Perhaps the most important summer of free agency in the Houston Rockets’ history, here is your guide to everything you need to know about the team’s needs, decisions and targets. The Rockets are in the hunt for Dwight Howard and have a very good shot at signing the franchise-changing center, per USA Today
However, there are other areas that need to be addressed. What exactly do the Rockets need to improve on in free agency and via trade?
Offensively, the Rockets finished last season ranked sixth in offensive efficiency. Scoring exactly 100 points per game, the Rockets offense was one of the most lethal attacks in the entire league. Additionally, they were also extremely good at shooting the three, finishing fifth in three-point percentage.
Considering that Dwight Howard might choose to sign with the Rockets, the team's needs go into two tiers: with Dwight and without Dwight.
Without Dwight, the team clearly needs to find an upgrade at power forward. Chandler Parsons was great at small forward, but with the offensively challenged Omer Asik at center, the team clearly needs a threat in the post.
Next, the team needs to figure out who their starting point guard is. Jeremy Lin played in all 82 games, but reserve Patrick Beverley played extremely well late in the season and in the playoffs. The Rockets could try to find a new home for Lin, but that would probably qualify in the “with Dwight” tier.
Finally, the team needs to address the bench. The Rockets have a ton of youth, but need more production from their reserve unit.
This is the trickiest part of the offseason for the Rockets. Obviously, Dwight Howard is the No. 1 target and would impact much of what the team does in free agency and via trade.
Should Dwight choose to become a Houston Rocket, the team could then look to the Atlanta Hawks as a possible trade partner. According to Sam Amick of the USA Today, the Rockets are interested in acquiring or signing Josh Smith to help lure Howard to Houston.
Smith has long been known to be on the Rockets' radar, but he is not viewed solely as a backup plan to Howard should he decide to sign elsewhere and the possibility remains of another superteam being created with Howard and Smith joining franchise centerpiece James Harden. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the talks.
Adding Smith—regardless of Howard’s decision—would be a nice addition. Smith thrives in an uptempo system, which is exactly what Kevin McHale ran last year with James Harden and company. He can attack off the dribble, finish around the rim as well as anyone in the league and is a solid defender and rebounder.
Smith would slide right into the power forward position, with Harden becoming his pick-and-roll mate and Chandler Parsons as the sniper on the wing.
Shifting the focus away from Dwight for a second, the team also must make decisions to guarantee the contracts of Patrick Beverley, Greg Smith, James Anderson and Tim Ohlbrecht. Beverley and Smith are locks to have their options picked up, leaving decisions on Anderson and Ohlbrecht looming.
As mentioned above, Dwight Howard and Josh Smith are the top two options on the board. It seems likely that Houston lands at least one of them and could land both, pending Dwight’s decision.
Should the Rockets add Dwight, the focus turns to what the team will do with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin.
Asik would likely balk at the possibility of starting next to Dwight, let alone backing him up. Fortunately, Asik was extremely productive last season and is on a very reasonable contract. The Rockets should have no problem finding him a new home if need be.
RT @WindhorstESPN: Rockets center Omer Asik has no interest in backing up or playing next Dwight Howard, sources say. Could force trade— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 5, 2013
Lin is an interesting case, however. He did not play like a starting point guard making $8.37 million each of the next two seasons. Despite that, Atlanta could certainly have interest in acquiring Lin and Asik because they clearly are in rebuilding mode and have no plans to re-sign Josh Smith.
Danny Ferry was searching for a trade partner for Smith back in February, prior to the trade deadline. Smith’s asking price seems far too high for the Hawks, but they certainly would be interested in getting something for Smith instead of letting him sign elsewhere.
Who the team might target should they whiff on Smith and Howard is unknown. They could make a push for Carl Landry, who would provide scoring in the front court. They could also choose to use their cap space to make a trade to acquire another star to play with James Harden.
The team has plenty of interesting pieces to move and could take back another team’s unwanted contract to help negotiate a deal.