The Houston Rockets’ 2016-17 season ended in the Western Conference Semifinals and learned that, even with an MVP caliber James Harden, they need much more to compete with the very best in the West. Houston’s cap space is pretty well tied up at the moment, but Daryl Morey is reportedly working hard to try and make moves ahead of Thursday’s draft in order to free up space for the Rockets to go after some major targets in free agency.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Rockets plan to “go hard” after Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Paul Millsap, and Kyle Lowry this offseason, with Paul being their primary target. In order to clear space for one of those max signings, Houston is reportedly exploring trades for Ryan Anderson, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley, the latter of which we already had heard rumblings about him being on the market. As for the legitimacy of these rumors, both Williams and Beverley have responded to them on Twitter, indicating that they’re at least realistic possibilities.
Williams, making $7 million next year, and Beverley, making $5.5 million next year, wouldn’t clear nearly as much cap space as Anderson ($19.5 million). The Rockets, if they renounce the rights to Nene Hilario, Troy Williams, and Bobby Brown, can create $10.5 million in cap space. If they were able to manage to move Anderson’s entire contract in a salary dump, that would get them to $30 million in space and close to a max deal — although that would take finding a team with nearly $20 million to absorb that deal in full.
It’s more likely that it takes multiple moves in order to clear enough cap space to have room for another max contract, but in the race to catch up with the Golden State Warriors, another max player alongside James Harden is clearly a necessary evil. We’ve heard rumors recently that the Atlanta Hawks are exploring sign-and-trade options for Paul Millsap, which could be an option to get the Rockets one of their max targets while unloading Beverley, Anderson, or others to make room for that max or near max deal coming back.