Houston Rockets: 5 Players Who Won't Be Around in 2013
The Houston Rockets are primed to take that long-elusive next step in their quest to become a Western Conference contender.
After suffering the fallout of the failed Tracy McGrady-Yao Ming superstar experiment, Houston has taken a smart—it not cautious—approach to rebuilding their lineup without sinking to the bottom of the standings.
General manager Daryl Morey will walk into the 2012 offseason with considerable flexibility. He could either clean house a bit and recruit from a pretty decent free-agent class, or he could work the trade phones and upgrade a young-but-talented roster.
Either way, there's a good chance this team won't look the same a year from now. Here are five guys you might want to see in a Rockets uniform while you still can.
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If Marcus Camby is willing to return to Houston on a deal that doesn't eat up too much cap space, then he may very well stick around for a couple more years. The veteran center still has plenty of game left in him—in his last five outings with the Rockets, he's averaging seven points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 1.4 steals.
That's not bad for a 38-year-old, and there's nothing stopping this guy from playing past age 40. With Samuel Dalembert as the Rockets' only other experienced center, Camby could remain a nice fit in Houston.
Nevertheless, there are a couple of things working against a reunion.
First, Houston could be sitting pretty with cap space this offseason if they plan accordingly, and it might not want Camby eating into that space and potentially hampering the acquisition of an elite free agent. Camby might be worth the smaller price tag in a vacuum, but all of that changes if the possibility of a major signing is on the horizon.
Second, the Rockets may be interested in going a different direction with its center position. The organization flirted with trading for Chris Kaman this season (soon to be a free agent), and it's not inconceivable that Houston will try to create the cap space to make a run at Kaman or someone like Roy Hibbert.
The Rockets could do worse than standing pat. Camby's rebounding and defensive ability nicely complement Luis Scola and his preference for the high post. It also doesn't hurt to hold on to a veteran presence to mentor an otherwise youthful squad.
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There's no question that the emergence of Courtney Lee has made Kevin Martin somewhat expendable. Over his last 10 games, Lee has averaged 14.8 points and has almost certainly been a defensive upgrade over Martin.
Martin's deal comes off the books after the 2012-2013 season, in which he'll make nearly $13 million. His expiring deal could be attractive to teams looking for short-term scoring help, and if he could net the Rockets some promising youth or assets that could be spun off in another package, Houston could very well opt to end the Martin era.
Martin has already endured his share of trade rumors, and there's not much reason to delay Courtney Lee's development any longer—he's ready to play and assume a prominent role alongside Kyle Lowry.
Nevertheless, the Rockets certainly don't lose anything by holding on to him. The team can still create cap space in 2012 even while holding on to Martin, and his perimeter scoring remains a valuable asset on a team that isn't exactly crowded with options.
The Rockets were smart to take a small gamble on Samuel Dalembert in the offseason. Sure, he cost the franchise an even $7 million this season, but Houston will have a team option to buy his contract out for just $1.5 million prior to the 2012-2013 campaign. That frees the Rockets up to either save some money for free-agent pursuits or otherwise trade Dalembert's attractive deal in the offseason.
Dalembert's status may also depend on whether Houston can acquire someone like Chris Kaman and, of course, what it ends up doing with Marcus Camby.
Ultimately, it's unlikely the Rockets will depart with both Camby and Dalembert, but it's just as hard to imagine Daryl Morey returning both centers. If Camby accepted a reasonable salary for next season, Dalembert may become the more overpriced of the two and, accordingly, the most likely to be moved or cut loose.
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Gordan Dragic has done wonders for his market value while filling in for the sidelined Kyle Lowry—so much so, that Houston may have difficulty holding on to the young point guard.
After all, this is the organization that traded Aaron Brooks when he was set to become a very expensive backup point guard. With the option of acquiring a serviceable rookie in the draft to spell Lowry, the big money may be better spent elsewhere.
Letting Dragic go might not be such an easy decision—he has averaged 18.3 points, 8.7 assists and 2.2 steals over his last 10 games. If Houston moves Kevin Martin and views Dragic as a sixth man who can also play some time at the 2 behind Courtney Lee, then it's not unreasonable to retain Dragic while Lowry gets the lion's share of minutes at the point.
Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris
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The Houston Rockets are deep with young forwards, especially with the emergence of rookie Chandler Parsons.
That will give Houston the flexibility to include one of either Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris in trades aimed at acquiring a starting center or giving Chase Budinger some help on the wing.
Of the two power forwards, Patterson is the more experienced and has shown continued improvement in his second year despite a significant drop in his field-goal percentage. Morris, however, may have more upside going forward, and it's still far too soon to put a ceiling on his development.
If either is moved, expect Patterson to have the greater trade value thanks to his proven track record. He could be a nice throw-in in a package built around Kevin Martin, and Houston is certainly close enough to contending that it should consider parting with some of its young talent if it means adding the right piece.