Who won't be returning to Houston come next season?
The Houston Rockets have a young core, a playoff berth and an undoubtedly bright future ahead of them. They also have a lot of unguaranteed contracts, and that means the Rockets' front office has to decide which personnel won’t be coming back in preparation for a free-agency list that includes the likes of Chris Paul and Dwight Howard.
The Rockets have trimmed a lot of fat as of late—Shaun Livingston and Daequan Cook, amongst others, have already been cut—but there’s a lot more to be done.
As of next year, the contract of the recently acquired Francisco Garcia will be a team option, and considering much of his current playing time is due to an injury to Chandler Parsons, don’t expect him to return. If you consider his output, he's basically a more expensive, less productive Carlos Delfino for nearly twice the price tag. Considering his age, it’s unlikely the Rockets will pick up that option on his contract.
Speaking of Delfino, he’s another piece who will likely not return. He’s an extremely streaky shooter, and he struggles tremendously with creating his own shot. The Rockets could really use a true sixth man off the bench who could be a dynamic catalyst. A combo-guard like Jarrett Jack (who will be a free agent in the offseason) would be a great fit for Houston, and he would be a big-time upgrade over Garcia and Delfino.
While the acquisition of Jarrett Jack is totally hypothetical, it’s worth mentioning he’s making less money than Francisco Garcia and just a bit more than Delfino despite much greater output.
Despite the non-guaranteed money, Chandler Parsons is a virtual lock as far as returning, but the same can’t be said for James Anderson. Anderson is a young 2-guard, but he doesn’t fit within the long-term plans for Houston. Behind James Harden and a proven veteran option, Anderson would be the odd man out; his contract would essentially be dead weight. He’s definitely someone the Rockets won’t be bringing back.
Patrick Beverley is another young piece with unguaranteed money, but he’s been a nice option to play alongside Jeremy Lin. Aaron Brooks is young gunner-type point guard, but unlike Beverley, he’s looking to make around $2 million. He’s definitely replaceable within the Rockets’ system, and his cap space is worth more than he is as a player for that much money. The Rockets would love to see his contract gone.
Yet another unguaranteed member of the Rockets roster is big man Greg Smith. Smith’s contract, if picked up, would be worth about $900,000. Considering they’ve already taken on Thomas Robinson’s contract in a trade with the Sacramento Kings, the Rockets are better served developing Robinson and cutting Smith loose. Their frontcourt is already a bit cluttered with Donatas Motiejunas also getting minutes, and considering both have similar production, it’s a safe bet he won’t be coming back.
Another unguaranteed contract the Rockets have is quite the project—Tim Ohlbrecht is a young, raw prospect from Germany, but there’s no question the Rockets would rather burn his nearly $800,000 of contract money than keep him on board.
Aside from unguaranteed contracts, another player on the Rockets roster won't be moving just as easily.
Arguably the most polarizing piece of this Houston team, mercurial forward Royce White, has grabbed headlines for all of the wrong reasons. His behavior and standing with the team is completely unpredictable, and considering the unbelievable headache he’s been, the Rockets might seek to trade him elsewhere—assuming someone will risk taking him.
There's no way the Rockets will deal with him for another season, so you can expect Royce to be gone if a mutual agreement isn't written in stone come summer. He possesses so much talent, but he's not being cooperative.
If the Rockets make the necessary adjustments to their roster, they'll not only a better product on the floor, but they'll be much more financially flexible. With the core that they have right now, they're just done more big piece away from legitimate title contention, and this upcoming offsesaon could very well provide that piece.