Rockets offered Jalen Green, draft picks to Nets for Mikal Bridges, but were turned down

The Houston Rockets reportedly offered the Brooklyn Nets a blockbuster deal that would have sent Mikal Bridges to Houston and returned Jalen Green and draft picks to Brooklyn. The Nets turned down the offer at the trade deadline, according to NBA insider Shams Charania, and the two teams have been headed in opposite directions ever since.

The Rockets are the hottest team in the NBA right now, and the rapid ascension of Green is fueling their rise. Houston has won eight straight games to get back into the Western Conference play-in race. The 22-year-old Green is playing at a superstar level during March, averaging 27.8 points per game on 51.4 percent shooting from the floor and 41.7 percent shooting from three.

As the Rockets continue to climb up the standings out West, the Nets have been fading in the East. Brooklyn has lost six straight games entering the week, and have been one of the worst teams in basketball coming out of the All-Star break.

The Rockets and Nets were always going to be intertwined this year because Houston owns Brooklyn’s unprotected 2024 first round draft pick because of the James Harden trade from Jan. 2021. Right now, Brooklyn’s pick heading to the Rockets would be the No. 8 overall pick entering the lottery.

Houston offered the Nets a packaged headlined by Green and multiple first picks, according to Charania. Here’s his report:

Charania doesn’t note which picks the Rockets offered to the Nets. Houston owns Brooklyn’s 2024 and 2026 first round picks, and also has swap rights in 2025 and 2027. The Nets are still dealing with the fallout of their disastrous “Big 3” era with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Harden. This deal likely would have represented a way to put Brooklyn back in control of its own future, but the team wasn’t willing to part with Bridges to do it.

The Nets declining this trade offer leaves massive ramifications for both teams.

The Rockets need to figure out if Green’s recent play is real

Green was having a majorly underwhelming season until he turned his play around in March. It is probably no coincidence that Green’s recent hot streak has come after star center Alperen Şengün suffered a leg injury that took him out of the lineup.

Green and Şengün were both selected in the 2021 NBA Draft — Green with the No. 2 pick, Şengün with the No. 16 pick. That means both players are up for extensions on their rookie contracts this summer, and only one of them can get a designated max extension for five years.

Şengün had proven himself to clearly be the better player this season. The 21-year-old big man was an NBA All-Star snub this season, and will be a strong candidate for Most Improved Player. He’s averaging 21.1 points, 9.3 rebounds, and five assists per game this year on 58.5 percent true shooting. Şengün’s development is a major reason why the Rockets were in position to contend for a play-in spot out West after winning only 42 games combined between the previous two seasons.

Houston is playing a more uptempo style since Şengün’s injury, and Green is reaping the rewards. Green was having a brutally inefficient season before his stunning turnaround over the last few weeks. Here are some highlights from his recent stretch when he was named Western Conference Player of the Week.

The fact that the Rockets keep winning while Green plays so well is adding more credence to his hot streak being legitimate. At the same time, it’s also happening during a part of the regular season schedule when teams are tired and focused on different goals. Teams at the bottom of the standings are starting to tank for better lottery position. Teams in the playoff race are beginning to rest starters for the long haul ahead.

There’s a scenario where the Rockets re-sign both Green and Şengün eventually, but it’s going to cost a significant portion of the salary cap. How Houston handles extensions for its best young players will be a fascinating subplot for this summer and beyond.

The Nets blew it by turning down the Rockets offer

Is there a more delusional franchise in the NBA than the Nets? Maybe not if Charania’s report is accurate.

Brooklyn has some nice role players on the roster, but they lack a true star to stir the drink. The team thought Bridges was going to be that player after his own hot play in March last season, but he’s regressed in an on-ball role this year. He looks like the type of player who amplifies stars with his 3-and-D skill set, but not someone who can carry a team himself.

This would have been an amazing deal for the Nets, especially if it brought back their own 2024 draft pick, which is a reasonable assumption. Brooklyn did well to land a pile of draft picks from the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks when they traded Durant and Irving, but it’s still hard to rebuild when you don’t own your own picks.

Trading for Harden was an all-time disaster for the Nets. Houston offered Brooklyn a major “get out of jail free” card in exchange for Bridges, but the Nets still turned them down. The Nets are going nowhere fast without much hope for the immediate future. Getting a talent like Green to go along with control of your own assets would have firmly set Brooklyn up for a promising rebuild. They chose to chase the play-in tournament instead, which has been a spectacular misstep.

Will the Nets and Rockets revisit this trade in the offseason? Would Houston still do it? Either way, it feels like a big missed opportunity for the Nets.

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