How the Rockets can help cripple the Lakers financially

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Four
Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Four / Harry How/GettyImages

The Houston Rockets are primed to be big spenders this summer, whether through free agency or via trade. The Rockets are armed with over $60 million in cap space and find themselves desperate to get back to relevancy.

The next stage of the Rockets' rebuild has been dubbed as "phase two", which involves taking a leap, which the franchise hopes will allow them the opportunity to qualify for the postseason. The list of available free agents this summer isn't necessarily a great one, outside of James Harden, who the Rockets have a high affinity for. 

One of the best options on the market is Los Angeles Lakers guard Austin Reaves, who is a restricted free agent and is looking to get paid, after making just $2.5 million through the first two years of his NBA career. The Rockets likely won't have a legitimate opportunity to reel in "Hillbilly Kobe" because the Lakers can't afford to lose him and are destined to match any offer that Reaves signs.

How the Rockets can help cripple the Lakers financially

But the Rockets can make life difficult for the Lakers by swooping in and offering a gargantuan four-year deal worth $80-100 million. This is because the Lakers can only offer Reaves a four-year deal worth north of $50 million, but they can match a larger offer, which can be upto $100.4 million, if offered by another team.

And according to long-time NBA insider Marc Stein, that's exactly what they'll do (subscription required).

"There is frankly no scenario, based on what I know, that Reaves won't be a Laker next season. Even if a team or two out there does decide to put a higher offer on the table than the maximum four-year, $51 million deal that the Lakers can offer, all indications are that the Lakers will match whatever they must to keep the restricted free agent."

If the Rockets know that the Lakers are going to match, they'd be wise to offer him a larger offer, because it would cripple the Lake Show and squeeze them into making tough roster decisions. This is the exact situation that reportedly has the Lakers' brass concerned.

This would be brilliant on the Rockets' part, seeing how they'll find it difficult to supplant any of the playoff teams in the Western Conference this season. The Lakers will surely have to let D'Angelo Russell bolt in free agency, in this scenario, which they may not lose sleep over, based on his no-show in the Western Conference Finals.

The real consequence for the Lakers if they were to match a hefty offer for Reaves is in regards to Kyrie Irving, who franchise star LeBron James has publicly endorsed. The best path for the Lakers to nab Irving would be to send Russell out in a sign-and-trade deal, which would allow the Lake Show to pay Irving a salary starting at roughly $33 million.

This is a much lower number than what Irving could get elsewhere and we know he wants to get paid this summer, wherever he goes. Will he take less money to join the Lakers?

These are the types of questions and challenges the Lakers will run into this summer, and especially if a team like the Rockets swoop in and offer Reaves his full max. No wonder the Lakers are concerned.