Houston Rockets 2014 Free Agency Big Board: Ranking Top Targets Post-Draft
The Houston Rockets are still hungry.
Despite general manager Daryl Morey saying otherwise at season’s end, the Rockets are clearly in the hunt for another superstar this summer. In a Q&A with the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, Morey had said of another superstar pursuit:
I don’t feel it’s necessary. I do feel it’s my job to explore those things. I think (we’ll be helped by) our group playing more together after only a season together, plus a lot of young players that can take a step forward and improve. Plus we’ve got financial flexibility this year. We’re not limited to minimum-player additions.
Now, we can safely say Morey’s words were something like lip service. Carmelo Anthony’s meeting with the team is imminent—it's scheduled for Wednesday, July 2, as reported by ESPN's Marc Stein. The Rockets, after acquiring James Harden and Dwight Howard over the past two summers, are movers and shakers once again.
Who do they want most?
5. Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons is still considered a Rocket by most fans, but he’s definitely on the market for other teams at the moment.
Parsons is a restricted free agent, so the Rockets have the right to match any offer another team makes for their three-year wingman. Just how serious Houston is about retaining Parsons seems to hinge on how things go elsewhere. If Carmelo Anthony wants to come to Houston, and the Rockets need the cap space to make it happen? Spare yourself the shock now: The Rockets will say goodbye to Parsons without hesitation.
Parsons’ leadership and scoring have been essential to the team’s progress over the last two seasons. But this summer, the Rockets have the chance to upgrade from a playoff team to a title contender. If losing Parsons is part of that equation, then lose him they will.
Also possible is the Rockets losing Parsons simply because someone overpays him. Even in that event, it’s probably more likely that the Rockets would match the offer first, then trade Parsons, as opposed to letting him walk for no return. If offers for his services start to grow much larger than $10 million per year, this will start to become a real possibility.
4. Kyle Lowry
A former Rocket, Kyle Lowry is one of the most popular free agents on the market. He left the team on bad terms, clashing with coach Kevin McHale, but Houston seems determined to patch things up.
Morey met with Lowry as soon as free agency began, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
A dynamic, bullish point guard, Lowry would be a welcome sight in Houston, where half-court offense (especially late in games) is often quite the hurdle. Lowry never hesitated to lead the Toronto Raptors through their offensive sets last season, often taking over for them late in close games.
But, of course, this is why the Raptors are hot to keep their man. A slew of teams, including the Rockets, have put their hat into the Lowry race, to some extent. However, most teams are first gauging what LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony might do. The Raptors also know they want to keep him.
It’ll be hard to beat their full-court press to retain their point guard with anything less than full conviction, and the Rockets have yet to show that.
3. Kevin Love
Kevin Love is not a free agent, but he’s available and on the Rockets’ radar.
Love is on the trading block after recently expressing discontent with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He’s a great fit in Houston in a lot of ways—his outlet passing, half-court offensive prowess and rebounding could be used by any team. Add in Love’s ability to shoot threes, and he becomes a fantasy player for the Rockets.
But Morey seems to have Love a bit lower on his priority list than he has Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, for obvious reasons. Sacrificing Parsons (who the ‘Wolves are interested in) or other assets in a trade is less ideal than signing somebody straight up.
2. Carmelo Anthony
The Rockets want Anthony, and they want him bad. Scheduled to meet with the team on July 2—as reported and detailed by Feigen—Anthony is the top Rockets target who has planned a trip to Houston.
Adding a third superstar to the mix in Houston is a good idea in a vacuum, but the reality of the situation may not turn out as rosy as the dream. There are some seriously glaring basketball concerns to be levied against the Melo-to-Houston scenario. Per Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Freeman:
[The] Rockets are not selling Melo on what the future could legitimately look like so much as what it would appear as in a frictionless world. As the Miami Heat have learned, a collection of superior talent doesn't guarantee eternal championships, both because it requires a ton of hard work and trial-and-error to get just one and because excellent players often get significantly worse as they age. A team of James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons, Carmelo Anthony, and a random friend might sound like it could win every game 140-95, but they would have to decide on an offensive hierarchy, their roles, and defensive rotations, to say nothing of executing well.
But, haters be damned, the Rockets are looking to execute their video game logic with everything they’ve got. If Morey succeeds in landing a megastar for the third summer in a row, would anyone be surprised?
1. LeBron James
LeBron James’ availability is still something of an enigma across the league.
After opting out of the final year of his contract with the Miami Heat and convincing Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to do the same, it’s reported that James and company are giving Heat president Pat Riley a “window” in which to improve the team’s roster, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
Just what will be good enough, and financially feasible, for James’ satisfaction is unknown at this point. And if the Rockets, or any other team, wait too long for James to come clear with his real intentions on the market, it could very well mean losing out on other preferred targets.
Add in the fact that, as reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, James is now said to be seeking no less than a maximum contract—this after a lot of talk that The King would take a pay cut, yet again, to be in the right situation—and chasing the four-time MVP begins to sound like a dubious goal.
Especially since James isn't even personally meeting with teams—his agent Rich Paul is doing all that legwork, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, among other sources. James' lack of personal touch with teams is pretty hard to read.
But once the fog around the world’s best player parts, expect the Rockets to make a big play if they haven’t already committed to other players.
The most aggressive GM in basketball, Morey, going after basketball’s biggest star? Sounds like big game free-agent hunting at its finest. Sign me up.