It hasn’t been a dream start for Thomas Robinson in the NBA, traded by the Sacramento Kings to the Houston Rockets on his rookie season, and possibly getting shipped again by his current team, hoping to get rid of his contract for a first-round draft pick.
The jury is obviously still out on Robinson, the 5th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, but his rookie numbers – 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds on 15 minutes per game showed no one was really willing to give him a proper chance to show if he was worthy of such a high pick. He played over 30 minutes only once (for the Kings), scoring 12 points on 5-of-7 from the field, adding 4 rebounds.
He did have three double-double games, all of them in garbage time minutes when the Kings put him on the floor when they were heavily beaten. His playing time remained quite low with the Houston Rockets, who talked about him initially as a prospect they’re picking up to develop in the future, but at the moment, seem more inclined to get rid of his $3.5 million deal (and the team options for the following two years, worth a total of $8.3 million) for a first round draft pick.
The Rockets have gone from rebuilding mode into possible contenders, or at least a team that wants to see itself contend, very quickly, the moment they got James Harden via trade. Now, they’re looking to use the first round draft pick they’ll acquire for Robinson (if someone bites) on a player from overseas, who’ll remain in Europe for at least one more season.
On the shortlist are Giannis Antetokounmpo (Zaragoza, Spain), Rudy Gobert (Cholet, France), Sergey Karasev (Triumph, Russia), Lucas Nogueira (Estudiantes, Spain) and Dennis Schroeder (Braunschweig, Germany), most projected to go in the first round, but quite possibly not ready yet for the NBA, which means another season in Europe.
The Rockets want a big free agent this season, which means Dwight Howard (even though Josh Smith might be a better choice for them in terms of team chemistry and playing style) and possibly even Chris Paul, although he’s more of a long shot.
They’re looking at one of the Europeans as their option because by keeping that player abroad for at least one more year, they’ll be able to avoid the cap hit, currently owing $48 million in salaries for next season.
There’s also a chance (not a big one), the Rockets might try and trade Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who count for $16.7 million against the cap next season, if they see themselves having a chance to land Howard or Paul and will need a trade to get it done in terms of freeing up cap space.