The Rockets have no plans to hit the restart button after their Game 6 flop at home against the Warriors. Owner Tilman Fertitta is intent on improving the roster to help the core group get over the hump in future playoffs, Tim MacMahon of ESPN reports.
“I’m very fortunate to have the starting five that I have, but if we can make this team better, we’re going to make this team better,” Fertitta said. “That’s just a fact. I have a great team. I love all five of my starting five, but it’s my job to make sure that we put the best team that we can put on the court next year.”
It’s one thing to say that upgrades are forthcoming. It’s another thing to pull that off when the team already has major salary cap issues. The combined salaries of James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker alone put Houston over the projected cap of $109MM for next season.
Harden isn’t going anywhere, so unless the Rockets could somehow unload Paul’s contract — he’s owed a whopping $124MM over the next three years — they’re not going to gain significant cap relief in a trade. The Rockets do have nine trade exceptions they can utilize but none are worth more than $3.62MM.
Houston’s bench is bound to look different because virtually all of its reserves become free agents or have non-guaranteed contracts for next season. The only exception is veteran big man Nene, who can exercise a $3,825,360 player option.
Both of their draft picks this June were traded away in previous deals, with the first-rounder being conveyed to the Cavaliers and the second-rounder going to the Knicks.
The only other major asset Houston will have at its disposal is the $5.7MM mid-level exception for a taxpaying team. Perhaps the Rockets can entice a quality player to sign for below-market value in order to join a contending team.
Otherwise, GM Daryl Morey will have his work cut out for him to create a deeper and more productive bench. Fertitta remains optimistic the Rockets will be champions in the near future.
“I can promise you, we’re going to win some championships with James Harden, because we are not going to sit here,” he said. “We will go to battle every year. We’re going to have a strong offseason, and we’re going to do whatever we need to do to be a better team. We are not going to sit on our hands, I can promise you that.”