The Houston Rockets are a borderline playoff team, but with their rebuilding process in full swing, there's still room to improve through free agency.
This team has endured a full facelift since the 2012 offseason. Acquiring draft picks, trading for James Harden and signing Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik have been the highlights, but there are still moves to be made.
With the end of the season looming, it's important to focus on the basketball side of roster changes—not the financial side. There are players expected to be on the market who will command more money than others, but if we've learned anything about general manager Daryl Morey, it's that he can make any move at least a possibility.
The Rockets are on the verge of becoming a dangerous team out West, and the right moves over the summer could push them to the next level.
Paul Millsap's future with the Utah Jazz is up in the air to say the least. The big man was the subject of trade rumors at the deadline, but his staying with the team indicates he'll have a busy summer ahead.
If the Houston Rockets need to upgrade one spot in their starting lineup, it's the power forward position. Donatas Motiejunas has had some good showings since the team traded away Patrick Patterson, and Thomas Robinson has potential despite an inconsistent rookie season.
Millsap, however, would be a clear improvement in 2013.
The Rockets have been a good rebounding group this year, and adding Millsap to the lineup would only boost that category. Asik and Millsap would have the potential to become an elite rebounding tandem, swallowing up boards game after game.
Millsap's teammate Al Jefferson is another player who will be on the market come free agency. He'd be an excellent fit for this team as well, but you'd have to shell out more money and find minutes for him and Asik.
Jefferson's natural position is power forward, so the bigger issue becomes how much this team is willing to spend.
If the Houston Rockets are looking for an option at the 4-spot that is cheaper than Paul Millsap, Carl Landry has to be their guy.
The 6'9", 248-pound big man has had a good year for the Golden State Warriors. He's averaging just 1.3 fewer rebounds than Millsap, and while he won't add much to the defensive side of the floor, his mid-range jumper will help an already impressive offense.
At 29 years old, Landry could be used as a placeholder if the Rockets believe they can turn Thomas Robinson or Donatas Motiejunas into a starter. The two youngsters have talent, and while neither are ready to start, both could learn a lot over the next few years.
If the team builds a strong enough relationship with Landry, already a former Rocket, he could become a long-term bench option behind whichever player emerges as a starter.
It's important to note that this team has already traded Landry away once before. However, that deal, which brought back Kevin Martin from the Sacramento Kings, was more about finally ridding themselves of Tracy McGrady.
The hotter the Denver Nuggets get, the less likely it appears Andre Iguodala will truly test the market.
That being said, the Houston Rockets could use his services, and as we've seen too many times to count, money and a high-scoring offense certainly talk.
Iguodala has struggled throughout the years establishing himself as a No. 1 option, but alongside James Harden, he wouldn't have to worry. He's capable of playing both the small forward and shooting guard positions, and with both players playing in an uptempo system, you'd have one of the more dangerous fast-break combos in the league.
Defensively, Iguodala is often underrated. He's physical, he's quick and as a small forward, he holds his opponents to an impressive 11.1 PER per 48 minutes (according to 82games.com).
The big question here is, what becomes of Chandler Parsons? The second-year player is a solid defender, but he doesn't have the strength and awareness of Iguodala. Moving him to the four would help spread the floor immensely, and it's not outside the realm of possibility with his impressive size and athleticism.
Iguodala would be one of the best two-way options for this Houston team; it's just a matter of convincing him that there's a better thing waiting for him away from the Mile High City.
J.J. Hickson is having a career year with the Portland Trail Blazers, but with the organization in rebuilding mode, it's reasonable to assume the big man will be elsewhere for the 2013-14 season.
Hickson is fifth in the league in double-doubles despite playing fewer than 30 minutes per game. He's been at the center spot all year, but his energy and scrappy play make up for his undersized 6'9", 242-pound frame.
The 24-year-old's natural position is at the 4-spot, and his style of play caters to an uptempo system. The only problem is that he's playing himself into a new contract, and he's going to command big money in a power forward's market.
If Houston believes that his showing in Portland is more than just a fluke, he'd be an excellent young piece with whom the Rockets can move forward. His game doesn't require a lot of shots, and he can be the one who creates extra opportunities for his teammates by hitting the offensive boards.
If the Houston Rockets are interested in adding a center who won't drastically shake up the rotation, Samuel Dalembert could be their guy.
The team has used Greg Smith to back up Omer Asik much of the season, and while the 22-year-old Smith has shown potential, he's not the defensive presence that Dalembert is.
In just 16.4 minutes per game with the Milwaukee Bucks, the 6'11" Dalembert is averaging 6.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. He would be a great addition to this organization—something that he already proved when he played 65 games with the team during 2011-12.
Bringing back the former Rocket center wouldn't be the flashiest move of the summer, but it would be one that gives Houston another low-post presence when Asik goes to the bench.
The Houston Rockets don't need to hone in on the shooting guard spot—for obvious reasons—but with Fransisco Garcia potentially leaving in free agency, Xavier Henry would be a good player for the team to target.
The 2013 free-agent class isn't going to be known for its defensive-minded guards. That being said, it's an area this team has to address, and Henry would be a big step in the right direction.
Currently on a bad New Orleans Hornets team, Henry would likely jump at the chance to play for a young team with playoff aspirations. Any incoming 2-guard would have to accept a role behind James Harden, but if the 22-year-old decides do to it, he'd be adding perimeter defense and solid athleticism.
Henry is a good athlete who can get up and down the floor. He wouldn't be an integral part of any offensive attack, as his jumper needs improvement, but he could add just a little bit of toughness outside if motivated by a switch in scenery.
Call it a pipe dream, but if Dwight Howard makes himself available on the free-agent market, the Houston Rockets need to do whatever it takes to get their hands on him.
GM Daryl Morey made it quite clear that he was interested in Howard during the 2012 offseason. He compiled numerous draft picks in an attempt to woo the Orlando Magic management, but his efforts fell short, leaving him lots of money and lots of prospects heading toward the future.
Howard's back has certainly been a concern during the 2012-13 campaign, but we've watched him slowly improve his athleticism and remain the best rebounder in the entire NBA.
Despite his previous lack of interest toward Houston, Howard's thoughts toward the franchise may be changing. ESPN's Chris Broussard reported back in February that the big man considered the Rockets "a more attractive destination since acquiring Harden."
Broussard also reported that Houston would look at Andrew Bynum if Howard is unavailable.
Josh Smith was considered the hottest trade target at the 2013 deadline. The Atlanta Hawks opted to keep him on board until the end of the season, but the chances of him remaining with the team long-term remains in question.
At the deadline, ESPN's Marc Stein made it clear that the Houston Rockets weren't likely to trade for Smith midseason, but rather they'd be more inclined to go after him in free agency.
That time has almost arrived, and GM Daryl Morey could shake up the NBA with his second huge acquisition in less than 12 months (James Harden being the other).
According to Stein, Houston has been fans of Smith for a long time, and rightfully so. He's one of the most dynamic players in the game today, and while his jump shot has always been inconsistent, his athleticism has never been in question.
Now that the Rockets have become an uptempo team that desperately needs defense, there's no better time to go after Smith. He'd be the perfect addition to the roster, and he'd be the piece that bumps them up to the next level in the Western Conference.