Entering the season, the Houston Rockets were widely considered to be a team in the midst of rebuilding. However, several key offseason acquisitions have led the Rockets to 40-33 and seventh in the Western Conference.
The fact that they’re even in playoff contention is improvement enough.
Fortunately, getting rid of some expiring contracts might be just what the team needs to turn the corner completely.
According to Basketball-reference.com, Houston has a cap hit of $56,128,779. That leaves the team $1,915,221 under the current salary cap of $58,044,000.
This season, the Rockets have $22,569,709 tied up in James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik alone. That number increases to $30,418,242 next year, making unloading some contracts this offseason a necessity—especially with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard possibly being available this summer.
Luckily, Houston has several options.
Acquired via a midseason trade with the Sacramento Kings, Garcia is almost guaranteed not to return to the Rockets.
Besides earning $6,100,000 this season, he also has a team option of $6,400,000 for next year. So it comes as no surprise that B/R’s Marshall Zweig included Garcia on his list of contracts NBA teams can’t wait to get rid of.
But if the ridiculous contract was not enough, the 32-year-old’s performance on the court has not been too impressive either.
Through 49 games this season, Garcia is averaging 5.2 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists over 17.2 minutes per game. He’s also shooting just 37.9 percent from the field.
Not to mention, Houston seems to thrive when Garcia is not on the floor.
In 539 minutes with him off the court, the team posts an offensive rating of 109.9 and a defensive rating of 101.2. In 133 minutes with Garcia on the court, the Rockets post an offensive rating of 95.4 and a defensive rating of 99.
Does that sound like a player worth six million dollars to you? Didn't think so.
Sure, he just dropped 15 points in 27 minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 30. But those kinds of performances have been rare at best—Garcia has scored 15 or more points just twice this season.
Throw in his injury-riddled career—he’s already missed 160 games in eight seasons—and Garcia is definitely not worth the risk.
His best days in the league have come and gone.
On March 4, the Rockets announced that they had signed Brooks off waivers. He’s set to make $2,400,000 this season, with a team option of $2,508,000 for next year.
It was a deal that brought back many memories for the Houston faithful.
After being drafted by the team in 2007, he gave the Rockets four solid years. His most notable being the 2008-09 campaign when he averaged 19.6 points, 5.3 assists and 2.6 rebounds over 35.6 minutes per game. Brooks also shot 43.2 percent from the floor and 39.8 percent from three-point range that season.
Unfortunately, since then, the 28-year-old has shown no signs of repeating that performance.
Over his last two seasons—with the Phoenix Suns in 2011 and Sacramento this year—Brooks has averaged less than 10 points per game and around 20 minutes a night. Not the kind of numbers that hint at a rebirth. Thus far, he has appeared in four games with the Rockets, but he has not received enough playing time to make an impact.
Brooks is averaging 0.8 points and one assist over 4.8 minutes per game. He’s also shot 1-of-6 from the field and 1-of-4 from beyond the arc.
It’s still too early to tell if Brooks can get his performance back on track. However, with point guard depth that includes Lin and the far less expensive Patrick Beverley—owed $788,872 next season—keeping Brooks around might not be in Houston’s best interest.
Summing It All Up
With several key players set to become free agents this summer, the Rockets will be looking to make some big moves during the offseason. Cutting ties with some dead weight is the first step.
While James Anderson ($916,099), Greg Smith ($884,293) and Tim Ohlbrecht ($788,872) all also have non-guaranteed contracts for Houston next season, none can equal the salary cap relief that dumping Garcia and Brooks will provide the team.
With a solid core of Harden, Lin, Asik and Chandler Parsons, the Rockets are only a couple role players away from being a perennial contender in the Western Conference for years to come. They’re already making strides, nearing clinching the team’s first postseason appearance since 2009.
Saying goodbye to both Garcia and Brooks is just ensuring the team can say hello to long-time success.
Hey, a lot can happen during the offseason.