The Rockets are in active talks involving 10 or 12 different trade targets in an effort to use their nearly $8.4MM trade exception soon, reports Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. It’s a shift in strategy for the team, which had been expected to wait until closer to the trade deadline, or least December 15th, when most offseason signees become eligible for inclusion in trades, Feigen writes. A report this weekend identified Corey Brewer as one of Houston’s targets, and while there were conflicting reports last month about whether the Rockets were eyeing fellow Timberwolf Chase Budinger, the identities of the other players that GM Daryl Morey and his staff are discussing are unclear.
Houston’s brass believes that quickly acquiring a rotation-level player, regardless of position, would put the Rockets in a stronger position to swing another deal at the deadline, as Feigen details. Houston depleted its depth in the offseason with trades that sent out Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, though it was the Lin deal that netted the trade exception that Houston is eager to use. The exception would allow the Rockets to acquire a player who makes a 2014/15 salary equal to or less than $8,474,646, which is $100K greater than Lin’s cap hit for this season, without giving up any salary in return. It doesn’t expire until July, but it seems as though the Rockets won’t push that deadline.
Houston is in a flexible position, possessing not only the trade exception but roughly $10MM in room beneath the luxury tax threshold. They have 13 fully guaranteed contracts plus a partially guaranteed pact with Tarik Black and a non-guaranteed deal with Patrick Beverley. They owe their 2015 first-rounder to the Lakers as long as they make the playoffs, thanks to the Lin deal, but the Pelicans owe the Rockets a protected 2015 first-rounder from the Asik trade. Houston also has as many as five additional second-round picks coming its way between now and 2017, further lining the team’s nest of trade assets.