State of the Cap: Houston Rockets
2008/09 Houston Rockets Payroll: $70.3 million
2008/09 Estimated Salary Cap: $58 million
Roughly $12.3 million over cap
[img_assist|nid=1521|title=Yao Ming|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=450]When the Rockets stole Luis Scola from the San Antonio Spurs for almost nothing, they knew they were getting a good player. As it turns out, they were right on the money. The Argentinean veteran had plenty of international experience.
He was able to step in and perform right away and he did very well, averaging 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds on efficient 51.5% shooting. By the end of the season, Scola was a full time starter and he played his best ball of the year in the playoffs, averaging 14 points and 9.3 rebounds against the Jazz. Scola adds toughness and a high basketball IQ for just $3.1 and $3.3 million the next two seasons, making him an incredible value.
On a team full of excellent role players, Shane Battier is the best of the bunch. His stats won't immediately wow you (9.3 points, 5.1 rebounds), but his combination of defense, experience, and solid three point shooting make him indispensible. Battier is surprisingly the third highest paid player on the team, set to make $20.5 million over the next three years. Because of the intangibles he brings to the table, and his amazing health over his career, Battier is worth every penny.
The Rockets' best two players are also their biggest problems. Yao Ming has missed large chunks of three consecutive seasons, which is a disturbing trend. This time, it caused him to miss the playoffs. Yao will be paid $49 million the next three seasons combined and when healthy he is certainly capable of putting up numbers worthy of that price. His 22 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 2 blocks per game place him squarely in the conversation for best center in the league. However, he won't do his team any good sitting on the sideline year after year as opportunities are wasted.
Tracy McGrady has done a better job of staying on the court in recent years, yet he still missed 16 games this season. His stats would suggest that McGrady is still a versatile superstar with 21.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 5.9 assists each night, but his shooting percentages say otherwise. McGrady made just 41.9% of his shots, including a horrible 29.2% of his threes, the lowest he has shot from downtown in eight years. He is wasting a lot of good attempts on offense, a good reason why his scoring average is also at an eight-year low. Houston will be paying McGrady $21.1 and $23.2 million the next two seasons, an exorbitant amount for a superstar who is 0-7 in the first round of the playoffs. For that kind of money, McGrady needs to play much, much better.
Yao and McGrady have been together in Houston now for four years and we still don’t know how good they can truly be together because neither of them can stay healthy for a full season. In their first year, Ming was just starting to become the player he is today. Without their injury woes, there is no telling what they could have accomplished. First and foremost, Houston needs to pray that they can finally piece together a full season as teammates.
As we know from their miraculous 22-game winning streak, this team is more than just two superstars. The Rockets posses arguably the best bench in the league. Players like Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry, Bobby Jackson, Dikembe Mutombo, Luther Head, and others can all come in and give them quality minutes by playing hard and within the system. Landry was an especially nice surprise and he must be re-signed this summer, but within reason. Mutombo can still swat shots in his old age and he has expressed interest in returning. Their cast of role players became even deeper with the acquisition of shooter Brent Barry, recently signed to a two-year contract. Keeping this team intact with their excellent chemistry is vital and none of their cheap salaries should pose much of a problem.
The biggest area of need is at point guard. Rafer Alston gives pretty good value for his contract since he will only be paid $4.9 and $5.2 million the next two seasons. For that, the Rockets get 13.1 points and 5.3 assists per game. However, Alston is a terrible shooter, managing to hit just 39.4% of his attempts, and he doesn’t seem to be the kind of point guard that will get them over the hump. Neither does Bobby Jackson (more of a bench player), Aaron Brooks (too small and inexperienced). Houston must find a way upgrade their point guard position if they expect to be contenders in the West. With no cap space available, they will have to get crafty with a trade. Or, they can hope that a full season from their two superstars will trump their deficiency at the point.
There is a growing trend in the NBA these days: undersized, overlooked forwards that can actually play. The Rockets have two prime examples in Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes. Both are in the 6'6" to 6'7" range, yet they make their living near the rim amongst the trees. Jason Maxiell of Detroit is another one. These players are proving that as long as you have the strength, the ability, and the heart, then size doesn't matter. In the future, perhaps more of these types of players won't be so easily dismissed.
Main State of the Cap Page
Mike James was traded to the Hornets
WOOO, finally you did Houston's State of the Cap. I have been waiting for this and I'm a huge Rockets Fan. I go to many games during the season. Well I think you're article is fine except Mike James doesn't play for the Houston Rockets. We traded him to New Orleans and also Rafer is a good point guard who can play. If he started one of the first two games in the Playoffs I guarantee we win one and the series goes 7. I also think the grade is a bit low; at least I was expecting a B+. Next year when we have a healthy T-Mac-Yao duo we will be a top 3 seed. The bench is awesome and the addition of Brent Barry will help, but we need to resign Carl Landry and Dikembe Mutombo. Also our three draft picks have been exceptional so far in the SummerLeague although Marty Leunen probably won't play in the NBA, but Donte Greene and Joey Dorsey are good players and our GM is looking like a genius to come out of the Draft with 3 players and a Memphis 2nd Round Draft Pick. Nicolas Batum, our actual pick isn't doing so well adapting to the American Style of basketball and has struggled. Starting Five: PG Rafer Alston, SG Tracy McGrady, SF Shane Battier, PF Luis Scola, and C Yao Ming. Next year we will be a GREAT TEAM as long as we have no severe injuries.
GO HOUSTON ROCKETS!
WOW! Well..now with the trade and bringing in Ron Artest. Uh..just add that into the mix and possibly the starting lineup. I can't wait till November...heck October. I'll watch preseason. HOUSTON'S BIG THREE: YAO MING, TRACY MCGRADY, AND RON ARTEST!!!!! I smell Conference Finals at least. :D We traded a project in Donte Greene and that kind of sadden me at first, but we are getting someone who we know about and not a guy who just dominated against rookies and some good players in the summer league. Top 3 seed still. I have more to say, but eh I don't feel like typing anymore considering the time it is right now. GO HOUSTON ROCKETS!