July 1, 2014 at 11:20 am

Podcast: Carmelo, Love, Lowry and Houston’s options as free agency arrives

Kyle Lowry Houston Rockets free agency

Cap guru David Weiner, aka BimaThug, joins Dave Hardisty to discuss all the options the Houston Rockets have and the cap implications as NBA free agency officially opens. Here are the major topics discussed:

  • 2:30 — What has to happen to make Carmelo Anthony an interesting offer
  • 4:15 — The Kevin Love trade possibility
  • 7:15 — The Omer Asik trade and the draft pick received from New Orleans
  • 14:45 — Kyle Lowry
  • 20:00 — Why has Jeremy Lin not yet been traded?
  • 24:45 — Fallback options for the Rockets
  • 30:30 — Chandler Parsons contract and his restricted free agency
  • 36:45 — Houston’s Draft landing Clint Capela, Nick Johnson and Alessandro Gentile
  • 41:45 — The Rockets’ stash of international prospects

Posted in Houston Rockets, Podcasts |
June 30, 2014 at 9:47 pm

As they enter free agency, Rockets keeping all options open

Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love

While saying nothing, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey seemed to say just about everything about the Rockets right now.

“It’s very hard to predict what will happen when things happen tonight,” said Morey.

Because of that unpredictability, the Rockets are preparing for numerous scenarios when the NBA free agency market officially opens tonight at midnight Eastern time.

The Rockets will make their pitch to the agent of LeBron James, though it looks like a near certainty that he will return to Miami. They will have Carmelo Anthony in Houston on Wednesday and are preparing to make a Dwight Howard-style presentation to him. They have made offers to Minnesota for Kevin Love and will continue to be in that mix. They also have been mentioned in reports as having interest in Pau Gasol and Luol Deng and some former Rockets as well — Trevor Ariza, Jordan Hill and Kyle Lowry (In fact, Morey and Kevin McHale met with Lowry in Philadelphia as free agency opened, according to Yahoo! Sports).

But the Rockets are trying to remain as flexible as possible until they have to commit to a certain direction.

They haven’t traded Jeremy Lin yet, likely knowing that they need to be more certain of the need for cap room since that deal will cost them additional assets. If they strike out in free agency, Lin’s contract would represent the one salary large enough to be used in a major trade. The pick they received in the Omer Asik trade could be a major trade asset.

That’s why I wouldn’t panic if the Rockets don’t land one of the Big Three (LeBron, Carmelo, Love) this summer. This was a very strong team last year that will keep their core intact and they are in a good enough position to make a quality trade and one or more signings as well.

Notes

  • The Omer Asik trade was simply beautiful.

    Dave Hardisty Sports Talk 790 guest appearance with Lance Zierlein and Adam Clanton to discuss the Asik trade.

    Not only will the Rockets completely clear off Asik’s salary, but they reel in a very good draft pick in the process, one that is similar to the pick received from Toronto in 2012. When the Rockets traded Lowry for that pick, I compared it to swapping a gift card for cash. This is what the Rockets do over and over and over again — they flip a rigid asset that would be attractive to a small handful of teams for a more flexible one that would draw the interest of just about every team.

    Now holding that pick, the Rockets will be in the conversation with just about any rebuilding team looking to move a win-now asset for future considerations.

    Asik is a strong defensive center. He’s going to form a wall in New Orleans as the starting five next to Anthony Davis. But while Asik was a key defensive big for the Rockets, the team was 34-20 (.629 winning percentage) in games (including playoffs) where Asik played last season and 22-12 (.647) when he was out. He will be missed, but the role he played simply wasn’t big enough to move the needle that much.

    That trade was a big win on all three fronts (trade, draft and free agency) moving forward.

  • Morey was asked multiple times in the Rockets press conference on Monday if he was confident that Alessandro Gentile, acquired by the Rockets on draft night, would be on Houston’s roster next season. I can assure you that, given the Rockets’ state right now, not even they know the answer to that question yet… and not just because they don’t have a commitment from Gentile.

    The Rockets are about to go through a big month of change and every player in their impressive stash of international prospects is a trade asset right now, according to a source with the team. I feel confident one of Sergio Llull, Kostas Papanikolau, Clint Capela and Gentile — the four best in the crop — will be dealt this offseason and I wouldn’t be surprised if two of them are moved.

    As to their view of the prospects, the team feels Llull, Papanikolaou and Gentile are all ready to contribute in the NBA right now. All three are too significant of players overseas to be able to join the Summer League squad.

  • I’ve been encouraged by the Kevin Love possibility.

    Reports that Love shot down the possibility of re-signing with the likes of Cleveland and Phoenix seem to suggest some pickiness on his part, which could be to Houston’s advantage. The shorter his list, the better the chance Houston has of getting Minnesota to accept a deal.

    I originally wrote that to get Love it would at least take Parsons, and Yahoo! Sports reported this week that the Timberwolves have an interest in a sign-and-trade for Parsons if they can’t strike a deal with Golden State. But the word right now is that the Rockets plan on keeping Parsons and haven’t offered him in a Love swap. They’re likely trying to package every rebuilding asset they have to get Minny to bite, and the pick received in the Asik deal certainly helps in that regard.

    But is Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, the New Orleans pick, one or more of Houston’s picks, their choice of Houston’s international prospects and Jeremy Lin (salary) enough to beat out what Golden State can put together?

  • I love the pick of Nick Johnson in the second round.

    There’s no telling how well a rookie will do in the NBA, especially out of the gate, but this kid looks like a gamer. His primary weakness — being a two-guard with a point guard’s body — is minimized in a lineup next to James Harden, a two who plays the de facto point guard for the Rockets.

    Meanwhile, his strengths fit perfectly. The Pac-12 Player of the Year is a tough, hard-nosed defender with excellent athleticism and a solid outside shot. He’s no stranger to big games, as Morey called him the “most productive player on the best team in the country.”

  • The Houston Chronicle cited a team source last week saying that the “Rockets likely will receive only a future second-round pick for Lin, not a first-rounder like the got for Asik.”

    That seemed way off at the time and almost looked like the Rockets were fishing for a better deal through the media.

    Consider the market. Since then, the Atlanta Hawks traded Lou Williams, who like Lin has just one year left on his deal. The Hawks had to give up top prospect and 2013 first round pick Lucas Nogueira to Toronto to unload that salary and the Hawks didn’t completely clear the books. They got back John Salmons, who has $1 million guaranteed for the next season.

    Williams will make $5.45 million next season. Lin has a cap hit of $8.4 million and will actually be paid $15 million in salary next season.

    Lin’s marketability makes his situation a little more unique, but if the Rockets are able to trade Lin with no sweeteners for pure cap room and net a second-round pick in the deal, Les Alexander needs to erect a Daryl Morey statue in front of the Toyota Center.

    Toronto (if they lose Lowry), Orlando and Philly seem like possible destinations for Lin.

Posted in Houston Rockets |
June 27, 2014 at 10:31 am

Draft Interviews with Clint Capela, Nick Johnson and Daryl Morey

Despite the fact that “cap room” was the major theme for the Rockets Thursday night, they still grabbed three players in the 2014 NBA Draft, selecting Swiss big man prospect Clint Capela with the 25th pick, Arizona guard Nick Johnson with the 42nd pick and adding the 53rd pick from Minnesota (for cash) to select Alessandro Gentile, a 22-year old scoring guard/forward out of Italy.

We got the chance to talk with Capela, Johnson and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after last night’s draft. Here are the interviews:

Clint Capela Interview

Nick Johnson Interview

Daryl Morey Press Conference

Posted in Houston Rockets, NBA Draft |
June 26, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Rockets get guard help, draft Nick Johnson in second round

Nick Johnson Houston Rockets

The Rockets got some guard help in the draft Thursday night, taking Arizona’s Nick Johnson in the second round (#42 overall).

“It’s a great organization. They’re a playoff team and have a great group of guys,” said Johnson after being taken by the Rockets. “I’m excited. I’m speechless.”

The Rockets place a premium on three-point shooting and defense and Johnson can provide some of both. An undersized two at just 6-foot-3, Johnson played three seasons with the Wildcats, averaging 16.3 points a game as a junior in 2013-14. He is a solid shooter, hitting about 36% from three-point range over his college career, but he knocked down 39.3% from distance in his sophomore season.

He’s a good athlete with explosive leaping ability, testing out with a near-42″ vertical leap at the NBA combine.

He gives tremendous effort defensively, and he expressed his excitement to be able to play with Patrick Beverley.

“The one person I’m going to really latch onto is Beverley,” said Johnson. “I think we have a lot of similarities. I think his grit and grind that he really plays with is something I have in my game. I think I can come in from Day One and be that person that he’s being, the defensive player, the energy guy.

Johnson considers himself a “combo guard,” able to play the one and two, and he’s ready to get going.

“I’m going to come in, listen, work hard and do whatever I can,” said Johnson.

Here are some Nick Johnson highlights:

Posted in Houston Rockets, NBA Draft |
June 26, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Rockets take Clint Capela with pick #25

clint capela Rockets take Clint Capela with pick #25

Cap room is king for the Rockets right now and that continued to be shown on Draft Night as the Rockets went the international route, selecting Swiss power forward prospect Clint Capela with the 25th pick of the NBA Draft Thursday night.

“It was really amazing, like a dream come true,” said Capela on how he reacted when he learned the Rockets drafted him. “It was like, awesome.”

The 6-foot-10 athletic forward averaged 9.4 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 22 minutes a game for Elan Chalon in France’s top pro league in 2013-14.

“We thought he had the highest upside outside of the top few guys in the draft,” said Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who said that Capela’s 7′ 4.5″ wingspan was second only to Anthony Davis (who measured at 7′ 5.5″).

At just 20 years of age, Capela is an excellent athlete and finisher. He’s especially quick on the second and third hop and specializes in rebounding and shotblocking. In transition and on the pick-and-roll, Capela can be very impressive.

He has a lot of work to do, however. He must get stronger and add some bulk, and there have been questions about his work ethic, which you never like to see. But as an athlete and with his length, there is a tremendous amount of potential here. This isn’t an undersized four.

It’s not immediately clear if the Rockets will keep the pick through the free agency period, but there is no financial incentive to move it by itself. Since the Rockets can stash Capela overseas for a year or more, there will not be a cap hit until he does come over.

For his part, Capela expects — or at least hopes — to join the Rockets this coming season.

“I want to come this year and work hard here,” said Capela, who added that the Rockets are aware of that desire.

Morey felt Capela’s development timeline to join the Rockets was “probably a little bit down the road,” but he didn’t think it would take too long.

“He already was, you could easily argue, the best big in the French Pro A League at his age,” said Morey. “His ability to rebound, he’s super athletic — I don’t think it’s too far off where he’s helping the Rockets.”

As for Capela’s assessment of himself, he said he needs to work on his “physicality and mid-range shot” but he compares his game to Oklahoma City defensive menace Serge Ibaka.

“I’m a good rebounder. I can really run the floor. I can play tough. I can do this with regularity,” said Capela.

While Capela may be a year or two away from contributing, the highlights are intriguing. You get a feel for how his length and athletic ability could have a real impact.

The Rockets also drafted Arizona guard Nick Johnson in the second round.

  • Audio: Clint Capela after being drafted by the Houston Rockets

  • Posted in Houston Rockets |
    June 25, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Rockets agree to trade Omer Asik to Pelicans

    Omer Asik Traded

    The Rockets took the first step Wednesday in their quest to create significant offseason cap space by agreeing to trade backup center Omer Asik to the division rival New Orleans Pelicans.

    The Rockets will get a protected 2015 first-round draft pick in return for Asik, as first reported by USA Today reporter Sam Amick.

    The Rockets will receive the pick from the Pelicans if it falls anywhere between picks 4 and 19, a source confirms to ClutchFans.

    Asik averaged 5.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Rockets in 2013-14 in 48 games played, mostly off the bench. As a starter in 2012-13, Asik scored 10.1 points and grabbed 11.7 rebounds per game and was widely considered as one of the best defensive big men in the NBA.

    Trading Asik for a future pick will clear about $8.4 million in cap room for Houston. They will also need to move Jeremy Lin, who has an identical salary, in a similar cap-clearing move in order to become realistic players for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony when free agency opens on July 1.

    Amick reports that a Lin trade is unlikely to happen unless a major free agent commits to Houston.

    “But as I’ve reported, they have deals teed up [for Lin],” Amick wrote.

    The trade is not official and is not expected to be finalized until later. Because New Orleans owes their 2014 first-round pick to Philadelphia, the Pelicans can not trade their pick until after the draft. League rules do not allow teams to trade future first-round picks in consecutive years, so the Pelicans must wait until the 2014 draft passes in order to trade their 2015 pick.

    Amick notes that the deal may not become official until after the July moratorium, because New Orleans may send players with non-guaranteed money in the trade in order to match Asik’s $8.4 million cap charge. At the moment, the Pelicans do not have that much in cap room.

    Posted in Houston Rockets | Tagged |
    June 24, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Patrick Beverley makes his pitch for LeBron James to join the Houston Rockets

    Patrick Beverley and LeBron James

    The circus started on Tuesday as the news came out that LeBron James will opt out of his contract to become a free agent. While we’ve discussed the slim LeBron to Houston possibility for awhile, the speculation will only continue to increase as we head into the NBA Draft this week and free agency period in July.

    While the Rockets can’t make their pitch until then, that didn’t stop point guard Patrick Beverley from putting his thoughts out there Tuesday night. The second-team All-NBA Defensive guard was on Fox Sports Radio with Jay Mohr and was asked what he would say to his former teammate about joining the Rockets.

    “We would definitely love (for) LeBron to come to Houston. That would be phenomenal,” said Beverley, who played with James in Miami in 2010. “If we can make it work, we would definitely love for Carmelo (Anthony) and him to come here. That’s not up to me, but in an ideal situation… in Patrick Beverley’s world, that would be great for the Houston Rockets.”

    Beverley, who admitted he has LeBron’s cell number, called the Rockets one of the “youngest, hottest teams” out there with two superstars and a “superstar in the making” in Chandler Parsons.

    Here was the exchange and you can listen to the audio.

    “Let’s say you’re on the phone with LeBron James. What would your sales pitch be for him to come to Houston? Why should he choose Houston over Chicago, the Lakers, or go back to the Miami Heat? Let’s do it. I’m LeBron. Sell me.”

    Beverley: “You’ve got to understand, ‘Bron, we one of the youngest, hottest teams out there. We’ve got two superstars, and a superstar in the making in Chandler (Parsons). We’re the youngest, hottest team right now. That’s an easy question bro. Come on now. We’ve got one of the best coaches and one of the best, smartest GMs in the league, in my opinion.”

    “Do you think (GM) Daryl Morey will let me play ping pong with him?”

    Beverley: “If you come here, you can play anything you want with him.”

    “Will I be able to travel with all my headbands?”

    Beverley: “(Laughs) Yeah, no problem, bro. Anything you want, bro!”

    “If I play for the Rockets, will I be the first option or is Harden going to be the first option? Who’s the first, second, and third option on offense?”

    Beverley: “There are no options. We’re all about getting stops.”

    “Guess what… I’m going to sign with the Houston Rockets!!”

    Beverley: “Hey, I wish it was that easy man!!”

    Posted in Houston Rockets |
    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 |