Luc Mbah a Moute

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Houston Rockets

The Rockets committed to a certain title contention window when they traded half of their roster in exchange for Chris Paul. The deal has paid dividends considering that the addition of the future Hall of Famer has taken the franchise from solid Western Conference team in a world dominated by the Warriors to a legitimate championship contender.

For that reason, the Rockets will head into the summer with one primary goal: bringing Paul back. If, or perhaps when, that happens, the club will go about filling out the rest of the roster, likely retaining several of the rest of their pending free agents and filling out the lineup with journeymen on minimum deals.

Trevor Ariza, 33, SF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $32MM deal in 2014
There are few intangibles guys better suited to complement the current Rockets core than Ariza but that doesn’t mean general manager Daryl Morey will overextend the franchise to keep him on-board. Fortunately, he may not have to. While Ariza has serious value as the starting small forward on a very competitive roster, he’s not the type of asset that rebuilding teams would pursue given his age and the price tag may be too steep for another contender, desperate to plug him in alongside their current core. Unless a lottery team foolishly dumps a pile of money on his doorstep, Ariza will be back in Houston in the $10MM range for as long as the club’s title contention window is open.

Tarik Black, 26, C (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $3MM deal in 2017
Black has shown flashes of promise in spot minutes over the course of his four-year career but he’s not the intriguing bargain bin scratch ticket he used to be. He’s not a bad option for the cash-strapped Rockets if they can bring him back for the minimum but if there’s any other organization desperate enough to offer more than that, it would make sense to let him walk.

Clint Capela, 24, C (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $6MM deal in 2014
After four years as one of the most cost effective game changers in the NBA, Capela is going to get paid as a restricted free agent. Capela is young, has a proven track record of playing a major role for a serious contender and hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he’d be capable of in starter’s minutes. It would surprise me if Capela doesn’t land a max offer sheet as a restricted free agent this summer and Houston has no choice but to match it if they want to continue being the only team with a semi-realistic chance of unseating the Warriors.

Gerald Green, 32, SG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $1MM deal in 2017
Green went from being practically out of basketball to putting forth his most inspired NBA season in years. In 2017/18, Green went unsigned until December. I anticipate that the Houston native will be back on board with the Rockets for the veteran’s minimum as soon as the dust settles on the rest of the team’s summer plans.

Joe Johnson, 37, SF (Down) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Rockets took a flyer on Johnson after he was bought out of the albatross deal he signed with the Jazz in 2016 but never managed to break into the club’s admittedly stacked rotation. It would make zero sense for any team to pay more than the veteran’s minimum for the greybeard after three years of team changes and pedestrian production.

Luc Mbah a Moute, 31, SF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
The Rockets have done a fine job of surrounding their world-class skill players with defensive-minded role players. Landing Mbah a Moute for the minimum last summer was an incredibly valuable move. It’s hard to imagine that Mbah a Moute would sign for that cheap again this season seeing as he could realistically double or even triple that amount without breaking the bank for another contender. The Rockets would be happy to bring him back but may not be able to afford both he and Ariza.

Chris Paul, 33, PG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $107MM deal in 2013
It wasn’t long ago that Paul seemed destined to sign a super max contract with the Clippers and retire a franchise legend. Fast forward to the summer of 2018 and we’re living in an entirely different reality. Paul performed brilliantly during his first season with the Rockets and his impact on the legitimate title contender is undisputed. That said, the franchise isn’t automatically compelled to offer a max money, four-year deal that would terminate when Paul is 37 years old. In a perfect world, the Rockets would sign him to a two- or three-year deal instead of going full-term.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Texas Notes: Mbah a Moute, Tucker, Mavericks, Spurs

After missing the Rockets‘ first playoff series with a dislocated right shoulder, Luc Mbah a Moute hopes to be ready today when his team opens the Western Conference semifinals against the Jazz, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. On Saturday, Mbah a Moute went through his first full practice since the injury and believes he will be able to play.

“I’m ready in my mind,” said Mbah a Moute, who also suffered a dislocated shoulder in December. “I’ve done this already, so I’m not used to it, but I pretty much know what to expect.”

Officially listed as questionable, Mbah a Moute has been an impact player since coming to Houston in free agency last summer. He averaged 7.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game and has the best defensive numbers among the Rockets’ rotation players.

There’s more news today out of Texas:

  • P.J. Tucker, Houston’s other key free agent addition, has a lot of similarities with former Rocket Mario Elie, notes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. A member of the city’s two championship teams of the 1990s, Elie was known for his toughness and versatility, two qualities that define Tucker. “I just love his demeanor,” Elie said. “He’s like me. He’s angry on the court and that’s how he should be. He has no friends out there. He just competes. And what I like about him, is he guards multiple positions. That what he does that I really like, just like I did.”
  • The Mavericks could be indirect beneficiaries of LeBron James‘ free agency, suggests Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. No matter where James ends up, a team will likely have to unload a significant salary, which Dallas is in position to absorb. The Mavericks could wind up with Clint Capela from the Rockets, Robert Covington from the Sixers or Julius Randle from the Lakers, or if James stays in Cleveland, Dallas could pursue Pelicans free agent DeMarcus Cousins.
  • The focus in San Antonio will be on Kawhi Leonard this summer, but the Spurs have plenty of free agent concerns, states Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. If Danny Green opts out, Deveney expects him to get offers of $12MM to $14MM per year for three to four seasons, which may be higher than the Spurs are willing to go. It’s also doubtful that they would commit to an expensive long-term deal for Rudy Gay if he opts out.

Injury Updates: Curry, Porter, VanVleet, Mbah a Moute

Stephen Curry is officially listed as questionable for the start of the Warriors‘ series with the Pelicans tomorrow night, relays Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News.

The star guard, who is recovering from a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee, was able to go through a full-court scrimmage today for the first time since suffering the injury March 23. However, the team isn’t ready to commit to playing him in Game 1, and Curry calls his chances “50-50.”

“Still to be determined. They come up with those snazzy words for a reason – doubtful, questionable, probable,” he said. “Just trying to work my way up whatever I need to do with whatever [trainer] Chelsea [Lane], the rest of the athletic training staff and coaching staff need to see before I can get back out there.”

Curry and Lane spent about 20 minutes after practice talking to coach Steve Kerr, who said Curry will be re-examined tonight and after Saturday’s morning shootaround before making a decision.

“It’s not as simple as, ‘Does he feel good? Then throw him out there,’” Kerr said. “It’s more about, ‘Let’s give him a few days and see how he responds from it.’”

There’s more playoff-related injury news to pass along:

  • Wizards forward Otto Porter, who is out indefinitely following a surgical procedure today on his left leg, has been experiencing pain since Game 4 of the series with Toronto, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. The decision to perform a lower leg fasciotomy to address a build-up of blood flow in the contusion area was made after reviewing the results of an MRI conducted today. Kelly Oubre will take Porter’s spot in the starting lineup, with Tomas Satoransky and Ty Lawson both expected to get more playing time, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk (Twitter link). “We need Kelly on the floor,” coach Scott Brooks said to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. “Now that Otto is out, we need Kelly to give us great minutes. … It’s a great opportunity for him.” (Twitter link).
  • The Raptors will have guard Fred VanVleet available for tonight’s Game 6 with the Wizards, Lewenberg tweets. VanVleet has been limited to three minutes in the series because of soreness in his shoulder stemming from a collision on the final night of the season. “I don’t know what to expect,” said coach Dwane Casey, “but we’ll get him in.”
  • The Rockets had hoped to get Luc Mbah a Moute back for the start of their second-round series, but it appears that won’t happen, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Sidelined by a dislocated shoulder, Mbah a Moute won’t be re-evaluated until next week, although he was able to participate in the non-contact part of today’s practice, said coach Mike D’Antoni.
  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue still wasn’t sure of George Hill‘s  status when he met with reporters before tonight’s game, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Hill, who has been experiencing back spasms, warmed up before the game with a heat wrap on his back, notes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Twitter link).

Mbah a Moute Could Return Next Week

Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute is officially out of the first round but coach Mike D’Antoni hinted Mbah a Moute could return if Houston advances to the conference semifinals, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports.

Mbah a Moute has been out since April 10th after dislocating his right shoulder for the second time this season. He began shooting during the weekend and will be reevaluated next week. Even if the Rockets-Timberwolves series goes the full seven games, it will end on Sunday.

Mbah a Moute missed nearly a month of action of suffering a dislocation in mid-December but appears to be making quicker progress the second time around, Feigen adds.

“It’s still too early to put a timetable on it, yet,” D’ Antoni said. “Next week, he’ll be re-evaluated. I think he’ll be real close next week, but I don’t know that for sure.”

The defensive specialist appeared in 61 games and averaged 7.5 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 25.6 MPG during his first season with Houston.

Southwest Notes: Parsons, Holiday, Mbah a Moute, Ginobili

Chandler Parsons has given the Grizzlies a few reasons for optimism, writes Michael Wallace of NBA.com. Parsons continued to battle knee problems in the second season of a four-year, $94MM contract, but he appeared in 36 games, two more than a year ago, and may have reached 50 if the team hadn’t fallen out of contention so quickly, Wallace adds.

Former coach David Fizdale switched Parsons to power forward and reduced his playing time early in the season, but that changed when J.B. Bickerstaff took over, and Parsons was able to spread the floor and use his playmaking skills. He also shot a career-best .421 from 3-point range.

“I had moments this year where I felt good and felt like myself, and I had moments where the soreness and stiffness were just too much,” Parsons said. “I want to play. I want to be healthy. And I’m doing everything in my power to get there.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • In taking a 2-0 series lead over Portland, the Pelicans are getting the production they were counting on from Jrue Holiday when they re-signed him to a five-year, $126MM deal last summer, notes Mark Schwarz of ESPN. Holiday had 33 points and nine assists Tuesday as New Orleans won its second straight road game. “I may be a bit biased, but if you can tell me a better two-way player in the league right now, I’m willing to listen,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “But what we ask him to do and the things we ask him to do offensively, he was just great tonight.”
  • Rockets forward Luc Mbah a Moute is healing quickly after dislocating his shoulder late in the season, relays Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Mbah a Moute hinted that he might be able to play against Minnesota if the first-round series lasts long enough. “I wouldn’t say ‘no.’ But I also want to be smart and do the right thing,” he said. “It’s feeling better. Continue to do the rehab, get the strength back and see what happens.”
  • LeBron James isn’t the only NBA player being targeted by billboards, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. An “Uno Mas Manu” billboard has been posted near downtown San Antonio, urging Manu Ginobili to return for another season. “I don’t know why, ‘One more?’” he joked. “What’s up? I was thinking about signing a five-year deal, and now they are throwing me down. Very disappointing.” Ginobili, 41, recently said he will take some time this offseason before deciding whether to play a 17th season.

Luc Mbah A Moute Likely To Miss First Round

1:19pm: Mbah a Moute could miss up to four weeks with his latest shoulder injury, a source tells Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston (Twitter link). If he returns four weeks from today, Mbah a Moute could make it back before the end of the second round.

10:32am: Mbah a Moute will likely miss at least the first round of the postseason, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, there’s no clear timetable yet for the forward’s return.

9:06am: Having already locked up the No. 1 seed in the West and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, the Rockets entered the season’s final week looking to stay healthy for the postseason. However, the club couldn’t get through the year’s final games unscathed.

As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes, veteran forward Luc Mbah a Moute suffered a dislocated right shoulder during the second quarter of the Rockets’ loss to the Lakers on Tuesday night. He didn’t return to the game, and is now set to undergo an MRI, head coach Mike D’Antoni confirmed late last night.

A dislocated right shoulder also sidelined Mbah a Moute earlier this season, forcing him out of action for 15 games in December and January. However, D’Antoni is hopeful Mbah a Moute’s latest injury won’t keep him on the shelf for a full month again.

“I think it’s less [severe than in December] but I don’t know,” D’Antoni said, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “We’ll have to wait until tomorrow when he gets it checked out, see what happens.”

If Mbah a Moute is unable to return for the start of the postseason, the Rockets figure to lean more heavily on P.J. Tucker and Trevor Ariza at the forward position. Depending on what sort of lineups Houston uses, backups like Gerald Green and Joe Johnson could also see a few more minutes than expected in the frontcourt — though if Ryan Anderson is ready to return from his ankle injury to start the playoffs, the team wouldn’t necessarily have to go too far down its bench.

Rockets Notes: Ariza, Tucker, Green

Rockets forward Trevor Ariza is expected to miss the team’s four-game road trip because of a left hamstring injury, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle tweets. He was injured during their game against the Suns on Sunday. With Ariza out, Luc Mbah a Moute will likely move into the starting lineup and Gerald Green will return to the rotation, Feigen adds“It’s always one thing and another,” guard Eric Gordon told Feigen about the team’s struggles with injuries this season. “The good thing about this team is we’re deep. Anybody to be replaced, we always do well.”

In other news involving the Rockets:

  • Forward P.J. Tucker has emerged as the team’s ironman, Feigen notes in a separate story. He has appeared in every game this season, averaging 5.3 PPG and 5.8 RPG in 26.8 MPG. Tucker, who signed a four-year, $32MM contract during free agency last July, has only missed one game over the past three seasons due to injury, Feigen adds. “I knock on wood every time I walk away from here,” Tucker told Feigen. “I don’t even think about it because I haven’t been injured. It doesn’t cross my mind.”
  • Green wasn’t upset about losing his rotation spot despite his hot shooting, as Feigen relays in yet another piece. Green has averaged 13.7 PPG and made 40.9% of his 3-point attempts in 12 games since the team signed him. But he had only played four minutes in three games until Ariza’s injury. “I’m blessed to have this type opportunity. I have a chance … to win a ring,” Green told Feigen. “Whatever role that I have on this team, I’m more than honored to have. Right now, I know my number is getting ready to be called. I’ve been in the gym working.”

Shoulder Injury Sidelines Luc Mbah A Moute 2-3 Weeks

The Rockets will be without forward Luc Mbah a Moute for two to three weeks following a shoulder injury sustained Wednesday night but, as Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets, the results of an MRI conducted reveal that there are no significant issues.

Shortly after the game on Wednesday, head coach Mike D’Antoni speculated that the 31-year-old had dislocated his shoulder and Rockets fans braced for  an extended stretch without a key rotation player.

In just over 25 minutes per game this season, Mbah a Moute has averaged 6.8 points and 3.4 rebounds for the Rockets while establishing himself as a defensive cornerstone.

Luc is a key for us defensively,” center Clint Capela told Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle. “We’re going to have to be more focused on defense because without Luc, it’s not going to be easy.

Southwest Notes: Davis, Noel, Carlisle, Paul

Anthony Davis will undergo further examination on his groin injury when the Pelicans return to New Orleans tomorrow, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He will be held out of tonight’s game in Portland.

Davis suffered the injury Friday night in Utah, collapsing under the basket while going after a rebound. He had to be helped off the court and later used crutches as he left the locker room. He was still on crutches as he arrived at the Moda Center tonight, according to Mike Richman of The Oregonian (Twitter link).

Davis has been among the league’s top young stars since being taken with the first pick in the 2012 draft, but durability has been a persistent problem. He appeared in 75 games last season, which marked the first time he was able to play in more than 70.

There’s more news from the Southwest Division:

  • Mavericks center Nerlens Noel didn’t get off the bench for the fourth straight game today, but he got some attention in the media dining area, relays Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. Noel stopped in for a hot dog at lunchtime, which is an unusual act for a player in uniform. He explained that he got hungry during the afternoon game and needed “fuel” in case he was called on in the second half. Whether it was an innocent gesture or an act of protest, it’s clear that Noel is unhappy being stuck on the bench. “I’m doing everything I need to, staying in shape, continuing to work on my game and working on the little things,” Noel said. “It’s frustrating at times. But I think I got laser focus right now for what I want to do and where I want to be. I’m anxious to play. When that comes, it comes.” But when asked if he expects that to happen in Dallas, he replied, “I honestly have no idea.”
  • Today’s win was number 700 for Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, Sefko notes in a separate story, which underscores how long he has been with the organization. He spent two seasons as head coach in Detroit and four years in Indiana before coming to Dallas at the start of 2008/09. “It means I’ve been very fortunate to have three great owners and a lot of great players,” Carlisle said. “I’ve never been one to count that kind of stuff. As time goes on, I count those things even less.”
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul and forward Luc Mbah a Moute will make their first trip back to Staples Center tomorrow since leaving the Clippers over the offseason, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Both say their emotions will be lessened because they are facing the Lakers instead of their former team.

Western Notes: Len, Gobert, Leonard, Rockets

Alex Len has become the odd man out in the Suns’ center rotation and he cannot hide his displeasure, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic reports. Len signed a one-year, $4.2MM qualifying offer with Phoenix after failing to receive an offer sheet that he found acceptable as a restricted free agent over the summer. Len has not played in two of the three last games, as interim coach Jay Triano has decided to ride veterans Tyson Chandler and recently-acquired Greg Monroe“I put in the work hoping to show my skills on the court,” Len told Bordow. “So when you’re not able to help your team, it’s frustrating.” Len’s lack of playing time won’t help his cause when he enters the market again next summer, this time as an unrestricted free agent.

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Jazz center Rudy Gobert is participating in on-court individual drills at practice, Eric Woodyard of The Deseret News tweets. This could be a sign that Gobert, who is recovering from a right knee injury, will return to action sooner than the four- to six-week timetable given on November 12th. Gobert injured the knee in a collision with Heat guard Dion Waiters.
  • Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard is making significant progress from the right quadriceps tendinopathy that has kept him out of action all season, coach Gregg Popovich told Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News and other media members. Popovich, who jokingly scoffed at “Doctor” Tony Parker‘s estimation that Leonard could return in two or three weeks, said Leonard would soon participate in 5-on-5 practice drills. “He’s getting very close and making progress,” Popovich said. “He’s having contact now and hopefully we will get him back shortly.”
  • The Rockets are not experiencing chemistry issues because the veterans they acquired know how to blend in, according to Hunter Atkins of The Houston Chronicle. Chris Paul, P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute know what it takes to work well with others and it shows now that the team is playing at full strength, Atkins adds.