The situation for the Houston Rockets, now that they’ve added Dwight Howard, is changing fast. Omer Asik is reportedly uninterested in playing as a backup center, while in order to create more cap space or bring in another player, Jeremy Lin will be used in a trade.
Howard has decided he’ll join the Rockets, but with “only” $15 million in cap-space, the Rockets can’t give him a maximum contract if he signs as a free agent. Now it’s down to Daryl Morey to work out his option.
He can release Greg Smith, Patrick Beverley,Tim Ohlbrecht and James Anderson without taking a cap hit (which means just over $3.3 million in cleared cap space), but it’s unlikely the Rockets have any plans to get rid of both Smith (averaging 6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16 minutes) or Beverley, who looks a lot more likely to be the starting point guard next season, being much more than just the guy who knocked Russell Westbrook out of a series. He averaged 11.8 points per game in the playoffs.
Asik, according to ESPN sources, has no intention of being a backup center once again. He averaged 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 30 minutes a night, playing in all 82 games. Despite his salary being on average a $8.3 million deal for all three seasons he signed on, moving him might not be so easy.
The Rockets signed him off the Bulls last summer, but back-loaded his contract, meaning he’s owed over $20 million for the next couple of seasons ($5.22 million in 2013-2014), and his guaranteed salary for 2014-2015 is $15 million. Still, it’s hard to find NBA teams who don’t want to take on a double-double 7-footer who is only 27, even if it means getting creative financially after next season.
There’s a chance both Asik and Lin are used in separate deals, but it all depends on how Howard plans on coming. If he’ll take a reduced salary than the four-year, $88 million a max deal usually entails, the Rockets might not have to trade both players. If Howard wants the full amount, it’ll have to be a sign & trade with the Los Angeles Lakers, and in terms of salary, only by sending both Asik and Lin (making a combined $16.6 million next season) will the deal work.
There’s also the Josh Smith option on the table, but that again might involve both players. As we’ve mentioned a couple of times this week, the Rockets need to do one big trade if they plan on going for the Howard & Smith tandem right away, or adding any All-Star caliber player to the roster, although with the Hawks, who have plenty of cap space even after adding Millsap, one player and a draft pick might be enough to make the deal work. Asik coming over and allowing Al Horford to move to Power Forward is an option, but Millsap wouldn’t like being a bench player most likely.
It all depends on how much “championship” the Houston Rockets are thinking about. James Harden and Dwight Howard are potentially one of the best 1-2 punches in the NBA, not to mention having Omer Asik as a backup center, making him the best at his position. The Lin conundrum has been discussed more than once – if the ball isn’t in his hands, he doesn’t make much sense in the backcourt, and he doesn’t want to be a backup either.
The Rockets have a roster than can make a title run but will probably fall short, but more importantly, without making any more moves and leaving things as they are, there will be plenty of unhappy faces, probably dragging the team below where they should finish.