Last night, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Houston Rockets traded forward Robert Covington to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Trevor Ariza, 2020 first-round pick and a 2021 protected first-round pick.
The Rockets are finalizing a trade to send Robert Covington to Portland for Trevor Ariza and 2020 first-round pick and 2021 protected first-round pick, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) November 17, 2020
At first glance, the trade is a win-win for both parties involved. However, while the trade itself is nothing spectacular, it does indicate that the Rockets are firmly ready to move on from the Daryl Morey ‘small-ball, pocket rocket’ era. With Covington out of the door, one has to wonder; how soon until James Harden follows?
However, let’s focus on the trade itself and break it down.
The Trail Blazers receive from the Rockets:
The Rockets receive from the Trail Blazers:
- F Trevor Ariza
- 2020 First-Round Pick.
- 2021 Protected First-Round Pick.
Trail Blazers evaluation
This trade is a low-key splashy move by Portland GM Neil Oshley. While the GM has struggled in previous years to find a transcendent talent or a certified all-star level player to compliment C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, Oshely does have an eye for capable, tertiary talent.
In that section of capable, competent NBA talent that you’d find on a Championship team, Robert Covington is near the top of that list of players. Through 29 appearances for the Houston Rockets, Rocco averaged 26.2 minutes per game, 9.3 points per game, 6.2 total rebounds per game and 1.7 blocks.
Covington saw the vast majority of his playtime in Houston at the centre position. While Covington won’t be seeing many minutes at centre in Portland, he has demonstrated in the past that he is capable of offering scoring from the five-spot while being a solid defender. When the Bosnian Beast, Jusuf Nurkic, missed time either through injury or on the bench, Portland’s replacements left much to be desired.
While Covington won’t be starting games for Portland at centre, his skill set is exactly what the Trail Blazers were missing at the time in the bubble. In this modern era of position-less basketball, the list of role players that offer the same output as Rocco isn’t that long. Covington doesn’t make Portland an instant championship contender, but he does improve this roster.
The Houston Rockets are rebuilding. Amidst reports that point guard Russell Westbrook wants out of H-Town as well as rumours that Harden is eyeing a move to either Brooklyn or Philadelphia, Covington’s departure is no surprise.
If you were to scrutinise this trade, Portland may have given up too much in return for Covington. Two first-round picks, one being protected in 2021, is an offer the Rockets could simply not refuse. During this period of uncertainty, it is vital that Houston secures as much draft capital as possible in order to secure the franchises’ future.
Has this trade altered the power balance of the NBA? Not really. Is it a nice pick-up by a Portland team that is aiming to reach that next level? Most definitely. The Trail Blazers have automatically gotten better by giving Covington the shots that were usually taken up by Zach Collins and Hassan Whiteside. The forward can space the floor, as well as defend the rim. This is an example of smart team building that has kept Portland in playoff contention since Dame’s arrival.
From the Rockets point of view, this trade is a sign of things to come. The ‘pocket rocket’ dream is dead and it died with Daryl Morey’s departure. Houston received an offer they could not refuse and pounced on it. Now the conversation turns to Harden and Westbrook amidst an uncertain time for Rocket fans.