While it would ordinarily be hard to imagine one of the top teams in the conference parting with an elite player, Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld reported that this trade could be on the horizon:
Source says that the Memphis Grizzlies may keep Rudy Gay, and instead trade Zach Randolph to the Houston Rockets. Houston loves Randolph.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) January 20, 2013
Memphis has been looking to unload some of its salary to offset its tax obligations, according to ESPN's Marc Stein:
It was widely assumed around the league coming into the season that the Grizzlies' new ownership group, headed by majority owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien, would look into moving Gay to lessen Memphis' luxury-tax obligations after this season and coming seasons.
While trading Rudy Gay will bring back more value in return, the team also wants to keep its leading scorer for the playoff run.
However, this still leaves a potential trade with Randolph as a major possibility.
Over the past decade, the power forward has been one of the best big men in the league. Including this year, he has averaged a double-double in seven different seasons. He had nine years of scoring over 17 points per game.
He is a threat to score 20 points and grab 10 rebounds on any night and can easily put a team on his back and carry it to victory.
So far this season, the Rockets have to been thrilled with its play from the younger stars. However, they do not have an elite inside scorer that can take over games.
Omer Asik has been a great rebounder, but Marcus Morris, Patrick Patterson and the big center struggle to provide the team with balance on the offensive side of the floor. The perimeter players do their job, but a talented inside scorer makes things easier on everyone.
Randolph has shown he is over the injury that kept him out most of last season, although he is still shooting less often than usual for his career. He is deferring to his teammates, but he is also capable of big games when he is needed.
More importantly, the veteran can help on the defensive end where he can use his strength to keep players out of the lane. The Rockets are currently one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, so adding an experienced defender would certainly help.
In addition, his rebounding prowess would be a perfect complement to Asik as the duo would prevent too many second opportunities for opponents to score.
Finally, Randolph would provide something that Houston is severely lacking at this stage: Experience.
The team only has one player over the age of 30 and very few players on the roster had starting experience prior to this season. James Harden has been excellent this season, but even he does not know how to be a leader when things go bad.
Randolph has been in the league for a long time and knows what it takes to win. He can lead by example and help the younger players improve during the year.
Of course, acquiring a player this talented will not be easy. The Rockets would likely have to give up a lot of their younger talented in order to make a trade work.
Fortunately, Houston is loaded with cheap assets that could help the Grizzlies on the floor and in the payroll department. The squad could trade frontcourt players like Morris, Patterson or Terrence Jones, draft picks could also be used to sweeten the deal.
Without many big salaries on the roster, it might take a third team to be able to complete the deal. However, Houston needs to jump at this opportunity and find a way to make it happen.
The Rockets have a young squad that will only get better in the future, but this trade is a great chance to make the team a legitimate contender much quicker than anyone could have anticipated.