Francisco Garcia has proven himself quite useful to the Houston Rockets, so it will be interesting to see if general manager Daryl Morey chooses to pick up his team option for the 2013-14 season. The option is valued at $6.4 million, so the Rockets will have to decide whether or not he's worth the relatively high salary.
Houston does have the cap space. The Rockets been linked as a possible landing spot for Dwight Howard, so it's obvious that they have plenty of cap room. Of course, the team could allow him to hit free agency and then re-negotiate a contract of lesser value. Even with his strong play, Garcia likely isn't worth that type of money.
His postseason numbers have far exceeded what was expected of him. He's dropping 10.6 points per game and shooting a robust 45.2 percent from three. His value beyond the arc has turned him into a go-to guy off the bench for McHale. Garcia has even started two games this round because of his strong play.
In his time with the Rockets this season, Garcia averaged 6.4 points per game and a 38.6 percent mark from deep. Those numbers were nice considering his role on the team, but he has most definitely responded to an increase in playing time this postseason.
On a young team without much experience and veteran leadership, Garcia plays more than just an on-court role. He's an eight-year NBA veteran and has played in the postseason before (2005-06 with the Sacramento Kings).
As the team looks to improve over the offseason and put more pieces in place around Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and James Harden, having veteran role players like Garcia is key. There are other options out there, though, so expect Morey to take a look at them as well.
There are two free agent small forwards on the market who could fill the exact same role as Garcia has since he was acquired by the Rockets. Mike Dunleavy of the Milwaukee Bucks and Dorell Wright of the Philadelphia 76ers are both scheduled to become free agents this offseason, and the Rockets could conceivably give each of them a look.
Dunleavy has been in the league for 11 years. He shot a career-high 42.8 percent from three this season and has shown no signs of slowing down as he continues to age into his 30s. Dunleavy made $3.75 million with the Bucks this season. This would likely be the amount that Houston would be willing to spend to fill this role.
Dunleavy could seek a pay raise, however, because of his strong shooting this season. He could reasonably ask for $5 million, and there would be teams willing to pay that. I just don't think the Rockets would.
Wright is another player worth taking a look at. He has started 207 games during his nine-year career, though he likely wouldn't be asked to start in Houston (barring any injuries, of course). This type of experience makes him a potentially valuable piece on the bench.
In Philadelphia this season, Wright shot 37.4 percent from deep and scored 9.2 points in 22.6 minutes per game. Wright made just over $4 million this season, so a deal in that range would probably interest Houston. Because he's no longer a starter for many teams, his salary shouldn't increase next season.
Wright does excel on defense, a particular area of need for Houston. He totaled 2.1 defensive win shares last season, which is an estimate of the number of wins a player contributed because of his defense. In comparison, Garcia posted just a 0.3 in this category.
If Garcia asks the Rockets for a salary around the $6 million he's scheduled to make, then the Rockets should balk at the request. There are a couple of other options available that can fill similar areas of need.
That being said, Garcia should be a front-runner for the role if he drops his price down into the $4 million range. That number is an accurate value for a player of Garcia's caliber.
Which reserve small forward is the best fit in Houston?
Personally, I would like to see the Rockets go get Wright. The defense he provides would be a huge improvement over Garcia's, and his offensive output is pretty much on par with that of the current Rocket's. If their asking prices are the same, then there's no reason as to why Morey should bypass Wright.
Should Garcia continue his strong playoffs and help the Rockets unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder (however unlikely), then he'll probably be back in 2013-14. Garcia has played very well, and that will be recognized.
Even still, Wright may be the better option given his defensive skills. The Rockets' offseason has yet to start, though, so these problems won't need to be addressed until the NBA Finals are over.