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Houston Rockets: Will Fertitta be able to dodge the luxury tax this season?

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 26: Owner Tilman Fertitta of the Houston Rockets waves to the crowd after the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center on October 26, 2019 in Houston, Texas. 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. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 26: Owner Tilman Fertitta of the Houston Rockets waves to the crowd after the game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Toyota Center on October 26, 2019 in Houston, Texas. 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. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has repeatedly made it known that he doesn’t want to spend the luxury tax, but will he be able to dodge it this season?

The Houston Rockets are hard-capped financially, which has hindered General Manager Daryl Morey from being able to make significant moves during the 2019-20 season. Technically Morey has the ability to make acquisitions, but it would put the Rockets over the tax apron, and owner Tilman Fertitta has made it known how he feels about paying the luxury tax.

But based on the Rockets’ payroll, Fertitta may not be able to get his wish this season. According to Spotrac, the Rockets total salaries add upto $133,375,331 and the NBA’s luxury tax threshold is $132,627,000. This means as currently slated, the Rockets are $748,331 into the tax apron, which is just the beginning of Fertitta’s misfortunes. Spotrac estimates the Rockets’ luxury tax bill will be $1,122,497, which will be quite difficult to dodge.

The Rockets can shed Nene’s salary in a trade, but that also won’t be enough to get under the tax threshold, as noted by salary cap expert David Weiner.

The challenge is that Clint Capela‘s contract extension included incentives worth upto two million per year over the life of his five-year deal. Based on this season, Capela may very well receive a one million dollar bonus for having a defensive rebounding percentage of 30 percent and for  potentially helping the Rockets reach the Western Conference Finals, if they get there.

We’ve previously raised the question of whether the Rockets should be willing to pay the tax, but since they are likely already going to pay it anyways, the most logical move would be to spend big, as long as they’re adding players who would make the Rockets better. The latter is less of a concern, as we know Morey is without question one of the elite general managers in the league.

It’s interesting that Fertitta has been so adamant about wanting to dodge the tax because he certainly has the means to afford paying the costs. According to Forbes, the Houston Rockets owner has a net worth of $4.8 billion, which places him inside the top 140 wealthiest Americans in the country.

It’s been said before, but if Fertitta is serious about the Rockets winning a championship, he’ll have to accept the fact that the luxury tax is a necessary evil. It’s no coincidence that there’s been a taxpaying team in the NBA Finals in each of the last five years, which includes the Toronto Raptors last season. But on top of that, it would give Morey a plethora of options and allow him to use his creativity to add the necessary ingredients to bring a title to Houston. It’s obvious that the Rockets need more depth, and they’ve made it know that they are in search of a 3-and-D wing, which will be hard to land without paying the tax.

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It seems like this year presents the toughest challenge for Fertitta’s quest of avoiding the luxury tax, and since the Rockets are likely going to be taxpayers anyways, they might as well spend big. Because the alternative of constantly dodging the tax while always being a player away from winning the title is certainly not worth the cost savings.

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