May 15, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) drives to the basket as Chicago Bulls small forward Jimmy Butler (21) defends during the second half in game five of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. Miami Heat won 94-91. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
There’s no question that all the talk of the Houston Rockets offseason priorities are aimed at Dwight Howard. But early reports have pointed towards Howard staying with the Los Angeles Lakers. If that’s the case, then the Rockets don’t have too many options with big men.
The only other viable free agent options would be Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, and Andrew Bynum. Smith is the most talented player out of the bunch, but will demand a maximum contract. While he would fit in perfectly with the Rockets as the power forward with his defense, versatility, athleticism, and rebounding, his inconsistencies throughout his career makes it a huge risk to sign Smith to that level of money.
Millsap could be a safer choice, and the Rockets can sign him to a shorter-term contract, but I’m not sure how much better of a player he is at this point than what Greg Smith, Terrence Jones, or Donatas Motiejunas can turn out to be. Jefferson would be a horrible fit for the Rockets because of his lack of defense, and the Rockets front office most likely will not want to roll the dice by bringing in Bynum.
With Houston not owning a first-round pick in the upcoming draft, the Rockets really can save their salary cap space for next summer. That’s when Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony all will have options to become free agents. Beyond them, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Danny Granger, Luol Deng, and Paul Pierce.
It might also make more sense financially as the Rockets need to re-sign Chandler Parsons soon to a fair deal (two years remaining for a combined $2 million). Both Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin will also have their contracts set to expire the following season as well.
In both cases, the Rockets are in a good place. Houston has no need to commit to a questionable player such as Smith, Millsap or Bynum out of desperation this summer. The Rockets have the luxury of surveying their options and seeing what makes sense for them this offseason, all while being able to save their decisions until next offseason.