After a rough 11-14 start to the season, the Rockets are looking more like themselves, winning nine of their last 10 games to jump out of the Western Conference basement. Houston is currently fifth in the West standings, only 3.5 games behind the first-place Nuggets.
James Harden has been nothing short of spectacular in that 10-game stretch, averaging 39.4 points, 8.0 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 40.7 percent from the 3-point line. However, Harden is also third in the NBA in minutes per game (36.8), and with Chris Paul out for extended time, the constant burden on Harden could wear him down. (We've watched him seemingly tire out late in the playoffs before.)
The core four of Harden, Eric Gordon, PJ Tucker and Clint Capela are regularly logging 30-plus minutes each night. It's clear Mike D'Antoni's squad could use some depth. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has never been shy about making moves, so don't be surprised if Houston is active ahead of the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
But who will the Rockets pursue? They are in need of wings around Harden — Trevor Ariza would be helpful, but alas, he's stuck on the Wizards — and these guys might be available as trade season heats up.
Kent Bazemore, Hawks
Bazemore will be out for at least two weeks with an ankle injury, but that shouldn't make him any less appealing. Bazemore is averaging a career-high 14.0 points per game, and though his 3-point shooting is down this season (32.7 percent), he has typically been solid from the outside (35.6 percent for his career, 39.4 percent in 2017-18).
The Rockets have been connected to the 29-year-old small forward dating back to July, and with the Hawks rebuilding, he would better fit Houston's timeline. This could come down to cost, as Bazemore has reportedly been "generating interest" from multiple contenders.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lakers
"KCP" could be an ideal 3-and-D player for Houston. He is a tenacious defender capable of switching along the perimeter, and he has hit 37.8 percent of his 3-pointers over the last two seasons in Los Angeles.
Caldwell-Pope can veto any trade based on the structure of his contract, though he would likely consider Houston a desirable destination.