For a rebuilding team like the Houston Rockets, the offseason provides more thrills and optimism than the actual season. A changing roster, offseason workouts, and proclamations by the organization and players have a way of cleansing the palate and hyping up the coming season before cold reality beckons.
For the Rockets, cold reality came early. They own the worst record in the league, as an absolutely brutal opening schedule saw them play a road-heavy gauntlet of opponents. Their 2-12 record looks bad, but they easily could be 0-14. With a run at the play-in all but a distant dream, the upcoming 2023 NBA draft and free agency offer solace for a brighter future.
Due to the NBA draft lottery, there’s not much to make of the Rockets’ draft plans. If they get the first pick, they’ll likely select Victor Wembanyama, with the second will go Scoot Henderson, and no player yet established a stranglehold on third. However, there is plenty of certainty surrounding the 2023 NBA free agency.
The Houston Rockets will have plenty of spending power
The Rockets will enter the 2023 offseason with $34.5 million in cap space but have the ability to open as much as $72.6 million. That figure could change depending on where they draft and if they take on any salary, but there’s an easy avenue for the Rockets to fit a max contract into their books.
To get to $72.6 million, they’d have to cut/release Eric Gordon, Bruno Fernando, Garrison Mathews, Kenyon Martin Jr., and Daishen Nix, and then relinquish the cap holds of Boban Marjanovic, Darius Days, Michael Frazier, and Trevor Hudgins.
Fernando, Mathews, Martin, and Nix will likely be retained as they’re set to make a combined $8.3 million. Gordon has a non-guaranteed salary of $20.9 million, and Marjanovic has a cap hold of $6.6 million, so simply letting those two go will open up an additional $27.5 million to add to their $34.5 million in cap space. Add it all up, and the Rockets should walk into free agency with at least $62 million in cap space.
No team will have as much cap space as the Rockets, but the Spurs have the ability to open up $73.2 million in cap space, and the Pacers can get to $60.7 million. The Magic, Pistons, Thunder, and Hornets can all open up at least $40 million in space as well, but functionally, the Rockets and Spurs will have the most spending power in the 2023 offseason.
In parts two, three, and four we'll look at unrestricted free agents, players who have options, and then restricted free agents.