A day after Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Rockets were willing to surrender future assets for help on the wing, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer identifies one specific target Houston is eyeing. League sources tell O’Connor that the Rockets have “serious interest” in Timberwolves forward Robert Covington.
Houston isn’t the only team with interest in Covington — O’Connor hears from multiple sources that playoff teams are monitoring the availability of the veteran, who will turn 29 on Saturday. As a very effective three-and-D player with a favorable contract, Covington could net a strong package for the Wolves if they decide to move him before this year’s deadline, O’Connor writes.
In 22 games (all starts) this season, Covington is averaging 12.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.3 SPG with a .455/.369/.902 shooting line for Minnesota. He has an $11.3MM cap hit, with guaranteed salaries of $12.1MM (2020/21) and $13MM (’21/22) to follow.
For the Rockets, putting together a trade package for Covington might be tricky. While Houston could offer its first-round pick in 2020 and/or 2022, matching salaries would be an issue. The team signed Nene to a contract loaded with incentives in the hopes of using him as a salary-matching piece in a deal for a player like Covington, but the NBA ruled that Nene’s outgoing salary in a trade can only be $2.56MM (his guaranteed base) rather than $10MM (his actual cap hit), limiting the club’s options.
The Rockets are also right at the tax line, meaning they could face stricter salary-matching rules, depending on how a deal is structured. If Houston is unwilling to trade one of its five highest-paid players (James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon, and P.J. Tucker), the club would have to package at least three smaller contracts for someone like Covington, which would be difficult for Minnesota to accommodate.
For what it’s worth, new Wolves president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas was Daryl Morey‘s top lieutenant for years in Houston, so Rosas will be very familiar with the Rockets’ roster.