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[RealGM.com] 2017 Offseason Preview: Houston Rockets

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by Rookie34, Jun 27, 2017.

  1. Rookie34

    Rookie34 Member

    Jun 30, 2006
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    2017 Offseason Preview: Houston Rockets

    By Keith P Smith
    JUN 26, 2017 5:16 PM

    After going to the conference finals in 2015, the Houston Rockets fell apart, amid infighting and injuries, and barely made the playoffs in 2016 with a .500 record. The 2017 season brought a new cast of characters under a new coach and a rejuvenated superstar had an MVP-caliber year.

    Houston began the makeover process immediately during the offseason. They renounced the free agent rights to Dwight Howard after three up and down seasons, Jason Terry, Josh Smith, and Terrence Jones. With Mike D’Antoni hired as head coach and the desire to play faster, the Rockets switched gears and built an attack around pace and space. In came Ryan Anderson, to play the stretch-4 spot, and Eric Gordon was signed to improve their bench. Both players were given four-year contracts, $80 million for Anderson and nearly $53 million for Gordon. Anderson provided over 40 percent shooting from behind the arc and Gordon is a top contender for 6th Man of the Year. Just as important, both were largely healthy for the entire season, which was a departure from their recent years with the Pelicans.

    D’Antoni’s system also works best with a good roll man, and the Rockets were able to add Nene on a one-year contract for the room exception. D’Antoni rested him often and conserved his minutes when he did play. Houston was rewarded with production that far outweighed the cost of acquiring it.

    Houston also used what was left of their cap space to re-negotiate and extend James Harden’s contract. They added two years to his contract and pushed his salary up to the new max. This showed faith in Harden and he repaid that show of faith in just about the biggest way possible. Although he felt short of averaging a triple-double for the entire season, he still finished as one of the top contenders for MVP. Harden scored 29.1 points per game, dished out an NBA-leading 11.2 assists per game and grabbed 8.1 rebounds per game. If that wasn’t enough, he improved his individual defense and became the leader that the team hoped he would be.

    By making All-NBA 1st Team, Harden also became eligible for the new Designated Player Veteran Extension (DPVE). The NBA and NBPA agreed to grandfather in both Harden and Russell Westbrook to be eligible to sign the DPVE. Since both players had gone the re-negotiate and extend path in 2016, they would have normally been ineligible to do so again. With the rule change, both are now able to sign the new, larger extension. Houston has indicated a preference to re-up with Harden once again, but will likely wait to do so until the remainder of their offseason moves are complete.

    Never one to rest on his laurels, Daryl Morey picked up Lou Williams at the trade deadline in exchange for Corey Brewer and a first round draft pick. Williams gave Houston additional scoring off the bench. He’s under contract for 17-18 for just $7 million, which is a steal for the bench scoring he provides.

    Morey never stops trying to improve his roster, as seen with the Williams acquisition, and seems to be angling to do so again in the summer of 2017. The Rockets have reportedly shopped Anderson, Williams and long-time Rocket Patrick Beverley in trade talks designed to clear cap space. Houston would like to put a second star next to Harden, as they chase the Warriors and Spurs in the Western Conference. Morey isn’t afraid to swing for the fences and reports are he is aiming to do so this summer. Rumored targets are point guards Chris Paul and Kyle Lowry and veteran big men Blake Griffin and Paul Millsap.

    Houston could be looking for a point guard who is an upgrade over Beverley as a two-way player. While Beverley remains a top-flight pest on defense and has improved his offensive game, both Paul and Lowry would be upgrades. In addition, despite his monster season, Harden seemed to wear down late in the year under a Usage Rate that was nearly two percentage points higher than his previous career-high. Getting him some help in terms of playmaking in the backcourt would be a welcomed addition.

    Up front, the Rockets made it work with a combination of Anderson, Nene and third year big man Clint Capela, who had a breakout season. But that group is short on top-end talent, as none of those players is a threat to make an All-Star game. While neither Griffin nor Millsap is the shooter Anderson is, they are both upgrades in every other facet of the game.

    As for the center spot, Capela’s breakout year and relatively cheap contract on the fourth year of his Rookie Scale deal make him virtually untouchable. He shot over 64 percent, scored 12.6 points per game, pulled down 8.1 rebounds per game and blocked 1.2 shots per game in just under 24 minutes per night. That is the kind of production every team would love to have. He’s also an ideal roll man in a pick and roll heavy offense, with his ability to get up for lobs and finish around the rim.

    Nene might be a different story. After producing so well on the cheap last year, he’s likely to command more on the open market this summer. With exceptions rising in pay with the new CBA, Nene is a prime target for contenders. He’s bought into a bench role and can be an almost devastating offensive weapon against second unit big men. He could return to Houston, but it is likely the Rockets would have to get him to agree to come back on the cheap once again.

    If Houston is unable to clear contracts to chase a major free agent, that doesn’t mean they’ll run the same team back. Morey is one of the few GMs who won’t be scared off Paul George being an expiring contract. If he believes George is the best player he can get, he’ll go get him and deal with his pending free agency later. Like most contenders, the Rockets believe in their team and culture being able to win players over on staying in town.

    Even if the move isn’t something as big as George, you can bet Morey will continue to tinker with the roster throughout the summer and all the way up to the trade deadline. Sometimes they might be smaller moves that slide by almost unnoticed. But follow the chain, as Morey always has the bigger picture in mind as he tweaks for the here and now. With news that he recently signed a four-year extension, Morey has the job security to make whatever moves he deems best.

    Offseason Details

    Guaranteed Contracts (10): Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Clint Capela, Sam Dekker, Eric Gordon, James Harden, Montrezl Harrell, Chinanu Onuaku, Lou Williams

    Partial/Non-Guaranteed Contracts (2): Isaiah Taylor, Kyle Wiltjer

    Potential Free Agents (3): Bobby Brown (RFA), Nene (UFA), Troy Williams (RFA)

    “Dead” Money on Cap (0): None

    First Round Draft Pick(s): None

    Maximum Cap Space: $8,187,738

    Projected Cap Space: None. $4,502,254 over


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