In the last two offseasons, the Rockets have been major players in free agency. All indications from Daryl Morey are that that’s not going to be the case this year. In 2013, Houston landed the biggest free agent of the summer in Dwight Howard. Last year, they made a pitch to Carmelo Anthony and came close to luring Chris Bosh away from Miami, before the Heat came through with a max contract offer. Now, even with such names as Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge on the market, Morey seems more focused on re-signing the Rockets’ own players who are due for new deals than adding another star.
The Rockets are “probably likely” to stick with their plan to remain above the salary cap and spend the free-agency period putting the band back together by signing many, if not all, of their five free agents.
Morey did say there are “possible opportunities we have to explore that are bigger. But I think they’re unlikely.”
Those unlikely “possible opportunities” are enough for the Rockets to do some big-game hunting when free-agent season opens Wednesday, but without the confidence of the past two summers.
This summer’s top free-agent targets – big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love – are considered much greater long shots than the top players of the past two offseasons that had the Rockets in the middle of the annual free-agent frenzy.
The Rockets will have five players to make decisions on this summer: restricted free agents Patrick Beverley and K.J. McDaniels, and unrestricted free agents Josh Smith, Corey Brewer and Jason Terry. Beverley and Smith are the two most likely players to be priorities. Beverley missed the last two weeks of the regular season and the entire postseason with torn ligaments in his left wrist, but he should be healthy by training camp and he’s been a defensive pest for Houston the last three years. He should be due for a significant raise over the $915,000 he made this season — probably something north of $10 million annually.
Smith resurrected his career in Houston after a catastrophic year-plus in Detroit, learning to play to his strengths as a solid defender and around-the-basket finisher and complimenting Howard well in the frontcourt. Brewer found a perfect role as an energy guy off the bench in Houston after being traded from Minnesota in December. Terry was surprisingly solid in the backup point guard role, stepping in as a starter after Beverley went down. McDaniels didn’t play much after being traded to Houston from Philadelphia at the deadline, but he’s still a promising young talent.
Unless something unforeseen happens, Morey’s plan seems to be to keep this group together and add new draftees Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. And why not? The Rockets made the Western Conference Finals despite injuries to Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas. If the opportunity is there to get a star like Love or Aldridge, Morey will obviously go for it, but it’s understandable that he sees potential for this core to make yet another leap after a successful season and playoff run.