State of the Cap: Houston Rockets

Sat, 05/22/2010 - 8:46pm

By Mike Misek

2010/11 Houston Rockets Payroll: $58.1 million
2010/11 NBA Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Roughly: $2 million over cap


Luis ScolaLuis ScolaYao Ming - ETO for $17.7 million
Jared Jeffries - Player Option for $6.9 million
Chuck Hayes - Team Option for $2.3 million
Mike Harris - Non-guaranteed Team Option for $854K
Alexander Johnson - Non-guaranteed Team Option for $885K
Brian Cook - Unrestricted Free Agent
Hilton Armstrong - Unrestricted Free Agent
Luis Scola - Qualifying Offer for $4.1 million
Kyle Lowry - Qualifying Offer for just $3.0 million
Sergio Llull - 2nd round pick from 2009 and backup combo guard for Real Madrid has one more year on his current deal. He won’t come over to the NBA, but is a possible asset that could be used in a summer trade.

Draft Picks: 14th overall pick in the draft

The Good: Despite playing without their franchise center, the Rockets were able to grind their way to a 42-40 season. It has little to do with how good they will be going forward, but it shows the team to have respectability in how they play. The team also fleeced the Knicks out of 2009 top 10 pick Jordan Hill, a 2012 first round pick, and the rights to swap picks in 2011 for taking back Jared Jeffries in the epic Tracy McGrady trade. The funny part of that trade is that between the young players, draft picks, international interest in the franchise, and established veterans, the Rockets would probably be in better position to work a sign-and-trade for LeBron James than New York. Maybe that is only funny to me. It is mostly funny because Houston is not going land James, but in part because the Rockets do have more assets and flexibility to attract someone this offseason.

The Bad: At some point, teams are going to learn that role players aiding superstars are not necessarily fit to take on bigger roles with new teams. Trevor Ariza should not have nearly as prominent a role in the offense that he played this season. It is not so much that the Rockets were wrong to allow Artest to leave, but a criticism of the assumption that Ariza would thrive in a greater role outside Los Angeles. With Yao, Brooks, Martin, and theoretically a traded for player with a contract in excess of eight figures annually, he should be able to return to a fifth option. If not, those $28 million remaining on his deal do not look particularly good.

The Future: Houston has one of the murkier cap pictures because they have so many variables in play. Coming off a broken bone in his left foot, Yao Ming is unlikely to opt out of his $17.7 million deal for this coming season. Jared Jeffries is not going to opt out of $6.9 million. The team has long liked Chuck Hayes and the post defense and intangibles he brings to the team. Given that his team option is for only $2.3 million, it is likely they will pick it up. Those variables alone place Houston over the cap going into the summer of 2010. It is everyone else who are up in the air. The team will surely offer Luis Scola a $4.1 million qualifying offer and Kyle Lowry a tender of just less than $3 million in order to match any and all offers for them.

If Houston attempts to become a player in the free agent market this summer, it will have to be through sign-and-trades. The team does have a number of valuable trade pieces. Scola is a very valuable player who is capable of being a secondary option on offense (as his 18-9 per following the All-Star break/trade of Carl Landry shows) while also being the screener and worker bee fifth option when that is the role needed. While not the leaper of David Lee, he offers a team the same kind of power forward. Shane Battier is well regarded throughout the league for his defensive prowess, and also would give a team an expiring contract. Jordan Hill showed signs of life following his trade from New York and is a promising young talent. Former second round picks Chase Budinger proved to be a steal and Jermaine Taylor could provide some value to a rebuilding team. The Rockets also possess the 2012 first round pick from the Knicks.

It has long been reported that Houston wants to try to acquire Houston-native Chris Bosh this summer. A sign-and-trade package could be created amongst a re-signed Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, David Andersen, a 2011 first round pick, and also 2012 first round pick (because they have two first rounders in 2012 they can work around the rule regarding dealing future first round picks in consecutive years). It would deplete the depth Houston currently boasts, but it is much easier to find depth than stars. Of course, this is all be contingent on the assumption that Chris Bosh wants to leave Toronto, and should he want to leave, a desire to play for Houston despite stating concerns about the negatives surrounding returning home.

If the Rockets cannot turn their assets into a star, it will be the first kink in the Daryl Morey supposed super genius armor. Expensive and average is no way to operate in the NBA. While the Rockets are a likable bunch whose willingness to play hard and scrap is respectable, a team that has Trevor Ariza taking 14 shots per game needs to bring in another scorer to halve that amount. The saving grace for holding on to their assets would be that if Yao is unable to return to pre-injury form next season, the Rockets would be in a decent position to rebuild with so many contracts expiring after 2010-11 (they have less than 20 million committed past next season), two first round picks in 2012, and a few interesting prospects whose rights they have retained working on their games in Europe.

Grade: B+

ajthejuiceman's picture
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Joined: 07/28/2009
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they will b a contender next

they will b a contender next year with or without bosh

ChicagoHope32's picture
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Joined: 04/08/2009
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Dallas Native

Bosh is from Dallas not Houston, but either way he might sign to the Rockets.

sc0rebuckets11's picture
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Joined: 01/03/2009
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No mention of K-Mart2?

I'd expect him to be huge, when Yao is catching those dbl teams next yr.

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