Initial Post-Draft Depth Chart for Houston Rockets
The dominoes have begun to fall. What promises to be a hugely significant offseason for the Houston Rockets has started with their selections in the NBA draft. Clint Capela was brought in with the 25th pick, and Nick Johnson came with the 42nd.
And, of course, let’s not forget the trade Houston put in place to unload Omer Asik’s contract the evening before the draft, in exchange for the New Orleans Pelicans' 2015 first-round pick. But the pick is protected: The Rockets only get the slot if it lands in the No. 4-19 range.
Houston is not done making moves—they’re sure to take a run at big-name free agents like Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. That’s what jettisoning Asik set them up to do, and it’s likely they’ll do the same with Jeremy Lin soon, to clear even more cap space.
But right now’s the time to evaluate what’s changed overnight—the deck of assets general manager Daryl Morey has to tinker with this summer just altered. And so has the shelf of talent coach Kevin McHale will have in his rotation next season.
How does the Rockets’ new (and departed) talent affect their depth chart?
1. Patrick Beverley
Patrick Beverley is about as close to a 2014-15 guarantee as you can find—outside of Dwight Howard and James Harden—on this roster. The Rockets are unlikely to see him as a movable asset because of his minimal contract, which pays just $915,243 next year. He’s also been indispensable as a defensive disruptor and buys in fully to the team concept—he even played through a horrible knee injury for the Rockets in the playoffs.
2. Jeremy Lin
Lin, to the contrary, is a pure piece of salary to Houston’s front office at the moment. In the event that he returns, he’ll be a valuable sixth man to his squad, providing lane penetration and playmaking off the bench. The stronger likelihood is that his salary is moved to make room for a run at James or Anthony. A deal to move Lin is reportedly already lined up.
3. Isaiah Canaan
Canaan is a work in progress. He played in only 22 total games last season, but showed some promise as spark plug. A close friend of Howard’s, he’s likely to return because he plays at the low rate of $816,482 next year.
1. James Harden
You’ve heard of James Harden at least 200 times before. He’s the offensive focal point of this roster. Recent rumors suggest he may be traded to the New York Knicks in a sign-and-trade for Carmelo Anthony, but a rational eye should quickly debunk such talk.
While Anthony may be a marginally better player at the moment, he’s also six years older than Harden and has less familiarity with the Rockets system. Team continuity does, of course, count for something. Don’t expect The Beard to go anywhere. If 'Melo comes, it will more than likely be as Harden's teammate.
2. Troy Daniels
Troy Daniels was an unexpectedly essential weapon for the Rockets in their first-round playoff loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, hitting a game-winning shot to pull Houston to within 2-1 in the series. A D-League transplant, expect this three-point specialist back—his deal only assures him $816,482 against the cap next year.
3. Nick Johnson
Welcome to Houston, Mr. Johnson. Per Bleacher Report's Daniel O'Brien:
In half-court scenarios, [Johnson] served as a timely cutter who could elevate to score, and he also did some slashing of his own when opponents gave him daylight. In the NBA, he'll be able to catch passes on the perimeter, pump-fake and then drive explosively to make plays.
In other words, Johnson sounds like a natural fit in the Rockets' aggressive offensive system. The 21-year-old from the University of Arizona will soon, if all goes well, be taking advantage of Houston's free-roaming style.
Chandler Parsons, at the moment, is the only Rocket who clearly fits the small forward bill. But he may not be back next year—the University of Florida alum was recently informed that the Rockets have opted not to extend him on the terms of his rookie contract. He had a team option for one more season that was declined.
This is probably no big deal, as Parsons' almost criminally slim deal has long been the talk of the league. It was only a matter of time until Morey talked to him about making more than just $964,750.
The elephant looming over Parsons' unsettled contract situation is, of course, the possibility of the Rockets landing Anthony. There's a lot of duplication between the two players' styles. But, more importantly, Anthony is clearly better, and will likely demand a salary too large to accommodate Parsons as well.
If the Rockets can lure Anthony in and pay both players, it will mean either that owner Leslie Alexander agreed to pay the luxury tax or that one or both players agreed to take a salary hit. There's also the possibility that Parsons is offered a massive contract elsewhere—one the Rockets can't or don't want to match. They might sign such an offer anyway, just to flip Parsons and not lose him for nothing.
In short time, we'll see which of these scenarios comes true.
1. Terrence Jones
Terrence Jones is a work in progress, but he solidified himself as the Rockets' starter over Asik this past season. Barring the emergence of Capela (who is likely to remain overseas), Jones will be the Rockets' man at power forward. His speed, athleticism and shooting range are still a bit of a raw mess, but Houston won 54 games with him in a pivotal role in 2013-14. Expect to see more of him.
2. Clint Capela
Clint Capela, a 20-year-old professional player from Switzerland, may or may not actually play for the Rockets next season. Asked about his availability at the Nike Hoop Summit in April, Capela said, "I'll wait until the end of the season to make a decision."
A raw but potentially devastating post player, the 6'11" big with a 7'4" wingspan is largely undefined. Unless the Rockets whiff in free agency this summer, they probably won't clarify Capela's role until 2015-16.
It's largely expected that they drafted him not just because they like his upside, but also to stow his contract across the ocean so they could have more cap space to chase superstars this summer.
1. Dwight Howard
Houston is still Superman's town. Let's not kid ourselves otherwise. Howard's game took an interesting turn in this year's postseason, when Hakeem Olajuwon's tutelage finally become visible as D12 looked more nimble and tricky in the paint than ever before. He dominated Robin Lopez in startling fashion, once scoring the first 15 of Houston's 23 points in Game 2 of the series.
If Howard can carry that offensive evolution into next year, the Rockets could be a wholly different beast in their half-court offense.
2. Donatas Motiejunas
Motiejunas or not to Motiejunas? The compelling big man prospect is another possible sendoff this summer. His $1,483,920 deal is by no means monstrous, but it is above the pennies they could pay to a player more on the fringes of the league.
If you're going to chase 'Melo and King James, these types of margins start to take bigger weight. Motiejunas' rare dexterity for a 7-footer will be missed, but sending him off is a price Houston is more than willing to pay in their quest for the next super squad.
All salary information comes from ShamSports.com.