5 Stars Houston Rockets Should Pursue after Missing Out on Dwight Howard
In his article describing a song that matches up with each NBA team's offseason, fellow B/R columnist Jesse Dorsey went with Sam Cooke's classic "A Change Gonna Come" for the Houston Rockets, and I can't think of any better way to describe their offseason.
Gone are the likes of Chase Buddinger, Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola, and in their place are Jeremy Lin, Omir Asik, Carlos Delfino and a trio of first-round draft picks: Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones and Royce White.
Depending on how dynamic the rookies can be, it looks like the Rockets have come out on the losing end of things this offseason.
In his desperate pursuit of Dwight Howard, Rockets GM Daryl Morey and the rest of Houston's front office unloaded over half the roster without too much to show for it.
Still, all is not lost for Houston going forward.
Now that the Rockets have failed to get Howard or Andrew Bynum, they will have more cap space to spend on improving the team in other ways.
Morey has shown he will stop at nothing to make a big move, and whether it is a trade this year or the 2013 offseason, here are five players that he could pursue that would put the Rockets right back in the playoff mix.
5. Nikola Pekovic
Nikola Pekovic isn't exactly Dwight Howard, but if the Rockets are looking to upgrade at the center position, they could do a lot worse.
Pekovic averaged a solid 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds last year for the Timberwolves in his second NBA season.
Pekovic will have just one more year on his contract in Minnesota, so if the T-Wolves struggle, he could be on the block at the trading deadline. If they hold on to him, Houston could make their move next offseason for the 26-year-old center.
Omir Asik is a great defensive big man, but provides little to no offensive game. However, a Asik-Pekovic combination would be amongst the best center duo's in the Western Conference, and would provide Kevin McHale with options late in games.
4. Monta Ellis
If the Monta Ellis-Brandon Jennings duo doesn't turn into a playoff contender in Milwaukee next year, Ellis could opt to use his early termination option next offseason and become a free agent.
If he chooses this, the Houston Rockets could very well be a good fit for Ellis.
Kevin Martin will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end, and the Rockets will be looking for a high volume scorer in the backcourt to replace him if he does not resign.
Ellis and Martin both put up high scoring numbers from the two guard position, but Ellis is three years younger and has bigger upside as he has shown during his career in Golden State and now Milwaukee.
His asking price may be high, but if Morey can land a consistent 20-point scorer with All-Star potential to accompany Jeremy Lin, it may very well be worth it.
3. Al Jefferson
One of the most consistently underrated big men in the NBA has to be Al Jefferson of the Utah Jazz.
During his eight-year NBA career, Jefferson has consistently put up great numbers, but due to the fact that he has been on bad teams, he goes largely unnoticed.
Jefferson had another steady season last year, averaging 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds a game while leading the Jazz into the postseason—the first time he had got there in his career.
Jefferson has never been on a contender, and as a free agent next year he may choose to take less money to join a team that's close to winning a title.
However, if he chooses to join an up and coming team, the Rockets could be a great destination.
With Jefferson joining Jeremy Lin and the rest of the Rockets' young players, Houston would have a great nucleus to build around for the next several years.
2. Tyreke Evans
After winning Rookie of the Year in the 2009-2010 season, Tyreke Evans has seen his numbers go steadily down in his last two years in Sacramento while his team continues to underachieve.
Still, Evans has proven to be among the best scoring shooting guards in the league, and at age 22, he still has plenty of time to grow into a perennial All-Star caliber player.
Evans will be a restricted free agent at year's end and will be looking to cash in, so Houston could swoop down and pick him up before the trade deadline and then sign him to an extension.
If Evans joins the Rockets, he could be their cornerstone player for years to come. A change of scenery out of Sacramento could be just what he needs to get his career turned in the right direction, and the Rockets would have a great young piece to entice future free agents to come to Houston.
1. Josh Smith
Although Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum may all be unrestricted free agents next season, it seems likely that all of them will be staying put and signing long-term deals with their current teams (although with Howard, you can never be sure).
Because of that, Josh Smith may very well be the most coveted free-agent product of the 2013 offseason that has a realistic chance of moving teams.
If the Rockets want to make a splash like they were unable to do last season, their best bet is to go hard after Smith.
Smith has proven during his time in Atlanta that he has off-the-charts ability, and if he figures out how to be more consistent he will be an All-NBA candidate for years to come.
Last year, Smith put up career highs in both points and rebounds, and with Joe Johnson gone from Atlanta, his numbers should only increase.
The Rockets will be one of several teams interested in Smith, but if Morey can convince J-Smoove that Houston is the place to be long term, it will change the direction of the Rockets franchise.