The Houston Rockets will have to get creative with their free agency plans in 2013.
In search of another star-caliber player to pair alongside James Harden, Houston general manager Daryl Morey doesn’t have too much money to throw around.
With a cap of $58.5 million, the Rockets have a full slate of 15 players currently on the books for next season who will be making a collective $54,851,158. However, seven players have non-guaranteed contracts while Houston has to decide on Francisco Garcia’s $6.4 million team option.
It is likely Garcia has played his last game in a Rockets uniform as Morey aims to bring in a top-tier free agent such as Dwight Howard or Josh Smith. It was reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that Thomas Robinson and his $3.53 million salary is on the trading block in order to free up some cap space for Howard.
Keeping Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley and Greg Smith, while declining the other options will leave Morey with a salary of $41,938,187 before free agency.
With the luxury tax threshold projected to be $71.6 million, that gives Morey the ability to sign that second star-caliber player. Additionally, he’ll need to find quality players at minimal costs to fill the bench.
Adding solid role players at the NBA minimum salary—which varies depending on the experience of the player—is an effective way to put together a winning team.
Then there’s the mid-level exception (MLE), which is designed to allow teams over the cap to spend a specified amount without affecting their luxury tax. If a team has cap room, it can sign a player to a maximum of two years and $2.652 million per year. Teams over the cap can sign a player for four years with a maximum of $5.15 million per year.
If Morey makes a high-profile signing, he could very well be over the cap without addressing all of the Rockets' needs.
The following cost-effective options are MLE or veteran-minimum contracts for free agents that Morey should consider.