The Houston Rockets entered the 2018-19 NBA season as the top favorite team to challenge the reigning NBA champions, Golden State Warriors, for the Western Conference supremacy. Last season, the Rockets reached the Western Conference finals and forced a Game 7 against the Warriors, and if Chris Paul didn’t suffer an injury, most people believed that Houston would be the one competing in the NBA Finals 2018.
Unfortunately, as of now, the Rockets fail to live up to expectations from the team that is projected to be the second best in the Western Conference. They are currently on a three-game losing streak, sitting in the No. 14 spot in the Western Conference with an 11-14 record. The Rockets may have retained their core of Chris Paul, James Harden, and Clint Capela, but they have lost two key players, Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, in the recent free agency.
Since the 2018-19 NBA season, the Rockets have been aggressive on the trade market, searching for a defensive-minded player who could fill the huge hole in their wing. One of their top targets is J.R. Smith of the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Twitter, Marc Stein of the New York Times revealed that the Rockets have expressed “exploratory interest” in acquiring the veteran shooting guard from the Cavaliers.
“The Rockets have expressed exploratory interest in acquiring JR Smith, according to league sources. Smith is currently on hiatus from the Cavaliers as Cleveland seeks a new home for the veteran shooting guard via trade.”
— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) December 11, 2018
Since the departure of LeBron James, J.R. Smith slowly found himself out of the Cavaliers’ rotation. After publicly expressing his frustration with his lack of playing time, the Cavaliers released an announcement that they will be parting ways with Smith. Instead of staying on a rebuilding team, Smith will surely love to spend his remaining years in the NBA contending for the NBA championship title.
J.R. Smith will be a good addition to the Rockets, and if he becomes more consistent on his perimeter shooting, it will not be a surprise if Coach Mike D’Antoni decides to include him in their starting lineup. As of now, it remains unknown what the Rockets are willing to give up to acquire Smith from the Cavaliers. With his recent performance, it is highly unlikely that the Cavaliers will demand much in return for their veteran shooting guard. A trade package including a young player or a future second-round pick could be enough to convince the Cavaliers to make a deal.