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Yao Ming For Sale (Or Rent?): What Are the Houston Rockets Looking To Get In a Yao Trade?

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Word has filtered out that the Houston Rockets are looking at the possibility of trading Yao Ming’s expiring contract.  As you may recall, Yao was out last year following foot surgery and was recently diagnosed with a stress fracture in his ankle.  While it hasn’t happened yet, the normal treatment for this would be surgery, in which case Yao would be sitting out this season, and possibly part of next season.  Of course, another surgery makes a person question if Yao will really be able to resume his career and Rockets GM Daryl Morey appears to be exploring his options to get something out of what is potentially nothing.  (This doesn’t preclude re-signing Yao as a free agent, should whoever trade for him let the contract expire for cap relief.)

Before looking at the possibilities, let’s have a look at the Rockets roster.  (P.S.: Dear ESPN, please update your depth chart.  Jermaine Taylor got traded.)

PG: Kyle Lowry/Aaron Brooks/Ishmael Smith

Brooks hasn’t quite been an all-star, but he’s been pretty good.  A bit more of a scorer than a playmaker, he’s very quick and a good fit for the running game the Rockets have switched to since Yao went down.  Brooks is finally getting over injury and coming off the bench.

Lowry is the playmaker of this tandem.  He’s also shown a lot more shooting touch, especially from 3-point range, this season.  The better defender of the two, he’s still starting for now, but this is probably going to be a fairly even split of minutes before it’s all said and done.

Ishmael Smith is a rookie who filled in well enough as a back-up when Brooks got hurt, but is going to be getting intimate with the bench for now.

PG Prognosis: Just fine.  You’ve got two good-to-superior points and a promising rookie.  Brooks is a restricted free agent and will command some dollars (dependent on the new labor contract, of course), but the Rockets aren’t exactly the Clippers when it comes to paying players.  The only way you want a point guard here is if you can get an all-pro or you’re planning on moving either Lowry or Brooks in a deal.

SG: Kevin Martin/Courtney Lee/Terrance Williams?/Aaron Brooks?

Kevin Martin is a dark horse candidate for the All-Star team.  He shoots.  He draws fouls and makes his free throws.  Maybe you could ask for a hair more defense, but the man is scoring over 23 per game and hitting his 3′s at a .443 clip.  (#11 in scoring average, #8 in 3-point%, #2 in FT%) Few players would be an upgrade.

Courtney Lee started on a Finals team in Orlando and on a really bad team in New Jersey.  He’s very athletic, a solid defender and good at an open look for 3.  That said, what I’ve seen of him in Houston, he doesn’t seem to quite be in the flow of the offense unless he’s diving to the hole.  Still, he’d not be out of place starting for other teams.

Terrance Williams is a swingman that hasn’t gotten off the bench yet.  He’s athletic and needed a change of scenery from New Jersey, but I don’t know much past he was a spot starter on a bad team.

SG Prognosis: If you feel you need a third pure shooter, so be it, but this is another well-stocked position.

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