In the second (and final) part of our look at potential free agent targets for the Houston Rockets, let’s explore some potential star players that the Rockets may look to add to their roster this summer.
It’s no secret that general manager Daryl Morey always swings for the fences when it comes to bringing star players to Houston, and this summer should be no different.
The Rockets are coming off a relatively successful season in which they won 55 games, made the second round of the playoffs, and reshaped narratives surrounding their star player and head coach.
Therefore, combining all of those factors together, it’s easy to see why the Rockets will go after some of the star free agents available this free agency.
This offseason, the Rockets can have around $11 million in cap space. As stands, that isn’t really enough money to sign a starting caliber player or even an above average bench player.
With the increase in the salary cap last offseason, even average players are commanding upwards of $12 million per year. However, it may not be that difficult for Houston to clear enough cap space to go after a star player.
In fact, the Rockets could very easily clear upwards of $20 million in cap space with a trade or two. There are three players that come to mind when thinking about trades the Rockets could look to make: Trevor Ariza, Lou Williams, and Ryan Anderson.
Moving Anderson is most likely the plan the Rockets take if they feel they have a real chance to add a star player to their roster. Anderson would be the toughest of the three to move because of the $19-plus million he is due next season and the limited production you get from him (especially defensively where he can be a big liability). However, there will surely be several bottom-dwellers that would be willing to take on his contract in exchange of his shooting and offensive production.
If the Rockets decide to go that route and there is a trade partner willing to take on Anderson’s contract, that could clear up nearly $30 million in cap space (if they renouncing all cap holds & exceptions). That is almost enough to go after a star player.
Turning to Ariza and Williams, it wouldn’t be hard for Houston to trade either away since both are still productive players on cheap contracts (Ariza is set to make $7.4 million and Williams will make $7 million next season).
Ariza is more valuable to the Rockets since he is one of the few above average perimeter defenders on the team. With Eric Gordon also on the roster, Lou Williams is more expendable than Ariza.
If the Rockets decide to trade one of Ariza or Williams (without trading Anderson), they could clear around $18 million in cap space, which would be enough to sign a significant role player/potential starter.
Of course, any potential trades the Rockets make depend on which players they are planning to target.
With the news coming out this week that Chris Paul will meet with the Rockets, he could be a possible target for Houston. There are undoubtedly questions of fit between Paul and James Harden, but as Daryl Morey revealed to Zach Lowe this past week, “If Golden State makes the odds longer, we might up our risk profile and get even more aggressive. We have something up our sleeve.”
The Rockets (and specifically Morey) are prepared to take risks, especially as the Warriors continue to extend the odds. Taking risks means going after star players in free agency. Taking risks means pairing two star players that don’t seem to fit on paper. The Rockets are in a position to take such risks this Summer, and should do so by going after interested star players.
Besides Paul, other star free agents the Rockets should look to sign include Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, and Serge Ibaka (though most don’t consider him a star).
All of the players would require the Rockets to do some roster shuffling, but they would provide Houston with a second star, and each player would bring something new to the table.
Griffin would make the offense more dynamic, with his ability to play in post and direct an offense with his playmaking. For his career Griffin has averaged over 4 assists per game, and is slowly beginning to add a three-point shot to his arsenal.
Hayward would be a perfect fit in Houston, as he is a good shooter, play-maker, and defender. Hayward could lessen the offensive burden on Harden, while still providing the Rockets with contributions on the defensive end of the floor.
Millsap would be an interesting addition in Houston. Millsap is set to turn 33 during the middle of next season, and it would be a concern to sign him to a four year max contract. However, Millsap is coming off another All-Star season and would provide the Rockets with a much needed defensive presence.
Finally, Ibaka would be the cheapest option of the four, but also the least desired target. Ibaka’s defensive ability has fallen off in recent years as he has worked to diversify his offensive game. Ibaka is a capable three point shooter (39.1 percent on 4 attempts per game last season), but wouldn’t be the defensive upgrade that Millsap would be.
In the end, it remains to be seen just how interested the above free agents would be in joining the Rockets. However, one thing is sure: that won’t stop Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets for taking risks and swinging for the fences in hopes of adding another star player to their roster.