Moore: Analyzing Winners & Losers of the Rockets-Hawks-Timberwolves-Nuggets Trade


Getty Images. Pictured: forward Robert Covington (left), center Clint Capela (middle), guard Malik Beasley (right).

I wrote a 900-word column yesterday that led with the idea this was going to be a quiet trade deadline.

Spoiler alert: It’s isn’t.

While I was chasing down some leftover information, including from one of the teams involved in Tuesday night’s not-a-blockbuster-but-man-that-was-a-lot-of-stuff four-team trade, one deal fell apart and then morphed into something different. The sense I was getting from one of the teams involved was that they weren’t going to do anything … and they did a lot.

Ultimately, the deal involves 12 players and two picks:

Let’s figure out how we got here.


  • Traded: Clint Capela, Nene, 2020 first-round pick
  • Received: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell

At the very core of this are a few precepts for the Rockets:

  • NBA centers have never been less valuable, at least for how Houston wants to play.
  • Russell Westbrook fundamentally alters the way the team plays and with his contract and relationship with Harden, he’s not going anywhere.
  • Post-ups against defensive switches are never going to generate the kind of impact that will fundamentally hurt them defensively against the offensive boost of playing five-out.

The benefits with this move are obvious. Houston’s best defensive season under Mike D’Antoni was 2018 when they switched everything. In recent years, they’ve had to make compromises to that strategy, in part because of how teams found ways to attack Capela.

Covington is a 6-foot-9 hyper-versatile forward, who has shot below 35% from 3-point range just twice in the past seven seasons. Notably, one of those seasons is this year (34.5%). Last season he was a DPOY-level defender before his injury. In Minnesota, they’ve been playing a drop scheme, which accentuates none of his strengths. He’ll have more value in Houston.

Still, it’s notable that the Wolves’ defensive rating was 110 with him on-court, and 104 with him off. There are a lot of factors that go into that, most notably the woeful defensive play of Karl-Anthony Towns after a hot start. The Wolves have a 117 defensive rating with those two on the court.

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