NBA Roundtable

Trade Rumour: Butler/McGrady/Harrington

In Trade Talk on February 10, 2010 at 11:55 am

Yahoo Sports reports

The Houston Rockets are in the discussion stages of a complicated, three-team trade that would send Tracy McGrady to the New York Knicks, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The centerpieces of the trade would include the Washington Wizards shipping forward Caron Butler and center Brendan Haywood to the Rockets. The Knicks would send Al Harrington to the Wizards. For the Wizards’ part, they would still need another player, as well as a draft pick and cash to make this a workable scenario, sources said.

Other players and contracts would still need to be agreed upon for a deal to come together, but there is a framework to the discussions.

Is it just me, or is every team in this trade worse off because of it?

Houston Rockets

The Rockets acquire Butler and lose their cap flexibility this summer. They lock into their current roster for now and for the next few years, a squad that is very talented (55+ wins) but short of being a contender, with very little chance of acquiring another elite talent down the road.

That means Yao Ming’s best remaining years will likely pass without a true challenge on a title. Meaning he’s very unlikely to win a title as a franchise player.

Edit: More down below — perhaps this was too pessimistic

Washington Wizards

Washington loses it’s best trade asset and only quality defensive player for some added cap flexibility.

Unfortunately, that cap flexibility doesn’t hold much value because the Wizards are still stuck with Gilbert Arenas + Antawn Jamison + DeShawn Stevenson + Andray Blatche on their books. As well as Nick Young, JaVale McGee and their first round pick. They would have around $47 million in committed salaries + empty roster spot cap holds.

Meaning, that the Wizards won’t be able to replace Caron Butler in Free Agency. Never mind replacing Butler + Haywood + Miller + Foye.

If you’re going to rebuild, do it properly, commit to it, go in all the way. Don’t go halfway with it, that won’t improve your future. Go forward with a true purpose instead half-thought out plans.

New York Knicks

The Knicks lose a valuable rotation player (Al Harrington) and parts for a non-rotation player (McGrady). A losing proposition.

Houston Rockets

Forget this year’s Rockets — they’d be a playoff team and a very tough out but not a threat for a title — let’s focus on next year’s team:

Guard Rotation — Aaron Brooks + Kyle Lowry

Wing Rotation — Caron Butler + Trevor Ariza + Shane Battier … Chase Budinger + Jermaine Taylor

Big Man Rotation — Yao Ming + Luis Scola + Carl Landry + Chuck Hayes + David Anderson … Joey Dorsey

Some roster notes

#1 — Okay, so that is a roster of 13 players. The league minimum with two roster spots left open. A third string point guard plus another position which will likely be a wing player.

#2 — After re-signing Scola + Lowry to $8 million per annum and $4 million per annum respectively … the Rockets would have a total payroll of around $66 million. Likely just over the luxury tax threshold.

#3 — Brendan Haywood would be too expensive to re-sign + likely unwilling to play only 15-18 minutes a night playing behind Yao Ming. So he will leave the Rockets this summer.

#4 — The Rockets have serious financial questions in how they resign both Luis Scola + Kyle Lowry and then afford Carl Landry’s + Aaron Brooks contract extensions the following summer which are likely in the $8-9 million range + $4-6 million range respectively.

Keeping all those players would put the Rockets $15-18 million deep into the luxury tax.

How good is that team?

One of the best defensive teams in the league + one of the best rebounding teams in the league with an average offense.

Typically, that type of roster would be a Contender … but I’m not convinced this roster is because of how vulnerable the offense is against top defensive opponents.

I think it’s a squad comparable to the one we saw last season when they went to the second round when they were running their offense through Yao Ming. With Brooks and Co. taking supporting roles offensively. Switching Ron Artest + Von Wafer with Caron Butler + Trevor Ariza and allowing for some improvement from their younger players (Landry in particular).

Glass Half-Empty, Glass Half-Full

Then again, I’m left wondering if that’s a pessimistic view of the Rockets.

What if Landry’s improvement + Brooks’/Ariza’s increased offensive roles give the Rockets enough offensive diversity to better handle opposing defensive teams? What if Houston manage to maintain more of a running game this time around with the four other non-Yao players on the floor?

It’s possible. I think the former is more likely (history repeating itself) … but it could happen. It could work out.


I’m still somewhat undecided. I’m leaning more towards an outside contender rather than a legitimate contender (a frontrunner)  but there is a chance this plays out in Houston’s favour. In the short term, while their contract situation is manageable.

Maybe that chance, that opportunity, is enough of a reason to make this deal and to forgo their free agency possibilities.

Then try to fix whatever may need fixing at a later date.

  1. Explain again why Washington does this? Or NYN?

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