June 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

Potential Rocket Profile: Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets This will be Houston’s second go at pursuing Anthony in the past four years and our second Photoshop of Carmelo as a Houston Rocket

Player Overview

From the moment Dwight Howard arrived, the “stretch four” concept has both tantalized and eluded the Rockets. Despite elite defense from Omer Asik, the Rockets never found a consistent way to make their offense run at peak efficiency without a power forward with mobility and perimeter skills. That’s why Terrence Jones quickly played his way into the starting lineup, and why other players such as Ryan Anderson in New Orleans have been popular potential trade targets.

Along those lines, it would seem that probable free agent Carmelo Anthony — yes, the seven-time All-Star and 2013 scoring champion – has all the “stretch four” qualities the Rockets are searching for and then some.

In short, Anthony is a bonafide scorer who commands respect all over the floor and makes the game easier on offense for everyone around him. Though he turned 30 in May, his game doesn’t seem to be overly dependent on athleticism. Judging by PER and Win Shares, the Knicks forward turned in the two finest seasons of his entire career during the past two years. If anything, he seems to be making further improvements, including the highest 3-point percentage (40.2%) of his career in 2013-14.

By all indications, Anthony is likely to opt out of his contract by June 23 and become a free agent. The Rockets have reportedly gained “significant momentum” as Anthony’s preferred destination, now resting alongside Chicago on the top line.

Rocket Perspective

Before we delve too far into the fit, let’s start with the obvious: the Rockets are chasing a player who can be the “third-best player on a championship team”. Anthony, who averaged 27.4 points/game and 8.1 rebounds/game in 2013-14 for the New York Knicks, is clearly someone of that caliber.

For two consecutive postseasons against Oklahoma City and Portland, we’ve seen what Kevin McHale chooses to do when Houston’s back is against the wall. They go small, believing it’s the best way to maximize spacing and give James Harden room to operate. That’s the reason Harden and Chandler Parsons each spent considerable time guarding LaMarcus Aldridge this year, and why Parsons frequently picked up Serge Ibaka a season ago.

The main problem, of course, is that neither Harden nor Parsons is thick enough to hold his ground in the post and offer much resistance. Enter Anthony, who at 6-foot-8, 236 pounds and built like a bull, has actually proven to be a very capable post defender. He won’t remind anyone of Tim Duncan on that end, but he could mesh perfectly with how these Rockets want to play – especially with Howard available behind him for help. And on offense, especially in a half-court setting, his presence would lift them from being one of the best to a potential juggernaut.

While many discount Anthony as a ball-stopping scorer, take a look at how he has played in Olympic action and All-Star games when surrounded by top talent. In the 2012 Olympics in London, he set the all-time US record for points in an Olympic game (37), doing it in just 14 minutes (what?), and ultimately guided the team to a gold medal. Flanked by a similarly-talented roster in the 2014 All-Star Game, he hit eight threes to set an All-Star Game record. Those performances suggest Anthony would have the potential to thrive playing alongside an elite scorer such as Harden.

While it’s believed that the majority of his time in Houston would come at power forward, Anthony’s versatility with the forward spots could allow the Rockets to manage Parsons’ minutes more closely as well. Parsons averaged nearly 38 minutes/game during the season and 42 minutes/game in the playoffs – numbers that likely compromised his energy on the defensive end of the floor.

Conclusion

The Rockets do not have major cap room at the moment, but continue to operate as if trading Asik and Jeremy Lin for that space is a mere formality. They may not quite reach the level of space needed for Anthony’s full-max deal (almost $23 million), but Anthony is reportedly willing to make some financial sacrifices if it can be shown to him that it enables his new team to have a better supporting cast.

Anthony and his wife are said to love New York City as a home, and the Knicks can offer him a 5th year on his contract that other teams cannot. But Anthony’s rumored top priority is to win titles, and there’s little Phil Jackson can say this summer to prove the Knicks’ status as a near-term contender. Because of that, the perception in league circles is that Anthony is likely to depart, just as Howard did from Los Angeles a summer ago.

If the decision comes down to the Bulls and Rockets, the selling points for each will be evident. The Bulls will offer a slightly more glamorous city, a proven coach in Tom Thibodeau and a potentially easier path to the NBA Finals. The drawback, of course, is that much of Chicago’s plan depends on the health of Derrick Rose and his knees.

Meanwhile, the Rockets will offer a team with two superstars already in place, both healthy and close to the prime of their careers. Neither play Anthony’s position. And in Howard’s case, Anthony already signaled an interest in prior years to playing alongside him.

If Anthony’s top priority is truly winning titles – not merely advancing to the Finals courtesy of a weak Eastern Conference, or winding up in a glamour market – the Rockets have to like their chances.


 Clutch also contributed to this profile.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 18, 2014 at 10:51 am

Potential Rocket Profile: Kevin Love

Kevin Love Houston Rockets

Player Overview

You could see this coming.

With Dwight Howard in tow, a need to upgrade at power forward and projected cap space in 2015, the Rockets could survey the NBA landscape last summer to see two elite power forwards in Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge (both free agents in 2015) in precarious situations. Both had the potential to sour on their current teams, with Houston in a good position to catch their eye.

While Aldridge and the Blazers took a step forward this past season, Love and the Timberwolves took a step back, and sure enough — Love wants out. Several reports suggest we could see a Kevin Love trade as early as next week’s NBA Draft.

A three-time All-Star who is just entering his prime at 25 years of age, Love averaged 26.1 points per game (#4 in the NBA) last season to go with 12.5 rebounds (#3 in the NBA), hitting nearly 38% from long range. The Wolves’ big man has averaged nearly 14 rebounds a game over the last four seasons.

So will this be the Summer of Love in Houston?

Rocket Perspective

Think about this: This is a player that scored more points per game than James Harden and grabbed more rebounds per game than Dwight Howard last season. From an offensive view, there is not a better match out there for Houston’s current needs than Kevin Love.

A legitimate power forward with terrific size (6-foot-10, 250 pounds) for the position, Love is an elite rebounder and a strong outside shooter for a big. He may be able to help fill some minutes as a backup center as well given that, in much the same way that Chandler Parsons can play the four, Love can play the five in smallball lineups.

A trio of Dwight-Harden-Love would be deadly dangerous on offense. The Rockets would immediately improve in a critical area where they took a step back last season — three-point shooting. Opponents would not be able to double Howard easily when he’s flanked by Kevin Love and opposing power forwards wouldn’t be able to consistently sag off their man and pack the paint against Harden drives, as Serge Ibaka does so effectively. Love would be the ultimate fit as Houston’s stretch four.

Defensively, well… they’d have a really good offense.

But even if Love fails to significantly upgrade the team’s man defense himself, his rebounding prowess could enable more shot-blocking and position help from Dwight Howard.

There is some history here that would make one think Houston has a chance at catching Love’s interest. Rockets coach Kevin McHale drafted and coached Love in Minnesota and they have a good relationship. Harden and Love also have a history of playing together, as Harden acknowledged here (1:00 mark of the video).

Conclusion

This is the one possibility out there that I think would cost the Rockets Chandler Parsons in a trade… as well as Terrence Jones and multiple draft picks. And even then, this looks like a long shot.

As it stands, it doesn’t appear that “winning big” is the only draw for the 25-year old as there haven’t been any reports of him balking at teams like Phoenix, Cleveland, New York, Boston and Los Angeles (Lakers), all teams that missed the playoffs last season just as Love has missed the postseason in all six of his NBA seasons. While it’s difficult to say with certainty, it appears that his minimum requirement is playing basketball in May rather than June.

While the Rockets would have to satisfy Minnesota with a trade, it is primarily Love himself that has the most control here. If he had Houston on a short list (and the shorter the better) of teams he would be willing to sign an extension with beyond 2015, the trade market would be smaller, giving Houston a better chance of satisfying Minnesota in a deal. Right now, the Rockets can’t compete in a broad trade market where top draft considerations and young players are king. Also, the heavy salary assets that the Rockets have to move in a trade (Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik) are overlap on a Minnesota roster that includes Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic.

Kevin Love is the ideal fit on one side of the ball for the Rockets, but unless they get very creative and move up in this draft — likely into the top 10, at a minimum — they may not be able to pull this off.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 18, 2014 at 8:10 am

Rockets returning to Valley for training camp, will face Warriors there in preseason action

Houston Rockets Golden State Warriors

Rockets will take on Warriors on October 19th

The Rockets are going back to the Valley for training camp for the 2014-15 NBA season.

After Media Day, Houston will open training camp at the Rio Grande Valley Vipers’ new training facility in Edinburg, TX, a source confirmed to ClutchFans.

The Rockets will also play a preseason game there, taking on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors on October 19th at State Farm Arena in Hidalgo.

The Rockets last held training camp in McAllen for the 2012-13 season (known as the Royce White “no show” camp) but chose to stay home in Houston for camp this past year.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

Potential Rocket Profile: LeBron James

LeBron James Houston Rockets

Player Overview

I’m reminded of the movie Hoosiers when coach Norman Dale tells his team before the semifinals, “I’m sure going to the state finals is beyond your wildest dreams, so let’s just keep it right there.”

The Houston Rockets landing LeBron James seems just that — beyond our wildest dreams. It would be a daunting, near-impossible task to land the best player in the league in his prime, so it could be better off left unsaid.

However, the current scenario demands that the subject has to at least be broached.

James can opt out of his contract by the end of the month to become a free agent. Miami was soundly thrashed in the NBA Finals. Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski says, “One more team to watch in this with Lebron is Houston because … they can create the salary cap space. Would it appeal to LeBron to go play with James Harden, Dwight Howard? I don’t know that it would, but I think Houston will certainly try to get in that mix.”

So here we go.

Rocket Perspective

LeBron James is a two-time champion, four-time MVP and five-time member of the NBA All-Defensive First Team. This is the one player that doesn’t just provide answers for Houston but actually changes the questions: “Does Player X fit with Harden and Howard?” becomes “Do Harden and Howard fit with LeBron James?”

The Rockets can offer LeBron a roster with two superstars – one inside, one out – in the prime of their careers and several role players (Patrick Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Terrence Jones) who appear to be substantial upgrades on their counterparts in Miami. A starting lineup of LeBron-Harden-Howard-Beverley-Jones would be ridiculous, one that would be a giant leap forward on both ends of the ball for the Rockets. Houston would instantly become the favorites to win not just the West but the 2014-15 NBA crown.

While it’s unclear if James would have interest in combining forces with Howard and Harden specifically, he is not a stranger to being a teammate to either player. LeBron played with Howard on the 2008 Olympic squad and with Harden on the 2012 team. He has spoken highly of Harden before, calling him his “little bro” after the trade that sent him to the Rockets and noting that Harden had “made superstar status” after a Rockets-Heat game in February 2013.

No matter how crazy, the Rockets would do whatever they could if it meant reeling in James. Need every penny to sign him? Scrap the Chandler Parsons-restricted free agency plan and contracts they’d like to keep become cut bait. LeBron would come if he could play here with Carmelo Anthony? Suddenly you consider putting Harden on the trading block.

That’s how absurd you would get to land the world’s top player.

Conclusion

LeBron currently has just about everything he could want: A glamour location, top dollar on his contract, an easy path to the Finals in a creampuff conference, a coach he’s comfortable with, star friends by his side and multiple championships. It’s hard to see him leaving all that, especially with the possibility of simply “opting in” for one more year in Miami and giving Pat Riley 12 more months to retool.

But LeBron has made a controversial decision for the purpose of immediately winning titles before. If he senses the future isn’t as bright in Miami (a big “if”), Houston would have to be high on that list of ready-made situations where he could continue to win and compete at a high level. The Rockets also could make an interesting pitch in that with one stroke of the pen, LeBron could turn the San Antonio Spurs from NBA champions to second-best team in their own state, relegating the Dallas Mavericks, another team LeBron lost to in the Finals, to a distant third.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey will definitely do his due diligence on this possibility, but in the event the Rockets do make some ground with LeBron, it seems unlikely that Miami would play ball on a sign-and-trade. The Rockets would have to go the cap room route and unload Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

But while the Rockets do offer a great situation for LeBron, all of us are in the dark about his plans. Until he decides to actually opt out and there is any evidence of interest in Houston from him, this is just a guessing game.


 Ben DuBose also contributed to this profile.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 14, 2014 at 10:47 am

Rockets gain “significant momentum” as preferred destination for Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls have emerged as the “clear frontrunners” to acquire Carmelo Anthony, according to a story published on Saturday by Yahoo! Sports insider Adrian Wojnarowski.

“Anthony, 30, has been intrigued with [joining] the Bulls for several months, but Houston has gathered significant momentum as a preferred destination for him,” Wojnarowski wrote, citing league sources.

“Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden prepared to recruit Anthony as the third star in a championship chase,” he added.

Both Houston and Chicago front-office executives are said to be “working diligently” on scenarios to clear the cap space to sign Anthony outright, or engage New York on sign-and-trade scenarios, according to the report. In Houston’s case, that would mean shedding the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, at a minimum. But with both of those players entering the final year of their contracts, Wojnarowski writes that a sign-and-trade with the Knicks for Anthony is indeed possible.

“Because those players are moving into the expiring year of their contracts, they could potentially appeal to New York in sign-and-trade scenarios that would deliver Anthony his full max contract of four years, $90 million-plus,” Wojnarowski wrote.

“In trade talks, New York has told teams it doesn’t want to take on contracts beyond the summer of 2015 although Asik, a center, could ultimately be a player the Knicks would want to sign long-term,” he added. “There’s a market for Asik to be traded into salary-cap space elsewhere for draft considerations, but Houston may have to package a draft pick to move Lin.”

The full max for Anthony would involve a contract starting at over $22 million per year, but citing league sources, Wojnarowski writes that Anthony would take less than that if “he can be shown how his financial concessions can result in the immediate acquisition or retention of talent”.

In Houston’s case, Wojnarowski writes that most scenarios that would hold the Rockets’ nucleus together — including Chandler ParsonsPatrick Beverley and Terrence Jones – would involve Anthony getting a starting salary near $19 million.

Meanwhile, should Chicago amnesty the contract of Carlos Boozer and trade the contract of Taj Gibson and at least one other player, the Bulls as an Eastern Conference team could offer Anthony a theoretically easier route to the NBA Finals than the Rockets. Additionally, Anthony is said to “have an affinity” for Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, Wojnarowski writes, before cautioning that Anthony must also weigh the future health of Derrick Rose in his decision.

The Knicks, of course, can still offer the most money to Anthony and have still expressed interest in retaining him. To that end, a delegation consisting of Phil Jackson and new Knicks coach Derek Fisher met Anthony on Friday night in Los Angeles. However, the option of re-signing with the Knicks appears to be becoming less likely.

“Anthony’s meeting with Knicks officials on Friday night had little impact on his state of mind, league sources said, because there remain too many uncertainties about how quickly president Phil Jackson can reshape the team into a championship contender,” Wojnarowski wrote.

Wojnarowski also noted that Jackson has “turned off” Anthony with public proclamations of wanting Anthony to take less money to stay with the Knicks.

“Jackson has been somewhat cavalier in his public declarations of wanting Anthony to stay, and it’s been noticed,” the report says.

The next significant development in the Anthony sweepstakes should come within the next 10 days. The New York forward, who averaged 27.4 points per game on 45% shooting last season, has until June 23 to notify the Knicks if he plans to opt in or out of the final year of his current contract.

If Anthony opts out and becomes a free agent, as several reports indicate he is likely to do, outside teams such as Houston and Chicago could begin courting him on July 1.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 9, 2014 at 10:33 am

Hey, Remember when Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik were on the Rockets?

Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik

No doubt by now you’ve heard the Yahoo! Sports report that the Rockets plan to decline the option on Chandler Parsons‘ contract by the end of this month, which would make Houston’s starting small forward a restricted free agent this summer.

David Weiner has been breaking down the details of this fascinating contract over the past year. In a nutshell, by the Rockets declining their team option, Parsons will be able to sign with any team — but the Rockets will have the ability to match the offer sheet he signs. If the Rockets pick up the option, then they get Chandler at a bargain rate (less than a million dollars) for one more year before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2015.

While I don’t think it’s 100% that the Rockets will do this (too much can happen between now and June 30), there are plenty of positives to taking this route: The Rockets have more control. They play the restricted free agency game very well. It forces the player to prove their market value. It’s possible to get Chandler at a better salary. It gets Parsons the big bucks one year sooner. It opens the possibility of sign-and-trades involving Parsons.

Sports Radio 610 guest appearance with Sean Pendergast, Rich Lord and Ted Johnson to discuss Parsons’ contract.

But for me, the big takeaway from this is not that the Rockets will decline Parsons’ option but rather how absolutely brazen the Rockets have been about their ability to trade Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.

It’s almost as if they’re already gone.

It started shortly after the Rockets’ exit from the playoffs when team owner Les Alexander said about this summer, “We’re going to have cap room to bring in a terrific free agent.”

Only one problem: The Rockets don’t have cap room. They need to trade Asik and Lin to create it.

Next, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was asked on Twitter what kind of free agent the team could acquire this summer, and Morey responded that the Rockets “can create max [cap] room.”

Unless he’s talking about trading away James Harden or Dwight Howard, Morey isn’t even hiding it. He’s saying: ‘We can unload Lin and Asik.’

And now this report surfaces about how they will handle Parsons. This too is another indication that Lin and Asik are toast.

The Rockets do not want to sign anyone long-term before acquiring their third-best player, expected to be a significant contract. If the Rockets were to sign Parsons for say $10 million a season, their cap room possibilities would be stung and their fallback plan (2015 cap room) would be wiped out. So if the Rockets really are going to make Chandler a restricted free agent with the intent to match any offer, then the clock is clearly ticking on Lin and Asik trades. The Rockets would get no real benefit by allowing those two to come “off the books” in 2015, if Parsons already has his new deal.

Another thing to consider with this news is that the Rockets might not clear cap room at all. To pursue a major free agent like Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets would need to pinch every penny, but by making this move, Chandler’s cap hit would increase by $2 million before he is signed. This would seem to make trade, not free agency, the more likely avenue to improve.

I would not be surprised if the Rockets are looking to make a complicated three- or four-team deal that sends out Lin and Asik, along with a treasure trove, that nets them their player. By doing it in one fell swoop, the Rockets would remain above the cap and keep their mid-level exception ($5.3 million) to sign a better free agent or try to bring over a player like guard Sergio Llull or forward Kostas Papanikolaou.

But the bottom line with this news is that the Rockets are either extremely confident in their ability to dump off Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin — or, by putting this info out there, they want the NBA to think they are.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |
May 18, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Wojnarowski: Rockets plan “aggressive play” for Kevin Love trade

Kevin Love and Kevin McHale

We can now add Kevin Love to the Rockets’ ongoing search for the “third-best player on a championship team”.

Per Yahoo‘s Adrian Wojnarowski, generally regarded as the top NBA insider on the planet, the Rockets are planning an “aggressive play” for a Love trade. Wojnarowski also notes that the Minnesota power forward has a strong bond with Houston head coach Kevin McHale.

 

“For the first time, [Minnesota] sounds like looking at deals for [Love] is an option,” a rival executive told Wojnarowski.

Love holds an early termination option (ETO) in his contract for the summer of 2015, thus giving him the same sort of leverage against Minnesota in the 2014 offseason that Dwight Howard had against Orlando in 2012. Unless the Timberwolves are willing to risk letting Love leave in July 2015 for nothing in return, the time for them to recoup maximum value would seem to be sooner rather than later.

Other teams likely to make “hard runs” at trades for Love, according to Wojnarowski, include the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.

“Despite a belief that Love prefers Los Angeles or New York as a potential destination, [Love] is open to deals in other markets where he can be part of an immediate contender,” Wojnarowski wrote, adding that Love’s representatives are pushing for a deal to be completed before the beginning of summer free agency in July – preferably by the June 26 NBA draft.

In terms of potential offers, the Celtics and Lakers are each expected to offer a trade starting with their first-round lottery pick in the aforementioned draft. On that front, a potential day of significance could be May 20. The Celtics and Lakers are currently projected at 5th and 6th in the first-round order, based on probability from last season’s records. But if either team slips into the top three in Tuesday’s draft lottery, it would seem to make their offer all the more attractive to Minnesota.

Nonetheless, as with Howard and Orlando two years ago, Love still holds most of the cards. If Love expresses skepticism to a potential suitor about his willingness to re-sign in 2015, it would likely diminish that team’s offer to Minnesota (if not kill it altogether).

The hope for Houston is that a roster coached by McHale and led by Howard and James Harden could push them to the front of Love’s list. Should that happen, Minnesota’s leverage in the Love negotiations could be compromised in a similar manner to the circumstances that forced Orlando to accept an underwhelming haul in the August 2012 trade that sent Howard to the Lakers.

Love, who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season, will make $15.7 million in 2014-15. Thus, any Love-to-Houston trade would have to involve the Rockets sending out approximately that much in salary. Future draft picks, a likely requirement for Minnesota in any Love proposal, would not have any cap value and thus would not count toward that total.

The cap figures of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik ($8.3 million) would match up almost perfectly, but trades involving just one of those two and several smaller Houston contracts would also be feasible.

“Houston doesn’t have the draft picks to offer Minnesota, but does have appealing young players in Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik to include in packages,” Wojnarowski wrote.

It’s unclear if the Rockets would make Parsons, their starting small forward, available in proposals for Love. But if Minnesota were intrigued by a Parsons-led deal, their interest would likely come soon. Should a deal be struck by the end of June involving Parsons, Minnesota could then turn down the 2014-15 option on Parsons’ contract, send Parsons into restricted free agency and maintain the right to match any offer. In short, they would have control over his future with the team.

However, if a deal were struck after June 30, Parsons would likely be on a path to unrestricted free agency in 2015. That would put Minnesota in the same position with Parsons that they’re currently in with Love, making the swap improbable.

Other All-Star names rumored as possible Houston targets this summer include New York’s Carmelo Anthony, a likely free agent, as well as Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged |
May 16, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Report: Nets could be open to dealing Deron Williams for Lin, Asik

Deron Williams and James Harden

It’s been almost six months since the Rockets reportedly approached the Nets about a potential swap of disgruntled center Omer Asik and guard Jeremy Lin for Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams.

Back then, the Nets were said to be uninterested. But in the aftermath of a disappointing second-round loss in five games to Miami, things may have changed.

Brian Geltzeiler of HoopsCritic.com reports that Williams and the Nets have a “pending divorce” and have mutually decided to look elsewhere.

“Sources have told HoopsCritic.com that this falling out between Williams and Nets management, specifically Nets GM Billy King, has resulted in a mutual decision between the two parties to split,” Geltzeiler wrote. “Williams, and his wife, essentially want out of Brooklyn and King is more than happy to accommodate them.”

Geltzeiler goes on in his story to list the Rockets as a possible destination.

“If Morey offers… the same package in the forthcoming offseason, I don’t think King will say no,” Geltzeiler wrote.

Williams isn’t likely to be on the front burner for the Rockets, who continue to search for a third star player to put around James Harden and Dwight Howard. The clear top priority would seem to be Carmelo Anthony, who unlike Williams, had one of the best seasons of his career in 2013-14 and still appears very much in his prime, statistically.

But the catch to the pursuit of Anthony or any other top free agent this summer, including Kyle Lowry, is that the Rockets would likely have to find a way to move both Asik and Lin, either through a sign-and-trade or to an outside destination for cap relief. Asik probably wouldn’t be a problem to move, but finding a home for Lin could be trickier, especially given his balloon payment to $15 million next season in real dollars (though his cap figure remains at $8.3 million).

If Morey is able to move Lin for cap relief, the Rockets would seemingly be all-in on Anthony or another prized free agent. But that’s far from a done deal and if such a move isn’t possible, the Rockets would appear to be left with three realistic options.

1.) Keep Lin on the roster and trade Asik, either for cap relief (allowing Houston to target a middle-of-the-pack free agent, not a max guy) or for a player under contract from another team. Sam Smith writes at NBA.com that the Hawks could be interested in starting Asik at center and moving Al Horford to power forward, a plan that could presumably make Atlanta’s current starter at power forward, Paul Millsap, a trade target for Houston (yet again).

2.) Keep both Lin and Asik on the roster going into next season. That would allow Houston to either trade Lin/Asik as expiring contracts near the February 2015 deadline to teams looking for cap relief, or simply let their contracts expire as Rockets after the 2014-15 season and attempt to use the savings in 2015 free agency. That class, of course, is headlined by Kevin Love.

3.) Go after Williams.

The highest upside of those three paths would seem to be No. 2, but it doesn’t come without risk. The Rockets cited injuries and a lack of continuity as being behind many of their inconsistencies in 2013-14, and delaying the arrival of the team’s next big piece would also defer the integration period with Harden and Howard. It also goes without saying that free agency offers no guarantees.

Deron Williams

Deron Williams had one of his worst statistical years in 2013-14.

Williams, on the other hand, would be available this summer and ready for 2014 training camp — and Geltzeiler writes that the need to move Lin would not be a stumbling block.

“Most teams would find [the balloon] payment objectionable,” he said. “The Nets aren’t most teams. The Nets paid a record amount of luxury tax this season, and there are no indications that their billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov has any interest in spending less.”

It’s not a slam-dunk decision for the Rockets, of course. Williams will soon be 30 years old, and the Nets are open to trading him for a reason. After all, Williams is coming off a season in which he posted his lowest PER (17.6) since his second year in the NBA and his fewest points (14.3) and assists (6.1) per game since his rookie year.

Additionally, Williams is owed $62 million over the next three years, which means that the Rockets would essentially be “capped out” for the remainder of Harden and Howard’s current contracts. They’d still have mid-level exceptions (MLE) each summer, but by and large, it would be an all-in move by Morey with the Harden/Howard/Williams trio.

The upside, though? It’s not as if Williams’ subpar season is part of a broader trend. In fact, his metrics in 2012-13 — just one year ago —  were arguably his best ever in nine NBA seasons, especially on offense. And a case can certainly be made that injuries (Williams is planning offseason ankle surgery to clean up nagging issues) and the integration of newcomers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett into the Brooklyn offense played a role in his 2013-14 decline.

We know the Rockets have long been fans of the ex-Illinois point guard, including in 2011, when Houston made a strong bid for Williams before the Jazz ultimately dealt him to Brooklyn. The Rockets were also said to be interested in Williams again heading into his 2012 free agency.

We also know Howard has liked Williams, dating back to his  ”lists” when demanding a trade from Orlando in 2011 and 2012. Both times, Brooklyn — led by Williams — was at the top. And instead of spending another one of Howard’s dwindling prime years waiting on a trade or free agent that could be, a move for Williams would make the Rockets fully focused on the present and what is.

For his part, Williams is even a Texas native, having grown up in suburban Dallas, and would likely jump at the chance to play closer to home.

None of those factors is enough to vault Williams ahead of Anthony or immediate cap space as the Rockets’ offseason priority, of course. But any bigger pursuit also comes with a difficult question:

Can Morey move Lin for cap relief?

If the answer is no, the Williams scenario could very well be revisited as a fallback option.

Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged , , |