The Houston Rockets have been unequivocal in their ambition to land some of the top players in the NBA in recent years. They traded with Oklahoma City to land James Harden and signed Dwight Howard to a big contract in 2013.
The team figures to be a big player in the free-agent market again this year as they look to create a Big Three of their own and make a run at an NBA championship.
The Rockets signaled their intentions with the trade of Omer Asik to the Pelicans, per Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski:
The Houston Rockets have reached agreement on a trade to send center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for a future first-round draft pick, league sources told Yahoo Sports. For the Rockets, this is the first step in clearing salary-cap space to pursue LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony in free agency.
The Asik deal—although still not official—is a great start to clearing the board, but the Rockets still have a few more pieces to move in order to set themselves up for ultimate success.
Here is the latest roundup of rumors on how the Rockets just might be able to vault themselves to the top of the Western Conference.
Carmelo Anthony Will Meet with Rockets
The Rockets are clearly making a run at a big-money signing, and they can take comfort in the fact that Anthony will likely be giving them plenty of attention this offseason.
Via ESPN Insider's Chris Broussard:
Carmelo Anthony has decided to visit the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls once teams are allowed to meet with free agents on July 1, according to league sources. The meetings have not been set up because the teams are not yet allowed to contact free agents. But Anthony has decided he will give those three teams a chance to recruit him when they are able to. Anthony's camp informed the Knicks of his decision to visit the three teams.
Anthony is going to be one of the most highly sought-after free agents in recent years; the Rockets will need to have an exquisite pitch to lure him to Texas.
Houston's deal with the Pelicans begins to clear cap space, but they need to move players like Jeremy Lin in order to create enough room for Anthony.
Is Kyle Lowry the Rockets' Plan B?
Plan A for the Rockets is clearly a big-time player like Anthony or LeBron James. According to USA Today's Sam Amick, the Rockets do have a very talented player in mind as a plan B:
According to two people with knowledge of the situation, the Houston Rockets — whom Lowry played for from 2009 to 2012 — are one of those teams. While Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will woo free agents like James, Anthony and Heat center Chris Bosh (if he opts out of his deal), he also will pursue Lowry if those initial options are no longer in play.
Lowry would certainly be a great backcourt mate for Harden, although the Rockets could struggle on defense with Harden's lackadaisical approach and Lowry's less-than-ideal speed at point guard. He averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game for the Raptors last year, both career highs.
However tantalizing this pairing may be, Lowry might be uninterested in being any team's backup plan, per Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy:
If the Rockets try to lure Lowry without locking down either Anthony or James, he could balk at the overtures. The Western Conference looks set to be an absolute gauntlet for the next couple of years, and a trio of Lowry-Harden-Howard might not be enough to get the Rockets over the hump.
That being said, Lowry's familiarity with the team and front office could make the Rockets the front-runners for him if he leaves the Raptors or can't find any other worthy suitors for his lofty goals.
Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons to the Warriors?
Jeremy Lin is set to be paid $14.8 million but count for just $8.3 million against the cap in 2014, according to Spotrac.com. His contract, along with Asik's, is one of the big ones the Rockets need to move in order to clear space for the likes of LeBron or Anthony, and the team could already have a potential trade partner.
Via ESPN Insider's Chris Broussard (subscription required):
While they'd like to keep Chandler Parsons, he might have to be sacrificed to move Asik and/or Lin. I'm told Golden State might be interested in trading for Lin if it can land Parsons along with him.
It is unclear who or what the Rockets would receive in return for Lin and Chandler Parsons. They could be looking for long-term draft picks down the line or potentially cheaper players like Draymond Green to fill out the roster.
Lin, to his credit, is taking trade rumors in stride, via the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen:
Next year will be my fifth season, so my first year and a half, I dealt with my name being surrounded with getting cut and things like that. Then it was my name being surrounded with trades. So I would much rather take the second one than the first. I am not really too worried about it.
If the Warriors could partner Parsons with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, it would give them one of the deadliest shooting trios in the league.
|Parsons, Thompson, Curry 2013-2014 Stats|
|Player||Team||PPG||Field-goal %||Three-point %||Three-pointers Made|
However, Parsons could be too much for the Rockets to part with, as he is one of the cheap role players perfect for a team looking to build around a smattering of expensive superstars.
Are the Rockets Interested in Patric Young?
This little piece of information doesn't involve any blockbuster trades or big names. It is simply the Rockets looking to find value to add to their franchise.
According to Fox Sports' Sam Amico, the Rockets are highly interested in one of this year's most notable undrafted prospects:
His fall was certainly a surprising one. DraftExpress.com had Young ranked as the No. 40 overall prospect in 2014, and yet he was passed on 60 times.
Young is a strong, powerful forward at 6'10" and 247 pounds. The former McDonald's All-American scored 11.0 points and snatched 6.2 rebounds per game for Florida in 2013-2014.
He has the potential to help fill the void left by Asik for a mere fraction of the cost. The Rockets also drafted power forward Clint Capela with the No. 25 overall pick, but he plays in France and it is possible the team could stash him there for another year or so to save salary-cap space.
This would leave Young the perfect opportunity to make the roster and provide high-energy minutes off the bench.