy Foye" for Portland, I pumped my fist and let out a yell.
We had Rudy Gay.
Then it all came crashing down.
Houston lucked out when the Connecticut forward dropped to them at number 8, and they chose him, but word leaked very quickly that the Rockets would ship Gay, along with forward Stromile Swift, to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shane Battier. Due to the fact that Battier is a BYC player, the Rockets can not even acknowledge that the deal exists until July 12th.
So you said the Rockets get Battier and ... what else?
Apparently, nothing else. Just Battier.
The Rockets said they had to get this NBA Draft pick right. They also said they needed to add depth. They also said they needed to be more athletic.
They may have botched all three.
This is no reflection on Battier - he's going to make for a very solid Rocket. The 6-foot-8, 220-pound Duke product is a tough NBA player on both ends, particularly defensively, and a very efficient shooter (48.8% from the floor, 39.4% from long range). The Rockets have brought in a starting-caliber player today -- under normal circumstances, I would be very excited about his acquisition.
But the price the Rockets paid? Simply outrageous. What you see now is probably the best you will ever get with the 28-year old Battier, and he came at the cost of one of the best players in the draft and Stromile Swift, who the Rockets must have apparently consented to being "negative value" in any trade proposal.
Alas, the Rockets bailed on Swift just a year after he was largely considered the free agent coup of the summer. Yes, he played like a bust, but you wonder how much of a role coach Jeff Van Gundy played in Stro's swift demise.
Speaking of JVG, this deal has his fingerprints all over it, as you get the feeling the man would trade a 60-win season in 2008 for a 45-win season in 2007, without hesitation. What comes to mind when I think of this deal? Dale Davis for Jermaine O'Neal. Shareef Abdur-Rahim for Pau Gasol. Teams that sacrificed unproven players with enormous ceilings for the solid pro. It doesn't always backfire, but Portland and Atlanta paid dearly for those moves.
If Tracy McGrady remains healthy and plays like he did in 2004-05, clearly Battier will provide a boost to this team and we are yet to see what free agent moves and other deals are on the horizon. Mike James almost assuredly will be a top target and we could be a lot more excited about this team when the dust settles.
But if T-Mac goes down for significant time this year with back problems -- and not even the Rockets are comfortable enough to say that's not likely to occur -- then this is the type of deal that could blow up in the franchise's face and be talked about with deep regret for years (see: Lewis, Rashard).
Rockets GM Carroll Dawson seemed frustrated with the media when he was asked questions about the deal at the Toyota Center, saying he would only talk about Rudy Gay. I'd be frustrated too if I had been a team executive for more than a decade and just committed the cardinal sin of violating the "Jerry West Rule", as the NBA GM handbook clearly states:
4.2 - If Jerry West calls you on Draft Day seeking to acquire your selection, proceed with the following:
- Ask him which player he is pursuing.
- After he responds, quickly hang up.
- Promptly choose that player for yourself.
- Disconnect/disable phone.
No, Rudy Gay is no sure thing, even if Jerry West saw something in him, but he does have star potential and as assistant GM Daryl Morey stated about the NBA: "You need guys who are significantly better than the average to win."
The Rockets had the chance to acquire just that on Wednesday. They had an opportunity to take a big, bold swing and knock one out of the park, but instead opted for the safe sacrifice.
Unfortunately, they're still down by about 6 runs.