Offseason Outlook: Houston Rockets

Guaranteed Contracts


  • None

Non-Guaranteed Contracts

Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Draft Picks

  • 1st Round (14th overall, pending lottery; 0.5% chance at first overall pick)
  • 1st Round (16th overall)

Cap Outlook

  • Guaranteed Salary: $35,122,752
  • Non-Guaranteed Salary, Cap Holds: $35,634,902
  • Total (not including draft picks): $70,757,654

Ever since Yao Ming saw his career derailed by injuries and Tracy McGrady's production fell off a cliff, the Rockets have been searching for their next star player. While guys like Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, and Luis Scola have turned into solid contributors and show flashes of brilliance, Houston has missed the postseason for three straight years, and is still lacking the sort of star that can take them to the next level.

The Rockets thought they'd landed that player in December when they agreed to a blockbuster deal that would have sent Pau Gasol to Houston. Of course, we all know how that turned out — commissioner David Stern nixed the deal on behalf of the Hornets, and GM Daryl Morey and the Rockets headed back to the drawing board. Now, Houston heads into the 2012 offseason once again searching for that star that will make the club a legit contender.

Morey and the Rockets have a couple factors working in their favor when it comes to potential roster moves. With only about $35MM committed in guaranteed salaries, the team will have some cap space to work with, even if it decides to retain one or more of its own free agents. The only real star on the open market is Deron Williams, and the Rockets don't seem to be on his wishlist, but that cap space could be an asset to put toward other free agents or trades.

The other factor working in Houston's favor? If Morey wants to make another run at Gasol, he couldn't ask for a better time to do it. The Spaniard's star has faded a little in Los Angeles over the last few months, and it's hard to imagine the Lakers' asking price being quite as high as it was in December. A package centered around Martin and Scola likely wouldn't interest the Lakers, but perhaps a third team could get involved to facilitate a deal.

The bad news for the Rockets if they intend to pursue Gasol is that the player the Lakers really want - Lowry – also saw his stock drop a little this year, after he missed most of the second half and underwent surgery for a sports hernia at season's end. The Rockets displayed an unwillingness to trade a healthy, productive Lowry for Gasol earlier in 2012, but perhaps the emergence of Goran Dragic would make Lowry slightly more expendable, assuming Houston brings back Dragic.

While they may still be searching for that one core piece to add to the roster, the Rockets have done a nice job adding complementary players. The team has a good deal of young, affordable talent, including Patrick Patterson, Chase Budinger, and Chandler Parsons, and is poised to add even more — Houston is expected to sign last year's draft pick Donatas Motiejunas, and the team holds the 14th and 16th picks in this year's draft. The 2012 class is deep enough that the prospects available for the Rockets might not be any less productive than players selected 10 spots earlier.

If the Rockets don't draft a center or acquire one via trade, I expect the position to be the team's top priority in free agency. There are a number of intriguing names on the market this summer, and while Houston may not aggressively pursue restricted free agents like JaVale McGee, Roy Hibbert, or Brook Lopez, an unrestricted player such as Chris Kaman could make a lot of sense for the Rockets.

Still, for the Rockets, the offseason all comes down to landing does that star player. Does Gasol still qualify? And if not, will Houston's cap space, draft picks, and trade candidates be enough to acquire someone who does? That'll be the task facing Morey this summer as he looks to upgrade the Rockets' roster from one that's a borderline playoff contender to one that can hang with the top teams in the West.

Storytellers Contracts and Sham Sports were used in the creation of this post.

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