The Rockets are looking to beef up on the margins. Houston acquired swingman Iman Shumpert in a three-team trade Wednesday, with the Cavaliers and Kings also getting involved. Cleveland received Brandon Knight, Marquese Chriss, and a lottery-protected first-round pick in the deal, while the Kings come away with Alec Burks. The Cavs are also sending Nik Stauskas and Wade Baldwin to Houston. (Those two will have to be involved in a separate transaction, but for the sake of simplicity, we’re acknowledging them here.) It’s a mostly sensible move for all parties involved, so let’s grade the deal for each team.
The Rockets were almost certainly going to have to part with a first-round pick to a) get rid of Brandon Knight’s contract and b) acquire anyone of consequence. Shumpert, a respected veteran presence in Sacramento, gives Houston back some of what it lost when Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute departed last summer. That is, a reliable 3ish-and-D guy to add to the rotation. Shumpert isn’t elite in either area, but he’ll get cleaner looks from the outside with the Rockets, and he can be an asset for their switch-everything defense come the postseason. Shedding Knight means Houston will cut $15.6 million from next season’s payroll, a not insignificant amount for a team with big money tied up to its core. Stauskas may have a moment or two during the regular season, but I would be shocked if he’s a major factor come playoff time. Baldwin probably won’t play that much. I’d also expect the Rockets to still be active for swing types in the buyout market.
This is a good move for the Cavs. For the price of Knight’s contract, Cleveland picks up another first rounder in the back half of this June’s draft. The Cavs aren’t going to be contenders any time soon, and picking up only one year of future salary for an extra pick is a no brainer. Burks doesn’t really make sense for Cleveland’s long-term plans, so moving him is of minimal cost to the organization. Koby Altman’s trade deadline is going to be quite different from one year ago. So far, he’s compiling future assets in the right way.
Burks should play mostly the same role for the Kings that Shumpert did. He may not be as valued a locker room presence, but he slots in comfortably on the wing and is a capable three-point shooter. I’m surprised the Kings made what’s at best a lateral move when they could be pushing for a playoff spot, but perhaps Burks ends up being part of the long-term core here. For now, the move seems like a slight bit of a downgrade for Sacramento, but maybe the change of scenery helps Burks tap into more of his potential.