Chris Paul is one of three big-name free agents that have been connected to the Houston Rockets recently.
Rockets general manger Daryl Morey will be forced to explore all avenues, and he'll have to get creative with his roster if his Rockets are to realize some of the rumors being tossed about. But Morey is no stranger to making deals and freeing up cap space.
It's easy to get caught up in all the speculation if enough care isn't given to each individual rumor. Sometimes they seem to blend together when each is not given its own due diligence. Through doing just this, it's much easier to decipher which rumors make sense and which sound like baloney.
Free agency will surely pick up a ton when the NBA Finals concludes Thursday night, but the Rockets have been involved in enough rumors to even confuse the most diligent of basketball fans.
By determining which rumors sound true and which ones sound false, every NBA fan can easily follow all the happenings in Houston.
*Note: When considering the following rumors, know that I deemed each as "buy" or "sell" based on the likeliness of each happening.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported back on May 30 that the Rockets were preparing to find a trade partner for power forward Thomas Robinson in an effort to free up the cap space necessary to sign Dwight Howard.
Such a move would be interesting because, as an isolated move, it would see both Howard and Omer Asik on the roster. Neither is really suited to play power forward, but one would assume Asik would be the one playing the 4 given his ability to hit mid-range jumpers.
Robinson was never given much of a chance in Houston. He played only 13.0 minutes per game in 19 contests with the Rockets during the second half. He has all the potential in the world to grow into a solid player, but Howard is young and has obviously already developed. Essentially substituting one for the other would make sense from a talent standpoint.
I don't know if I'm sold on the rumor, though. There are other ways to make room for Howard without trading a talented young prospect, and having both Howard and Asik on the floor at the same time would seriously hinder the running ability of the Rockets.
While the rumors isn't necessarily ludicrous, I think the Rockets will explore other ways to bring Howard to Houston.
Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com report that the Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers could potentially explore a sign-and-trade that would send Dwight Howard to Houston and Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to the Lakers.
The money Houston saves on Lin and Asik would cover nearly all of Howard's salary, while the remaining cap space that was initially intended for Howard could be used for another high-profile free agent (one that we'll be getting to later on).
Even though doing this type of move represents a bit of a risk—there's no guarantee that the team will be able to actually sign another big-name free agent—it seems as if both teams are willing to negotiate and work out a deal.
Much to the chagrin of some NBA fans (myself included), it seems as if Howard is destined to join the Rockets. Nothing is ever for certain until the ink dries, but the Rockets have all the flexibility necessary to add the star center.
A move like this makes much more sense for the Rockets than the one including Thomas Robinson. If the Rockets are serious about making a splash in free agency, then they'll need to free up as much cap room as possible.
Peter Vecsey of the New York Post tweeted that power forward Josh Smith is a "Plan B" for the Rockets if they are unable to sign Dwight Howard.
While I buy the report that Smith isn't the team's No. 1 option, I'm not so sure if I buy the notion that the team is actually considering acquiring his services—at least at this point in the offseason. Smith could emerge in rumors again later in the offseason, but only if the Rockets fail to sign Howard.
Given the multitude of rumors surrounding D12, it's obvious that the Rockets are focusing all of their attention in his direction. It's smart to keep another option on the backburner, but all hands are currently on deck to bring Howard to Houston.
Smith represents a nice fit in Houston, as his length and athleticism would bode well in an offensive attack that focuses on fast-break scores and pushing the ball upcourt quickly. Defensively, he'd help shore up one of the more frustrating defensive units in the NBA.
Regardless, Houston is tantalized by the idea of acquiring Howard and is currently focusing all its efforts on doing so.
Verdict: Sell (for now)
Paul represents an immediate upgrade over Jeremy Lin at point guard, but acquiring Paul without a plan in mind for Lin wouldn't be the best course of action for the team. Lin would likely be dealt to a team looking for a starting point guard, as his minutes would take a huge hit were he to play behind both Paul and James Harden at the guard positions.
I'm buying Paul as a target for the Rockets, but I'm most certainly selling him as the "only" target. A corresponding move that results in over $8 million of financial flexibility (trading Lin) would give Houston far too many options to be content with only acquiring Paul.
If things fall through with Dwight Howard or Josh Smith, that's a different story. But with all indications that Howard and Houston seem like a match, I don't foresee Paul being the only big name coming to Houston this offseason.
Verdict: Buy (the interest), Sell (that he may be the only big name courted)
ESPN's Chris Broussard reports (via FOXSports.com) that Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are talking about potentially teaming up during the offseason to sign with a team, thus creating a perennial powerhouse.
Such a scenario has Houston's name written all over it.
After finishing the sign-and-trade with the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Howard (see Slide 3), Houston could feasibly use the money saved to sign Paul—who, if he really wants to play with Howard, should be willing to take a small pay cut if need be.
A "Big Three" of James Harden, Paul and Howard would be dynamic, though the chemistry between the three will certainly undergo its fair share of growing pains. All three command the basketball, but Paul would likely be given a majority of the ball-handling duties, given his status as an elite point guard.
Harden could benefit from having that type of presence alongside of him, though he didn't do too bad last season playing iso-ball.
Daryl Morey seems geared to make a splash (or two) this offseason. Howard and Paul are his primary targets, and there's plenty of reason to buy that this rumor could in fact come true.