Ranking Houston Rockets' Most Believable 2014 NBA Free Agency Rumors

Jake LapinCorrespondent IJuly 2, 2014

Ranking Houston Rockets' Most Believable 2014 NBA Free Agency Rumors

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    Carmelo Anthony is one of many free agents that Houston has expressed interest in.
    Carmelo Anthony is one of many free agents that Houston has expressed interest in.USA TODAY Sports

    NBA free agency has begun, and the Houston Rockets rumors are spreading like wildfire.

    General manager Daryl Morey is well known for making a splash in the offseason, just as he has the past two summers with James Harden and Dwight Howard. This year, there have been several connections between free agents and the Rockets.

    Out of all the rumors out there, some are realistic, but others are extremely unlikely. Morey has set his sights on some of the biggest stars in the game like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, as well as some solid consolation prizes such as Kyle Lowry or Spencer Hawes. Here's a list, ranking all of the possibilities by probability of them actually becoming a reality.

7. LeBron James

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    The four-time MVP would be a real asset to any team he joined.
    The four-time MVP would be a real asset to any team he joined.Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

    Sure, signing LeBron James would be the best case scenario for the Rockets. But let's be real here.

    All signs are pointing to a return to South Beach for the King. He and the other members of the Big 3 have all talked, and it seems as if they plan on remaining in Miami with the Heat.

    Even though Pat Riley has a ton of cap space to work with, LeBron wants a max salary, per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com and the other two don't necessarily want giant paycuts, per Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report (h/t CBS Sports). As of now, there is only one player on the Heat roster, Norris Cole, and soon to be point guard Shabazz Napier, who was drafted in the first round.

    Other than those two, no one else is under contract or even has any tangible plans to resign. Riley has his work cut out for him to keep everyone in Miami and happy, and then fill out the rest of the roster with a good enough cast to return to the Finals.

    It won't be easy, but I think Riley can get it done. I think the Big 3 will give it another go in Miami the next few seasons, which also eliminates Chris Bosh from the Rockets' wish list.

    Who knows? Anything can happen. Morey will meet with LeBron's agent Rich Paul and try to persuade him that the trio of James, James Harden and Dwight Howard would be unstoppable, per Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (h/t CBS Sports). Also, Bosh may get upset about missing out on a payday and he may become available once again.

6. Paul Pierce

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    Rumors have the Rockets interested in former champion Paul Pierce.
    Rumors have the Rockets interested in former champion Paul Pierce.USA TODAY Sports

    The 36-year-old small forward has gotten plenty of attention in the short time free agency has lasted. After just one season with Brooklyn, Pierce could be on the move. The Nets seem to be in a downward spiral, especially after the mysterious departure of coach Jason Kidd.

    Anyhow, the Rockets have reported interest in the former champion who has established a Hall of Fame career after many years in Boston with the Celtics, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein (h/t the Houston Chronicle). His championship experience could help the Rockets fill a much needed role of leadership, even if it meant he came off the bench.

    Houston isn't the only team that would like to sign Pierce. The Clippers appear to be the front-runner for Pierce's talents for the time being. There's also a real possibility that he decides to go back to Boston and end his career there, despite the fact that the team is in rebuilding mode.

    Bottom line, there's a small chance, if any, that Pierce actually does wind up in Houston.

5. Trevor Ariza

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    Could there be a potential return to Houston for Trevor Ariza?
    Could there be a potential return to Houston for Trevor Ariza?USA TODAY Sports

    The Rockets are interested in acquiring the services of Trevor Ariza, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (h/t House of Houston's Mario Hicks). Someone should tell them to get in line.

    There are almost too many teams to count at this point that want to sign Ariza in free agency. The Washington Wizards, who already re-signed Marcin Gortat to an extension according to Adrian Wojnarowski, are most likely the front-runners for resigning Ariza as well.

    However, Ariza has a huge list of teams to choose from, or at least listen to, before making his decision. The small forward had an impressive season in Washington last year. He averaged 14.4 points per game and shot over 40 percent from three-point range. Also, he happens to be one of the better perimeter defenders in the league.

    I don't need to explain to you why Ariza would be a good fit with the Rockets. Problem is, he is most likely to get grossly overpaid considering so many different teams are after him. Odds are, he does not return to the Rockets, at least this summer anyway.

4. Spencer Hawes

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    Could Spencer Hawes join forces with the Rockets this season?
    Could Spencer Hawes join forces with the Rockets this season?Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Even though he may not be the highest on the wish list, Spencer Hawes would still be a nice addition to the Rockets. Especially after trading away Omer Asik, Hawes would be a valuable big man, who has better offensive skills than Asik ever did (of course, he obviously is no match defensively).

    Hawes has been contacted by a few teams so far, most notably the Blazers who contacted him on the very first night, according to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian. Portland would also be a great destination for Hawes this summer.

    All of the Hawes business probably won't get cleared up until bigger free agents disappear first. There hasn't been too many leads on this front yet, but the Rockets could wind up in the mix a couple of weeks from now if nothing else materializes.

3. Carmelo Anthony

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    Melo has narrowed down his list to a few teams, among them Houston and Chicago.
    Melo has narrowed down his list to a few teams, among them Houston and Chicago.USA TODAY Sports

    Since the very beginning, the Rockets were going after Carmelo. Anthony is scheduled to meet with the Rockets and Mavericks on Wednesday and the Lakers on Thursday after already meeting with Chicago on Tuesday.

    The meeting with the Bulls reportedly went well, according to Andrew Seligman of the Associated Press (h/t Yahoo Sports). Melo and his agent arrived at the United Center in Chicago where he saw pictures of himself in a Bulls uniform next to the Larry O'Brien trophy (a bit cheesy don't you think?). There, he met with coach Tom Thibodeau as well as Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

    The Bulls are going all out on this one, although I'm sure Morey will be able to keep up with the competition. Dwight Howard, James Harden and others will attend that meeting in the effort to pitch to Anthony that Houston is the place to be. Their main argument: the two aforementioned superstars.

    Harden and Howard are already among the biggest stars in the game, both getting All-NBA selections this past season. Adding Anthony to the mix would make Houston instant contenders. You know that, I know that and Melo probably knows it, too.

    It will be hard for Anthony to say no to Houston, but it's not his only attractive option. It will be a difficult decision for Melo in the next week or two, but Houston certainly has a shot at winning him over.

2. Kyle Lowry

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    Kyle Lowry has emerged as a top free agent this summer, and he is considering a return to Houston.
    Kyle Lowry has emerged as a top free agent this summer, and he is considering a return to Houston.USA TODAY Sports

    After a career year with the Toronto Raptors, Lowry has earned himself a spot near the top of the free agent list. The Rockets traded Lowry to Toronto a couple of years ago, which was followed by a series of moves that ultimately landed James Harden.

    In an effort to bring him back, Morey and Kevin McHale spent the first night of free agency in Philadelphia to meet with the point guard themselves in person, per Yahoo Sports (h/t Houston Chronicle).

    Lowry was always a bulldog for the Rockets and a very useful role player. Now, he has climbed his way up the NBA ladder toward stardom. He is a great playmaker, terrific shooter and he plays hard-nosed defense. In other words, he's the perfect fit at point guard for Houston (Beverley can come off the bench).

    Many teams are interested in Lowry besides Houston, such as Miami. The Raptors have made it very clear that they want Lowry back in Canada, and they are willing to pay the big bucks.

    As of now, Lowry and his camp are mulling over the offers currently on the table. Many people assume he will cash out and stay with the Raptors but my gut feeling is telling me he might be tempted to take up Morey on his intriguing offer after all.

    Lowry told Basketball Insiders that despite enjoying his brief playoff run with Toronto, he wants to play for a championship. Even in the lackluster Eastern Conference, the Raptors won't be pursuing a championship anytime soon. Houston, on the other hand, is primed for a run as soon as this season and for several more to come.

    It's far from a done deal, but Morey surely left an impression on Lowry by showing up just minutes after free agency had begun. Of course, this all takes a backseat to the pursuit of Melo, but if that falls through, Lowry is a realistic option and probably next best on the market, too.

1. Chandler Parsons

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    At the end of the day, there's a very real possibility that the Rockets strike out on all leads and wind up not signing a significant free agent. That means LeBron would stay in Miami with the rest of the Big 3, Melo returns to New York or heads to Chicago, Lowry stays across the border with Toronto and all those other guys find homes that aren't Houston.

    If that's the case, it may seem disappointing at first, but the Rockets are still in good shape.

    The Omer Asik trade may have been in vein, and it could actually come back to haunt them considering he now plays for a division rival in one of the best emerging frontcourts in the league. However, the Houston core is still among the best in the NBA in that scenario. That is, assuming Houston brings back Parsons, which they obviously would.

    There's a solid chance that the Rockets can sign some other free agent and still bring back Parsons anyway, but Parsons is a hot commodity. Many teams are in pursuit of the former Gator's services, among them the Mavericks, Lakers, Bulls and Suns according to Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN's Jeff Goodman and Marc Stein (h/t RealGM).

    The athletic swingman became a restricted free agent after the Rockets didn't pick up his team option in a strategic move. Because of the restrictions, the Rockets can choose to bring Parsons back if he signs any offer sheet, and they will have 72 hours to decide.

    Chances are some team signs Parsons to a very pricy deal that will hurt Les Alexander's wallet quite a bit, but most likely Parsons will be in a Rocket uniform next season. It would take a lot of money to convince Morey to let him walk, but it is a slim possibility.

    We've seen the same thing happen with Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin two offseasons ago when Morey utilized the poison pill contracts (the same ones that are hurting the Rockets' cap space right this very moment) to get both of them to Houston.

    I don't think Parsons will end up on any team other than the Rockets next season, but he seems fairly intent on exploring his options nonetheless.

    Best case scenario is that the Rockets sign either Melo or Lowry (or long-shot LeBron) and retain Parsons. At the very least, however, the Rockets should be able to bring Parsons back and start the process of reaching the Finals over again in October.