As we heard earlier today from ESPN.com's Chris Broussard, the Rockets are expected to be in the mix for Dwight Howard in free agency this summer, representing perhaps the most dangerous threat to the Lakers for the All-Star center. However, according to Broussard (via Twitter), if Houston is unsuccessful in landing Howard, the team is expected to turn its attention to Andrew Bynum.
Despite having James Harden's max deal on their books for 2013/14, along with sizable salaries for Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, the Rockets still only have about $40MM in commitments on next season's payroll. If the team hopes to make a run at Howard, it may require a bit of maneuvering to fit a maximum offer under the cap, since D12 is eligible for a first-year salary of about $20.51MM next season. But Bynum's maximum salary for '13/14 is about $17.73MM, which would make a max offer for him a little more manageable.
Like Howard, Bynum would be giving up some guaranteed long-term money if he were to sign a maximum-salary contract with a team besides the Sixers. As I outlined last August, Bynum could re-sign with Philadelphia for up to five years and close to $102MM, while a team like the Rockets could only offer four years and $75.7MM.
Of course, before considering the difference between various maximum-salary contracts, Bynum may have to exhibit that he's worthy of one. Broussard suggests the Rockets' interest in Bynum will hinge not only on Howard's availability, but also on how the Sixers' center looks when he finally returns to the court this season. Bynum's chances of earning max offers in July will rely in part on his health and production over the final couple months of 2012/13.