Do the Houston Rockets Have Any Tricks Left Up Their Sleeve This Offseason?

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Do the Houston Rockets Have Any Tricks Left Up Their Sleeve This Offseason?
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It's easy to look at the offseason for the Houston Rockets and criticize general manager Daryl Morey for what he lost.

Chandler Parsons, who could have been kept on a salary under $1 million if his team option was picked up, is now with the Dallas Mavericks.

Chris Bosh, who would have been an ideal fit next to Dwight Howard, is back with the Miami Heat

Omer Asik was dealt for a future first-round pick to the New Orleans Pelicans, and then Jeremy Lin was dumped alongside a future first-round choice to the Los Angeles Lakers which left the Rockets with essentially nothing but a trade exception worth $8.3 million for two productive role players.

That's obviously not what you want, but to focus only on what was lost instead of what could potentially be gained is foolish, especially when you consider what Morey is capable of with some flexibility. 

This isn't the first time Morey has faced criticism and gleeful taunting from NBA circles, after all.

Before James Harden and Dwight Howard, Morey was grilled for not having a star and not letting his team bottom out in order to acquire one. The steady accumulation of assets in exchange for established players was considered bad managing by quite a few people, but he turned all that into the cornerstones for a championship-caliber team.

Even though the attempt for Bosh backfired, Houston is still in good shape. Trevor Ariza is the type of three-and-D wing who should fit better with James Harden than Chandler Parsons did, and he'll come at nearly half the cost on a de-escalating salary that should look great if the salary cap continues to rise as projected. 

Here's what Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle thinks about everything that transpired with Parsons and Bosh:

Morey and the Rockets were willing to match Parsons' contract had they landed Bosh. The numbers don't add up unless the signing would be a championship push. It wouldn't have been.

Parsons isn't an All-Star and never will be. He isn't the third elite player history says a team needs to compete for a title.

The wing combination of Parsons, who isn't a particularly good defender, and Harden, who isn't particularly interested in being a good defender, was not a championship one.

To write off Parsons as insubstantial wouldn't be fair by any means, but the premise that he's not worthy of being paid nearly $15 million a year and won't be good enough to be the third-best player on a championship team probably isn't. 

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

That doesn't take the sting off, necessarily, but keep in mind Houston still has assets at its disposal mainly because of the choice of Ariza over Parsons.

The Rockets are hard-capped but have yet to use their mid-level or biannual exceptions, and the trade exception won't expire for another year.

As it stands now, Houston only has about $50 million in guaranteed salary on the books for next year. Depending on where the salary cap checks in, that may be enough for max cap space once again.

And although it might not be significant to you and me, both Asik and Lin will actually be paid right around $15 million each this season. By dumping them, Morey saved ownership big bucks, for what that's worth.

With all the available assets left, Houston might not be done this offseason. Although there are 11 players on guaranteed deals (12 if you count Patrick Beverley, who will surely be on the roster), Houston could still go after a veteran glue guy like Shawn Marion with one of its exceptions, pick up a shot-blocker like Ekpe Udoh to replace Asik or nab a solid veteran big man like Dante Cunningham.

Glenn James/Getty Images

It's that trade exception that's the real threat to pick up an impact player, though, even if it realistically might not be used until next offseason.

Houston should be active on the trade market, as usual, and that begins right now. With future draft picks and young players like Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas to offer up, Houston can upgrade the talent of the roster fairly easily even without using any of its exceptions.

While they don't have the assets to make a push for someone like the Minnesota Timberwolves' Kevin Love, a player like Philadelphia 76ers forward Thaddeus Young should be well within reach if that's something the Rockets wants to pursue. The front-office connection with former employee and current 76ers GM Sam Hinkie doesn't hurt, either.

Point being, Houston isn't dead in the water by any means. Howard may have taken that idea a step further when he told The Associated Press' Jonathan Landrum Jr. that losing Parsons won't be a big deal: "It won't affect us at all. ... We have myself and James (Harden). We have the best center and the best 2-guard in the game on the same team. It's on us."

That might be a little too much, but it is certainly possible that Houston's roster hasn't taken a big step backward. If Ariza is the same guy he was in a contract year last season, you can argue he's an upgrade for Houston, mainly because he's a much better fit with what the Rockets really need defensively.

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Losing Lin stings, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see summer league standout Isaiah Canaan or recently signed spark plug Ish Smith replace a good deal of his production. Asik was injured most of last year anyhow, and the Rockets have the means to get a solid backup center. 

Point being, it's unwise to bury the Rockets. The thing about acquiring a superstar core for the long term is that you're always one or two moves away from a championship. That's still true for the Rockets, especially with Morey at the wheel.

We may not see any immediate big moves, but the Rockets still have the flexibility and are in prime position to turn a disappointing offseason into a blessing in disguise rather quickly. Write them off at your own risk.

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