Rockets owner Leslie Alexander sounds ready for his team to make yet another summertime splash this offseason.
"We're going to have cap room to bring in a terrific free agent and I think next year we'll be a lot better than we were this year," Alexander said, via Mark Berman of Fox 26 Sports.
The owner didn't view this season as a failure. As he noted, rattling off 54 regular-season victories is "hard" in the "stacked" Western Conference.
The way Houston's season closed, though, apparently left something of a bitter taste in his mouth. The fourth-seeded Rockets were dispatched by the fifth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in their opening-round matchup, a series largely dominated by Portland superstars LaMarcus Aldridge (29.8 points, 11.2 rebounds) and Damian Lillard (25.5 points, 6.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds).
The Rockets showed flashes of greatness throughout the season, which could provide a launching point up the NBA power rankings.
"I think the nucleus is great," Alexander said, per Berman. "I think we have two of the brightest stars in the league. We have players who are going to be much better next year, young guys."
Internal strides are likely to be made for the youngest team in the playoffs, but finding room for external improvements isn't easy. The Rockets already have $59 million on the books for 2014-15, via ShamSports.com, and the financial commitments are even greater given the balloon payments owed to Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.
Still, Houston may have a path to landing an impact player.
New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony plans on opting out of the final year on his contract, a process the Rockets are sure to monitor. League sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports the "Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary" to get in the bidding for Anthony.
At least one Hall of Famer has already signed off on the idea.
"Melo would have a huge impact on Houston,’’ Oscar Robertson said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. “If he goes to Houston, they’re gonna win everything."
Winning everything is the reason Howard migrated to Texas last summer. It's also supposed to be a driving force behind Anthony's decision.
If Houston can't get a horse in the Anthony race, it might still have other options to add help.
While Alexander referenced free agency for finding that next piece, the trade market could be another avenue worth exploring.
Which superstar should the Rockets chase this summer?
"The Rockets have reportedly tried to trade for stars such as Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo," Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders wrote.
There's also the possibility the Rockets will have a splash-free summer. Houston general manager Daryl Morey said a big-ticket transaction seems "unlikely," via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, but added the team "could make it happen" financially if such a player is available to his team.
With a young, developing and supremely talented core, perhaps Houston's best move is to make no move at all. While the Rockets didn't have the postseason success they were chasing, their ceiling still extends deeply into championship conversations.
A superstar addition would certainly raise that ceiling, but it's not a necessary move. That itch may never go away, but leaving it unscratched won't push the Rockets out of contention for the 2014-15 campaign.
Salary information obtained via ShamSports.com.