The Houston Rockets have to clear up the mess that just landed in front of them.
Even then, however, they’ll have some work left to do. They’ve got to shore up the back end of their roster, and they’ve got to do it at a discount.
First things first: A free-agency bomb hit Houston Wednesday night. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Dallas Mavericks have agreed on a three-year, $45-plus million offer sheet with restricted free-agent forward Chandler Parsons.
The Rockets have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday (July 13) to match or decline the deal.
Retaining Parsons and also bringing in Chris Bosh would require general manager Daryl Morey to shed a whole lot of salary. Bosh, of course, has verbally committed to joining Houston in the event that LeBron James leaves the Miami Heat for a return with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He'd be a great get for Houston, but he comes t a rather steep price tag.
Fans would probably say "so long" to Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lin and Donatas Motiejunas. They’d have to be traded, and Morey would look to take close to no salary back in order to fit Bosh’s reported four-year, $88 million contract under the team’s salary cap, per ESPN's Chris Broussard.
After the hefty hits from Parsons, Bosh, James Harden and Dwight Howard’s salaries and those of the remaining role players, the Rockets would be left with about $7 million to fill out the rest of their roster. That's how far they'll be from the luxury tax threshold.
In other words, it’s almost bargain-hunting time.
Let’s assume Houston and Morey get everything they want. Who’s available on the market that can help fill their holes?
Many of their weaknesses would become much smaller with Bosh in tow. Their defense, especially at the rim, would take a big step up. Their offensive options would skyrocket with Bosh’s combination of size, shooting range and ability to create a shot. Their locker room and team mentality would benefit greatly from his championship experience and selflessness.
But they’ll still be looking for help with big-man depth and perimeter defense.
Although Bosh can occasionally chase certain wing players and defense-stretching power forwards out of the paint, the Rockets will still want players who can help offset Harden and Parsons’ lax defending.
Veteran guard Kirk Hinrich is one option as a defender. The stingy veteran who evades screens as well as anyone is likely to stay on with the Chicago Bulls, but that they haven’t yet re-signed him is possibly significant.
Perhaps the Bulls are merely waiting out Carmelo Anthony’s decision to see how much money they’ll have for Hinrich, or maybe they’re somewhat indifferent about bringing him back and a suitor like Houston could swoop in to take him.
Either way, he’d be a useful piece to the Rockets. Hinrich could serve as safety net for the combustible Patrick Beverley and also work next to the fiery point guard in situations that require more defense than offense.
Hinrich or not, the Rockets are going to be thin at the point guard position without Jeremy Lin, who would almost certainly be gone if Houston were to add Bosh and keep Parsons.
Isaiah Canaan is an intriguing point guard prospect already on the team, but he’s 23 years old and has very little NBA experience.
Steve Blake would have been a good snag by the Rockets, but the Associated Press (via NBA.com) reports he just signed with the Portland Trail Blazers. The same applies to Jordan Farmar, who NBA.com indicates recently joined the Los Angeles Clippers.
Other available point guards and perimeter defenders include Jameer Nelson—a former favorite of Howard’s with the Orlando Magic—and Ramon Sessions.
For big-man depth, the Rockets should look at Ekpe Udoh, Jason Smith, Glen Davis, Nazr Mohammed, Byron Mullens and the ever-famed Jason Collins.
All of these players have their various deficiencies, but that’s what the Rockets seem to be looking at: flawed players, well past their prime, lying in the bargain bin.
The Rockets will have to act quickly, Bosh or no Bosh, once this free-agency impasse reaches its end.
Cheap players are already flying off the shelves unnoticed as we wait for the superstars to make up their minds. Rockets fans should hope there are still some good ones left by the time this nervous episode is over.
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