Is the rumor mill already heating up? Word on the street is that the Houston Rockets are hot on the trail of one of the Sacramento Kings frontcourt players. No, it’s not the readily available Rudy Gay, who has already informed the team of his intent to opt out of his contract at season’s end.
The Rockets are interested in the Kings’ veteran big Kosta Koufos, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Koufos would fit very nicely at the center position with Houston big man Clint Capella sidelined for an extended period.
“Trade rumble: Houston has made no secret of its desire to add a big man and the Kings' Kosta Koufos, I'm told, has emerged as a prime target,” Stein tweeted out Friday morning.
It makes perfect sense that Houston would be interested in Koufos. The 27-year-old 7-footer is in the second year of a four-year, $33 million contract that he signed before last summer. He’s an extremely durable big that understands his role and is excellent in the locker room.
The real question is whether or not the Kings would have any interest in dealing their starting center. Koufos played under head coach Dave Joerger two seasons ago in Memphis and the Kings’ new coach has relied heavily on him through the first 32 games of the season.
Koufos has started 28 games alongside DeMarcus Cousins. While his numbers don’t jumper off the page, Koufos does the dirty work that often allows Cousins to flourish. On the season, Koufos is averaging 5.9 points on 57.4 percent shooting and he’s pulling down 5.8 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game.
While Koufos and Cousins aren’t a natural fit next to each other, the Kings have found a rhythm of late, winning six of their last nine. They are currently tied with the Denver Nuggets for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
Would Sacramento be willing to deal one of its most reliable players while still in the hunt?
There is a legitimate concern that the Kings don’t have the depth to move Koufos while continuing to compete. Second-year center/forward Willie Cauley-Stein has struggled to adjust to Joerger’s system early in the season and is playing just 12.4 minutes per game.
Rookies Georgios Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere have bounced back and forth between Sacramento and the Reno Bighorns of the D-League the entire season and neither looks ready to step in and fill the void if Koufos finds a new address.
Houston has assets, but nothing over the top. They have draft picks they can deal, but it would have to be a part of a bigger package. It’s unlikely that a conversation centered around forward Corey Brewer, 30, would spark the Kings’ interest, although the salary numbers would work.
Sam Dekker is an intriguing young player, but he comes with a long injury history. Montrezl Harrell, a former second round pick, is a nice young big as well, but not nearly enough to move Koufos for.
Complicating matters further is the fact that the Kings have 15 players under contract, including three rookie first round picks. If Houston wants Koufos, they are going to have to get creative.
Sacramento is likely to be busy over the next six weeks leading up to the Feb. 23 trade deadline, but Koufos is an asset they may want to hold onto. There might come a time when the Kings are sellers, but they will likely wait and see how this group fares through January before making any major moves.
Trade rumble: Houston has made no secret of its desire to add a big man and the Kings' Kosta Koufos, I'm told, has emerged as a prime target— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 30, 2016