5 Moves Houston Rockets Must Make Between Now and Start of Next Season
The Houston Rockets are in good shape for right now, but they should always be looking ahead to what's next.
This season is just the first of hopefully many successful ones in Houston's near future. However, maintaining a spot in the league's top tier requires several moves both on and off the court.
General manager Daryl Morey has his work cut out for him to keep this team in good standing. He has to keep his core players on this roster in place, as well as happy. He also needs to revamp his bench and improve the Rockets' depth if they want to consistently play deep into the postseason.
Here are five important things Morey and the Rockets must accomplish by the start of the 2014-15 season.
All stats are from ESPN.com and are accurate as of Feb. 25. All stats concerning salary are from HoopsHype.com.
5. Shed Some Salary
Morey will always try to keep improving the roster, whether it's by addition or subtraction. He can always add another player, or he can try to clear some space and stockpile assets for a potential trade in the future.
The Rockets have a handful of players, mostly off the bench, who make more money than they should. Morey has several different routes he could take to shed some salary and help the team's cap space.
Obviously, the most sensible option would be to get rid of either Jeremy Lin or Omer Asik. They are owed over $20 million each the next two seasons. However, getting rid of them may not be so easy, because both of their contracts are backloaded next season due to the poison pill.
Houston has plenty of expiring contracts this season that they do not have to re-sign. Morey could also waive Francisco Garcia and/or Donatas Motiejunas to save a few million bucks.
There are several options for Morey to choose from, and he should try to do whatever he can to set up a potential blockbuster trade in order to acquire a third star.
4. Revamp the Bench
Houston has plenty of aforementioned expiring contracts that they can take advantage of, if Morey chooses to do so. They can let bench players such as Omri Casspi, Greg Smith or Jordan Hamilton walk if they are not a part of the Rockets' future plans.
Garcia has a player option to come back next season, but he and others have been underperforming all season long.
The Rockets' lack of depth has been an ongoing issue, especially with all of the injuries near the beginning of the season. Many of their role players have been terribly inconsistent. Guys like Garcia, Casspi, Lin and other key second-stringers have not played well enough on a nightly basis.
There will be some decent, cheap options in free agency that could fit into the Rockets' run-and-gun style as long as they can hit the three. Houston could also choose to let their young players get an increase in minutes. Troy Daniels, Robert Covington and Isaiah Canaan were all D-League All-Stars this season.
The bench needs to improve if the Rockets want to stay dominant for a long time.
3. Pick Up Team Option on Patrick Beverley
Pat Beverley earned himself the starting role at point guard at the beginning of the season. He is not a ball-dominant guard, which means he fits in nicely alongside Harden in Houston's starting backcourt.
Bev is averaging 9.7 points and 2.8 assists this year, as well as 4.0 rebounds. His 34.7 three-point percentage is decent, but could be better. He doesn't always stuff the stat sheet, but he has the intangibles that every team needs to make a championship run.
Self-acclaimed "Mr. 94 Feet," Beverley hustles on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense. He has shut down talented opposing guards all season long, including Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Mike Conley and more. He is a pesky defender who doesn't give up any space.
Beverley has also proven he can come up big down the stretch. Recently on the road against the Phoenix Suns, he scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead three with under a minute left to lift the Rockets to a win.
At the end of games, Beverley's hustle has helped the Rockets out of a jam time and time again, whether it's grabbing an offensive rebound or taking a charge down low.
The Rockets have a team option on Beverley at the end of the season. They can pick it up and still pay him less than $1 million next season. For Morey, that should be a no-brainer.
2. Win a Playoff Series, at Least
This isn't technically a management move, but I felt the need to include it.
The Houston Rockets must win at least one playoff series this postseason. Seriously.
The Rockets are trying to prove to the league that they are contenders. They have reached as high as the No. 3 seed in the West, and they could continue to climb up the ranks. However, none of that matters if you don't have playoff success.
A loss in the first round, even if it were in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup in the West, would be an utter disappointment. This team has too much talent and star power to not advance at least once in the postseason, assuming they stay relatively healthy. With just Dwight and Harden alone, Houston should be able to make some serious noise come April and May, possibly even June.
In the West, there aren't any easy matchups come playoff time. But the Rockets are strong enough to beat anyone in the conference in a seven-game series, except for maybe the OKC Thunder if they figure things out with Westbrook coming back.
We'll have a better idea down the road what the seeding will look like, and then we can figure out how favorable the matchups will be.
1. Pay Chandler Parsons
The most important move of the offseason will be to make a decision on Chandler Parsons. The Rockets have a team option on his contract next year and could pay him under $1 million for his fourth season.
However, if Morey decides to pick up the team option, that would be a metaphorical slap in the face to Parsons. Furthermore, Parsons would become an unrestricted free agent in 2015 and could sign with any team he wants.
If Houston decides to decline the team option, Parsons would become a restricted free agent, and the Rockets could sign him to a much more deserving contract and extend his stay in Houston.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Parsons is a crucial piece of the Rockets' puzzle. He is the "glue guy" the team needs to win games. His three-point shooting and athleticism make him a nightmare for opposing defenses in the run-and-gun system, and he also is an adequate perimeter defender.
There is no doubt Houston must keep Parsons a Rocket. The only question that remains is, for what price?
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