Will Conroy signed with Houston yesterday. But that's not all the Rockets were up to.
I know, I know, I have a specific transactions post that I do every week. But the Houston Rockets made some roster moves yesterday involving guys who have spent time in the D-League. First, they traded James White to the Denver Nuggets for the rights of Axel Hervelle. The team then signed two players who had been in workouts for them, Will Conroy and Garrett Temple. These are both pretty significant moves in RU-world, so let's talk about it in terms of what this means for each player, and for the teams involved.
What it means for Houston
It had been looking increasingly unlikely that White would make the Houston roster. He didn't have a guaranteed contract, and the Rockets signed and drafted several players who play basically the same position as White does in Trevor Ariza, Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger. While Ariza is a likely starter and both Budinger and Taylor those players are likely to see time in the D-League this year, and so White wouldn't really be competing with any of them for playing time as a backup, those are still roster spots. Combine that with the fact that Houston's frontcourt was already pretty crowded, and you can see how White was getting pushed out.
Hervelle, on the other hand, will be staying in Spain for at least another year, playing alongside Houston's other 2009 draftee Sergio Llull (though his team, Real Madrid, recently signed former Toronto Raptor Jorge Garbajosa ostensibly to take his job). Hervelle's actually Belgian, and he was the first (and remains the only) Belgian player drafted by an NBA team when Denver picked him in 2005. He's a combo forward who DraftExpress has compared to Reggie Evans and Eduardo Najera, so we're not talking overly skilled, here. But doesn't that sound just like the kind of forward the Rockets like? He's already 26 years old, so there's not a whole lot more developing for Hervelle to do, but the beauty of fungible frontcourt talent is that it's, well, fungible. If the Rockets decide to cycle out Brian Cook or Carl Landry and bring Hervelle in they can do so likely without a whole lot of dropoff.
Now we come to Temple and Conroy. As stacked as Houston's frontcourt is, their backcourt is about as thin. They have talented players, to be sure, it's just that in Tracy McGrady's absence there aren't a lot of them. How does Aaron Brooks/Kyle Lowry/Brent Barry/Jermaine Taylor strike you? In reality you can probably add either Ariza or Shane Battier to that rotation, since they'll be on the court together, but as I mentioned earlier, I expect Taylor to spend large chunks of the year with Rio Grande Valley, and how old is Brent Barry now, 50? (actual age: 38) So signing another pair of guards to take a shot at making the roster makes a lot more sense than bringing in, I don't know, Stromile Swift.
You should know Conroy from the season he had with Albuquerque last year. In case you've forgotten, he led the D-League in scoring last year (unless you count Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who played in only eight games) while also averaging about eight and a half assists per 48 minutes. He also averaged four and a half turnovers pe4 48, which isn't great, but it's as good or better than several other point guards in the league, and Conroy also had the ball in his hands a lot. Temple went undrafted out of LSU a few months ago, and he's a combo guard with decent size and athleticism and an aptitude for defense. Bringing the two of these guys is an interesting offense-defense combination, and while I'm a little skeptical that either of these guys will make the team given how many players the Rockets already have under contract, they each have something to offer the team if Houston's willing to give them an honest chance.
What it means for Denver
Other than Renaldo Balkman, the Nuggets didn't really have a backup for Carmelo Anthony. Anthony's going to log a lot of minutes (at least Denver hope he will), but a rest here and there is always good. There's also the matter of the team not really knowing what's going to happen with J.R. Smith. They're waiting on Flip Murray, but acquiring White ensures (assuming they pick up his contract, which I think they will because they currently have less than the minimum 13 contracts on the books, at least by my count) that they'll have some bench scoring at the swing position so that they're not just running guys like Balkman and Malik Allen out there. The team also has a growing track record of being receptive to the D-League and former D-League players
I'll take a look at what these moves mean for the individual players involved after the jump.
What it means for James White
I'm a lot more confident of White making the Nuggets roster than I was with him in Houston, for the simple fact that I mentioned above that Denver doesn't have a whole lot of guys under contract at the moment. It's possible that this is White's last, best chance to show an NBA team that there's more to his game than his "Flight" nickname and reputation as a dunker. White's contract with the Rockets was reported as a "multi-year deal" at the time, apparently Houston changed course along the way and started stockpiling swingmen and small forwards. I also seem to recall a Daryl Morey quote about how the team was committed to helping White round out his game, but I can't find it now, so maybe I just imagined it (that tends to happen with me). White really has been working on developing his shot, and he made 54.9 percent of his field goals last year with Anaheim while shooting 36.8 percent on his threes. He also improved his free-throw shooting and cut down his turnovers. Denver needs some additional bench scoring with J.R. Smith's status uncertain and their lack of better in-house options, so it's entirely possible that White will make Denver's roster and succeed. And yes, I'm consciously ignoring the fact that the Rockets apparently decided they'd rather have Brian Cook.
What it means for Axel Hervelle
Status quo, I guess. Denver didn't have the best history of bringing players to the NBA from overseas (other than Nene) even though they've drafted their fair share of them, whereas Houston pays little more attention to that kind of thing. The fact that most of Houston's forwards are fairly young doesn't help Hervelle, certainly, but he could find himself filling the "polished European player who helps a playoff team for cheap" role a year or two down the line.
What it means for Will Conroy
I think Conroy might have a tough time since Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry are both point guards, plus Brent Barry can handle the ball a little bit, but there are positive signs as well. Conroy played for Houston's Summer League team, and he did a solid job running the point for them. He then also reportedly impressed the team in the recent workouts, and so it's clear both that the Rockets have had an eye on him for awhile and that they've been liked what they've seen. I know the team played Brooks and Lowry together at times last season, and Conroy would make a good third point guard in that rotation.
What it means for Garrett Temple
I don't know a whole lot about Temple, but he has the size, athleticism and ability to be a good defensive player. He wasn't much of a scorer at LSU, but his main job was facilitating things for Marcus Thornton and a few other players and his ability to handle the ball a little bit means he also might be able to play well alongside Barry or Lowry. While Houston has a lot of players on its roster at the moment (have I mentioned that at all?) and so it'll be tough for Temple numbers-wise, but given the other players they have he'd be an interesting get for them, and from Temple's perspective (because that's what this paragraph is supposed to be) there aren't a ton of teams out there who always consider themselves in the market for a player with Temple's skill-set. If Houston doesn't work out I'd recommend giving the D-League a shot (surprise, surprise), where he could work on his shot and become a lockdown defender in the Dontell Jefferson mode in order to get some NBA attention down the line.