The Houston Rockets have been bounced out of the NBA playoffs by the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. In rather unconvincing fashion, the Rockets had too many problems in the paint and couldn't handle the likes of Anthony Davis on the boards.
The small ball experiment ultimately did not work and Houston needs to find a capable big man who can play the paint and rebound. They had Clint Capela, but they moved on from him and need to sign someone similar to provide size.
Luckily for Houston, they have two capable stars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook, a luxury many teams cannot afford. If they sign one of the best trade targets available right now, Houston can be right back in contention. As James Harden mentioned after Game 5, they are "one piece away".
The Rockets can trade everyone except Harden and Westbrook, meaning the likes of Eric Gordon and Robert Covington are immediately available. Here are the best big men the Rockets can acquire this summer to help them compete in the West.
5. Aaron Gordon
14.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 3.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG
Aaron Gordon has not blossomed as we expected, but he is still a capable forward who can score and run the floor. Gordon is very athletic and adds some versatility to the Rockets defense as well. If he continues to improve, he can guard at least 4 positions if he wants to. He is strong and agile enough to do this, and he would fit perfectly into the Rockets system.
Gordon will have a better chance of winning an NBA title and also improving as a player if he joins Houston because playing alongside a playmaker like James Harden will make the game easier for him. If the Rockets believe Gordon can continue improving as a player, he is a good option for them.
4. Montrezl Harrell
18.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.6 SPG, 1.1 BPG
Former Rockets big man Montrezl Harrell might be an option for Houston. He is not a large center but adds at least a paint presence that comes with aggression and energy. The Rockets don't have a single-player that is intimidating in the paint, so at least Harrell adds some form of resistance. Montrezl Harrell won Sixth Man of the Year, so he looks primed to have an All-Star year if he continues his progression as a player.
Houston needs an inside presence desperately, and adding a guy who gives you 18 and 9 every night is a big positive. It might be useful for Houston to consider adding Harrell back into the mix after trading him in a package deal for Chris Paul a few years ago.
3. LaMarcus Aldridge
18.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.4 APG, 0.7 SPG, 1.6 BPG
LaMarcus Aldridge is a slow defender and cannot really move well on defense, but he is an All-Star on offense. Aldridge is one of the best mid-range scorers in the NBA and could give Houston some versatility on offense. The pick n pop with Harden or Russ will give Aldridge great looks all night long, and he can also be trusted to score down low as well. Houston cannot live and die by the three anymore and need a change.
LaMarcus Aldridge won't help their switching defense, but he will be a factor inside the paint and can at least give them height and resistance at the rim. If Houston wants to switch up their game plan, Aldridge is the best signing for them.
2. Kevin Love
17.6 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 3.2 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.3 BPG
Love is the perfect big man in today's NBA. He can shoot the lights out from the corner three, rebound well, and add size to a tiny Rockets frontline. Love also has playoff experience and knows how to be effective in critical moments, something the Rockets need desperately. Houston struggles in critical moments because their two stars unfortunately do not perform at their best when it matters most.
Kevin Love can allow Houston to play him at the five and still have five shooters on the court at once. This means Houston can play with spacing on offense and still have the size to grab rebounds. Love must be on Houston's radar this summer.
1. Andre Drummond
17.7 PPG, 15.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.4 BPG
The big man was surprisingly traded by the Detroit Pistons right before the trade deadline this season. Detroit basically gave him away without any return meaning they just wanted out of his contract. Drummond was having a strong season on the boards and is still one of the best defensive centers in the NBA. The fact that he was just traded for no reason was shocking but nonetheless he's available.
Andre Drummond provides what Clint Capela provided albeit with better rebounding and shot-blocking skills. Capella was a fringe All-Star with the Rockets but Drummond could legitimately become an All-Star player for the team. Drummond is a double-double machine who will make Houston much more formidable on defense.