Do Houston Rockets Even Have Enough Cap Space to Sign Dwight Howard?

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJuly 5, 2013

November 18, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) and Houston Rockets center Omer Asik (3) look for a rebound in the second half of the game at the Staples Center. Lakers won 119-108. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The phrase "calm before the storm" doesn't apply to the Houston Rockets, who don't have enough money to sign Dwight Howard to a max deal if he decides that Houston is his location of choice. 

According to NBC Sports' Dan Feldman, Houston general manager Daryl Morey hasn't waived enough of his players to clear up space for the league's premier big man—one who's spending this summer blowing up Twitter while functioning as the most glamorous and indecisive free agent. 

Based on the collective bargaining agreement's provision that max contracts can rise up to 105 percent of the previous year's numerical value, Howard is set to make $20,513,178. Not even the Los Angeles Lakers could give him more money for the 2013-14 season, as their financial advantage stems from the ability to give him a fifth year on the max deal. 

Houston could take a number of routes if Howard chooses to become a Rocket, but none of them are particularly pleasant. 

The team could waive Tim Ohlbrecht, James Anderson, Greg Smith and Patrick Beverley before using the stretch provision on Royce White. For those unfamiliar with the stretch provision, it means that the Rockets would pay his guaranteed salary in smaller chunks spread over a longer period of time, thereby freeing up some cap space in the present. 

However, this is problematic because Smith and Beverley both have value to the team, which they proved throughout the 2012-13 season and the ensuing playoff series with the Oklahoma City Thunder

Here's another option, courtesy of Feldman

Houston could trade any two-man combination of Smith, Beverley, White, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas except Beverly-Smith and Beverly-Motiejunas for future draft picks or unsigned second rounders, and that would clear enough room to give Howard a max contract.

Finally, the Rockets could trade either Jeremy Lin or Omer Asik to open up enough cap space, but only if they do so without receiving salary hits in return. This is probably the best option, seeing as Asik's value would be diminished anyway with D12 on the roster. 

Regardless, the pursuit of Howard isn't simple for Houston.

Even if the big man decides to join the Rockets, Morey still has to get creative with the roster to make it work. Of course, the star-chasing general manager has surely considered all of these options already, so it's not exactly groundbreaking for this "breaking news" to come out on the supposed day of Howard's decision.