HOUSTON—Houston general manager Daryl Morey expected the Rockets to stay quiet leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline, until he saw opportunities to land rookie big man Thomas Robinson and a 2013 draft pick.
Once that was done, the Rockets made no more moves on Thursday after reshaping the roster with two deals on Wednesday night.
Houston traded forward Patrick Patterson, center Cole Aldrich and backup point guard Toney Douglas to Sacramento for Robinson, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft, and forwards Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt. The Rockets also dealt forward Marcus Morris to Phoenix for the Suns’ second-round draft pick this summer.
"Our goal is to both improve our team now and to be a championship contender," Morey said Thursday.
The 6-foot-10 Robinson is the big prize, the No. 5 pick in last year’s draft and last season’s Big 12 player of the year at Kansas. With the Kings, though, he’s averaged only 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 16 minutes per game. His most notable NBA moment might have come when he elbowed Detroit’s Jonas Jerebko in the neck during a game in November and served a two-game suspension.
But Morey expects Robinson to have a major impact in Houston.
"Thomas Robinson has a lot of upside for the bigger goal of getting back to being a contender," Morey said.
The newly acquired players were scheduled to join the Rockets in New York, where they’ll play Brooklyn on Friday night. Morey also jumped at the chance to nab a pick in the upcoming draft—Houston didn’t have one before dealing Morris.
"We can’t go without being in the draft," Morey said. "I think the moves hopefully made sense, given what we’re trying to do."
It was still a tough call for Morey, shipping off four players when the Rockets hold the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. Morey says the moves shouldn’t jeopardize Houston’s chances of making the postseason, because the Rockets have developed depth at the positions where they lost players.
Patrick Beverley, signed last month, will step into the backup point-guard role behind Jeremy Lin, and Greg Smith and Donatas Motiejunas will take up the minutes left by the departures of Patterson and Morris.
"It’s a testament to our staff and the coaching staff that we felt good about who’s going to come in and play," Morey said. "While it’s tough to lose Patrick’s defense and professionalism, we feel like the guys who are stepping in can step in. And then when the coaches feel Thomas is ready, then unleash him."
The Rockets finally landed that elusive, top-tier star just before this season when they acquired James Harden in a trade with Oklahoma City. Harden was the third overall pick in the 2009 draft and he’s the league’s fifth-leading scorer (26.5 points per game). He scored a career-high 46 in a 122-119 win over the Thunder on Wednesday night.
Morey thinks he may have picked up another cornerstone player in Robinson, even though he’s been a bust in the NBA so far. Robinson averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds in his final season at Kansas.
"He comes in as a tremendous rebounder," Morey said. "My guess is our coaches are going to him and say, ‘Look, on the floor, rebound and defend and you’re going to play.’ And he’ll do it. He’s excited to be here. He’s a big-time athlete with big-time energy. He can really help us."