1. Robert Covington
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has a distinct vision of how basketball should be played in today’s NBA – lots of 3-pointers, shots at the rim and free throws, and not much in between.
Of the Rockets’ 4,572 field goal attempts this season, 2,192 are threes and 1,903 are at the rim, according to NBA.com/stats shot charts. That's Morey's influence not only on the Rockets but the NBA in general.
It is a formula – led by offensive force James Harden – that has generated regular-season success and some playoff success for Houston, but it has not resulted in a Western Conference championship and spot in the NBA Finals.
In a massive four-team, 12-player trade on Tuesday involving Houston, Minnesota, Denver and Atlanta, Morey pushed his chips to the middle of the table on his small-ball philosophy, acquiring 3-and-D specialist Robert Covington from the Timberwolves and sending center Clint Capela to the Hawks.
In a calculated gamble, Morey – who rarely lets a trade deadline pass without a deal – concluded the Rockets can’t beat teams with length and strength in the low post in a seven-game playoff series. Teams like Utah (Rudy Gobert), Denver (Nikola Jokic) and the Los Angeles Lakers (Dwight Howard, JaVale McGee) would have the upper hand. He determined they have to win with skilled perimeter specialists surrounding Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Covington was one of the prized players in the trade market ahead of Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline. Morey relied on his former co-worker, Minnesota president of basketball operations and former Rockets front-office executive Gersson Rosas, to execute this deal. Relationships matter.
Covington is a defender who can space the floor with his 3-point shooting and doesn’t require the ball in his hands, which is a fit alongside ball-dominant Harden and Westbrook. Covington is also on a reasonable, team-friendly contract that will pay him $12.1 million next season and $12.9 million in 2021-22.