NBA Trade Deadline: Houston Rockets Trade Donatas Motiejunas To Detroit Pistons

Feb 20, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 20, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas (20) during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Rockets have traded Donatas Motiejunas to the Detroit Pistons ahead of the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline.

With the Houston Rockets‘ season imploding and the Detroit Pistons anxious to improve their team for a playoff push in the competitive Eastern Conference, the two teams agreed to a trade revolving around power forward/center Donatas Motiejunas Thursday morning.

As the Feb. 18 deadline closed in, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets would be sending their injured stretch-5 and backup guard Marcus Thornton to Detroit for Joel Anthony and a top-8 protected pick.

The move bolsters Detroit’s roster as we enter the home stretch of the 2015-16 season, while also allowing the Rockets to prepare for a future roster shakeup given the team’s current standing at ninth in the Western Conference.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported the details of the protections on the pick, which will be top-10 protected for the next two years if it is not conveyed this year.

Both teams come out winners in this deal. For the Pistons, Motiejunas represents a player ideally suited for Stan Van Gundy’s spread offense.

His ability to score in the post and spread the defense out to three-point range (36.8 percent in 71 games last season, 41.2 percent this season) will help the Pistons’ bench greatly once he returns from a back injury that’s limited him to 14 games this year.

There are legitimate concerns about his extensive injury history and he’s only averaging 5.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game this season, but D-Mo is a talented 25-year-old with the capability to play both the 4 and the 5. A core of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Andre Drummond and D-Mo gives the Pistons quite a foundation moving forward.

Motiejunas’ restricted free agency will be interesting this summer, and there’s a chance he may not even be able to help the Pistons in their playoff push this year, but between D-Mo and the recently acquired Harris, Van Gundy is quietly assembling a talented roster that’s best suited for his team’s preferred playing style.

Marcus Thornton shouldn’t be overlooked in this deal either. He’s seen a bit of a resurgence in Houston this year, averaging 10.0 points in 18.8 minutes per game (though he’s only shooting 40 percent from the field). His scoring punch and playmaking ability should aid a Pistons squad currently ranked 29th in bench points per game.

The top-8 protected pick will likely be conveyed this season. The Pistons currently sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference standings with a 27-27 record, but they’re only 3.5 games out of the fourth seed, and the additions of Harris and Thornton should help them climb their way into the playoff field.

That means the Rockets will almost certainly receive a first round pick from Detroit this year — an excellent return for a player who’s been limited to 14 games this season and is currently injured.

Two-time NBA champion Joel Anthony is virtually irrelevant, averaging 0.7 points and 1.2 rebounds per game this year in 13 appearances, but a first-rounder is what D-Mo’s value might have been had he been healthy, let alone sidelined.

More than likely, the Rockets are looking at a pick in the mid-teens. Though Motiejunas was on the verge of a breakout season after posting 12.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game on .504/.368/.602 shooting splits last season, his minutes dropped from 28.7 per game to 13.4 this year thanks to all his injury problems.

More hoops habit: NBA Trade Deadline Tracker

With Houston’s season going nowhere fast, swapping out a (currently) useless player for a first-rounder is great value. It saves the Rockets $1.2 million in luxury taxes and better positions them to make moves in the future as well.