The NBA offseason is just over a week old and is already far more entertaining than anyone could have imagined. The rumor mill is moving at a breakneck pace, the trade machines are fired up, and it’s clear that the Golden State Warriors are creating seismic shifts in the NBA landscape. As always, Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets are no exception to the craziness that is the NBA offseason, and the next few months could prove extremely pivotal in the future of the organization.
Let’s dive right in, starting with some housecleaning.
On Tuesday morning, amidst a hurricane of wild NBA rumors, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Rockets are looking to extend James Harden’s contract for the second straight offseason. Last year, the Rockets re-negotiated Harden’s deal and extended him through 2020 – with a player option for the 2019-2020 season that he would almost certainly decline. The idea of this new extension was made possible by Harden’s status as the only player to be unanimously selected to the All-NBA First Team last season, and would be worth $168 million over four years that would be tacked on to the end of his current contract. Harden was everything for the Rockets last season, and it would be wise to lock him up long-term – especially when trying to attract other stars to play with him in Houston (we’ll get into that shortly).
Other Current Roster Moves
In addition to Harden, Patrick Beverley, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, and Lou Williams are all eligible for contract extensions. However, the only potential extensions that are worth looking into this summer are those of Beverley and Capela.
Clint Capela is going into the last year of his rookie-scale contract and you can bet that the Rockets would love to extend him to a deal that may be cheaper than what he could command in 2018’s free agency period. Capela has proven to be a perfect fit alongside Harden, with the willingness and ability to set screens, roll hard to the rim, and play excellent defense.
Patrick Beverley’s contract situation is far more interesting this summer, especially after rumors that he may be a trade chip Morey can use to land a second superstar.
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) June 18, 2017
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) June 18, 2017
Assuming he isn’t traded this offseason, Beverley is eligible for a three-year extension worth $31 million. He is currently under contract for the next two seasons, and this extension would make him a Rocket through the 2021-2022 season. Beverley is nearing his 29th birthday, which means that that the Rockets would be paying him until he’s nearing his 34th. His age at the end of this deal, coupled with his injury history, make extending him a difficult decision for Houston.
One final piece of housecleaning the Rockets will look into is the potential re-signing of Nene. Nene is a 34-year-old veteran of 15 years, but proved to be much more valuable on the floor than his age and experience would suggest. A year ago, he signed a one-year deal for less than $3 million and it wouldn’t be farfetched to think that a similar kind of deal could be worked out this summer.
Now, on to the fun stuff…
Improving the Roster
As is stands right now, the Rockets have $91,459,053 of salary locked into next season before any moves are made (according to Basketball-Reference) . With the salary cap projected to be around $101-102 million for next season, the Rockets will have about $8-9 million to work with this summer. Now, that’s certainly not enough to land a superstar at a max contract or even an impact player, but it shouldn’t be difficult for Daryl Morey to create cap space by moving a few contracts.
The last few days have been a whirlwind of insane basketball news and rumors, starting with the L.A. Times report that free agent ‘Point God’ Chris Paul would be meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets, and Houston Rockets about playing for them next season. This news caught Rockets fans by surprise as Houston seemingly has its superstar point guard in James Harden, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine Harden moving back to shooting guard (a position he’s played his entire life) to make room for one of the best players in the NBA.
Another superstar likely on the move is Paul George, who recently told the Indiana Pacers that he plans on leaving the organization in 2018. Even though it’s common knowledge that George prefers to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, many teams – including the Rockets – would be willing to trade for his talents in a one-year ‘rental’ situation. Given that George has made his intentions known and that there’s a sense the Pacers want to get a deal done immediately, it would seem that Larry Bird has lost all of Indiana’s leverage in a deal – a notion that Morey could take advantage of.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe commented on Houston’s potential aggressiveness in acquiring Paul George, as well as a potential trade proposal on his podcast, saying:
“You don’t think the Rockets are trying to get in on this right now? The Rockets are 100% trying to get in on this right now. Eric Gordon plus salary filler plus two future first round picks or something. I mean, maybe that’s the best Indiana can hope for.”
Another wrinkle in the Paul George situation is that the Cleveland Cavaliers have apparently made a push to add his talents alongside the core of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Cavs trading for George would undoubtedly mean that Kevin Love would be shipped off to another team. However, it’s unclear if the Pacers would want Love’s services – meaning that a third team could swoop in and becoming a landing spot. This same wrinkle is prevalent in talks surrounding the Chicago Bulls sending Jimmy Butler to Cleveland in a multi-team trade.
Kevin Love would be an incredible fit in Houston (albeit, there would be some redundancy if Ryan Anderson is still on the roster) by stretching the floor as a three-point shooter and helping the Rockets on the glass. At this point, it’s basically a guarantee that Daryl Morey has been working the phones and made every attempt to get Houston involved for Paul George, Kevin Love, or even Jimmy Butler.
Other huge names that could potentially be on Houston’s radar this summer – whether by trade or by free agency signing – include Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Lowry, Blake Griffin, and Gordon Hayward. Any deals for a star would mean that players like Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley, or others would have to be moved, but it’s also feasible that the Rockets decide to (or are forced to) run things back and add smaller-level talents to fill out the roster.
This Thursday’s NBA Draft is not likely to make any impact on the rest of Houston’s offseason plans, except for the possibility of signing a draft pick or two into cap space. That’s not likely to happen, but, for those interested, the Rockets will have the 43rd and 45th picks in this year’s draft – acquired from Denver and Portland, respectively.
Finally, the Rockets will have to deal with a question they’ve faced for the past few years…
Will Sergio Llull finally come to the NBA and join the Rockets?