Rockets: Carmelo Anthony taking the minimum creates flexibility

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 9: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during the game against the Miami Heat on April 9, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 9: Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Oklahoma City Thunder looks on during the game against the Miami Heat on April 9, 2018 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Rockets have practically signed another big name player to the roster to complement their two stars.

The Houston Rockets are slowly starting to rebuild their roster after the losses of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute. They have filled it with defensive players like James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams as well as recently getting news that Carmelo Anthony would sign with the team.

This news came from Marc Stein and wasn’t really a shock at this point. The Rockets were heavy favorites to land Anthony after pursuing him for, at least, the third time in his career. They struck out the previous two times, but appear to have secured him this year.

The shocking part about this situation is the money. Melo is expected to secure the full $27.9 million contract buyout from the Hawks, so he will take the veteran’s minimum $2.4 million with the Rockets. Yes, the veteran’s minimum!

This gives the Rockets more flexibility within this summer and into the regular season. Let’s explore that flexibility a bit:

How it gives Houston some flexibility

For the most part, it was expected that the Rockets would have to pay Carmelo Anthony at least most of the Mid-Level Exception of $5.4 million. Taking the veteran’s minimum, though, lets the team still have that $5.4 million available to spend on another player.

There are many options that Houston has with this money. Part of it will likely go to De’Anthony Melton’s rookie contract, giving the Rockets the ability to sign him for multiple seasons. But then who will the rest of the money be used on at some point?

Current free agents

For the most part, the worthwhile free agents have signed somewhere for the upcoming season. The majority of the players left are minimum-level players that won’t get part of the MLE. Let’s look at a couple of names that might (just might) warrant some of the MLE:

Nick Young is a player that has been rumored to be connected to the Rockets. He is a great shooter who could do great things in the D’Antoni offense. His defense, however, is atrocious. Would his offensive game be enough to give him some of the valuable MLE?

Greg Monroe is the other name I had in mind for the exception. Monroe is a good, offensive center who can rebound decently as well. He may not be worth the full MLE, but he would be a solid backup big man who can play in Nene’s spot as he ages.

More likely option: Buyout market

While getting a free agent now is an idea that would possibly pay off in the short-term to begin the season, waiting until teams start buying out their players is the more likely, and better, option for the Rockets.

Our friend and great Rockets follow Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) gave some names that we could potentially see in the buyout market this year:

We're 5+ months early on this, but some potential buyout names:

Wings: Ariza, Carroll, Matthews, Parsons, Arthur, Dudley, Shumpert

Bigs: Chandler, Faried, Lopez, Koufos

I'm sure there will be more, those are just names that initially jump out at me. Bigger than usual market.

— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) July 23, 2018

One clarification: Ben noted that good-ole Parsons actually will not be a buyout candidate as he has two more years on his deal with the Grizzlies. Darn.

Still, the other names are very interesting for the Rockets, who are expected to be a contender once again. Many of these guys, such as Wesley Matthews and DeMarre Carroll, are good two-way players that would fit right in with Houston.

Also, a Trevor Ariza reunion would be pretty hilarious after he left for more money in Phoenix. If the Suns are as poor as expected, a buyout of Trev is a legitimate possibility.

Next: The Rockets should pursue one more defensive wing

The Rockets have plenty of options thanks to Melo’s willingness to take less money than he may have been able to get elsewhere. I know Morey and Co. will be able to figure out what to do with the MLE!

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