After making a series of transactions to get below the tax threshold this season, the Rockets are willing to accept the tax next year to upgrade their roster, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.
GM Daryl Morey has already received permission from ownership to make moves that will push the team into tax territory, a source tells Feigen. Morey will try to tweak the roster to better compete with the Warriors, who have eliminated the Rockets from the playoffs in four of the past five seasons.
Houston has all five of its starters under contract for next year at a total cost of about $114MM, which is already over the salary cap. Morey will have to rebuild a reserve unit that features unrestricted free agents Austin Rivers, Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert and restricted free agent Danuel House.
Barring a bold trade to shake up the roster, Morey’s main weapon will be a mid-level exception that could be worth $9MM but is more likely to be limited to $5.7MM. That money might be needed to re-sign one or more of the team’s free agents, or Morey could also try to find a bargain on the free agent market.
No matter how he proceeds, Morey has a huge challenge ahead of him. The Rockets need to find a dependable small forward to allow Eric Gordon to spend more time in the backcourt, Feigen notes. They also need one more reliable shooter and a power forward who can hit 3-pointers and rebound so they don’t get beaten on the boards so badly when using small lineups.