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February 18, 2010

K-Mart Opens in Houston

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 4:18 am

The biggest stunner of the 2010 trade deadline, barring something really crazy tomorrow, has apparently hit. Early Thursday morning in the East Coast, ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported that the Houston Rockets had acquired Kevin Martin from the Sacramento Kings. Later, Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski supplied the particulars. While the New York Knicks may still get involved to bring Tracy McGrady to the Big Apple in a three-team deal, for now McGrady is headed to Sacramento along with Joey Dorsey and Carl Landry. Houston gets Martin and several expiring contracts who make the deal work–Hilton Armstrong, Sergio Rodriguez and Kenny Thomas.

In many ways, this is more fascinating than the deals that have previously been consummated because it’s a scenario that hasn’t been discussed to death. To try to explore the impact on the Rockets, I plugged their 2009-10 numbers into the SCHOENE projection spreadsheet and ran them for a projected rotation with Martin. The results are not encouraging.

Projection    Win%    PW     ORtg  Rk    DRtg  Rk
Current       .457   37.4   108.0  23   109.5  18
Martin0910    .402   32.9   106.2  27   109.5  18
MartinProj    .429   35.2   107.6  24   109.9  18

The first scenario includes Martin’s 2009-10 stats, and it shows Houston dropping quite a bit. It could reasonably be argued that Martin has been coming back from injury and his performance this season is not indicative of what the Rockets can expect. The second scenario uses Martin’s SCHOENE projection prior to this season. Even with that more optimistic assumption, Houston essentially gains nothing from this trade.

Why not? First, Landry has been excellent this year, posting a team-high 4.2 WARP off the bench. Martin’s established level of play is higher, but not significantly so. The difference is made up for by the fact that the Rockets will have to take some minutes away from their effective guards in order to play their less-effective big men. More minutes for Chuck Hayes are surely better than individual statistics can simulate, but Hayes’ limitations on offense explain why he’s averaging just 21.7 minutes per game.

Given all that, I suspect Houston GM Daryl Morey is thinking more down the road with this deal. Martin gives the Rockets an efficient scorer at shooting guard, something they’ve never had under Morey, with first McGrady and now Trevor Ariza being volume scorers. With Yao Ming back next year, Luis Scola can shift back to power forward and put Houston’s frontcourt rotation in order. I also suspect Morey and company think they can find another quality undersized four on the cheap–maybe not as good as Landry, but a decent replacement nonetheless.

There are still issues, like the fact that a backcourt of Martin and Aaron Brooks is problematic defensively and that the Rockets are continuing their tradition of star players who tend to spend a lot of time on the sidelines, but for next year I like the move for Houston.

As far as the Kings go, I had maintained they should wait to see if Martin and Tyreke Evans can coexist before making a deal. I understand why Geoff Petrie took this one, however. Sacramento gets a solid building block in Landry, who immediately becomes the Kings’ best frontcourt player. They also get plenty of financial flexibility thanks to Landry’s cost-effective team option for next year. I show Sacramento with a little over $37 million committed for next summer, providing enough room (nearly $16 million, projecting a cap of $53 million) to go after second-tier free agents or to use in lopsided trades. The Kings will also have another draft pick to add to their core next summer.

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