Marcus Camby is off the roster. Camby suffered a torn plantar fascia, a condition which will require surgery. Whether Camby will return to the Houston organization or not isn’t yet known. What is known is that after waiving Camby, the Rockets only need to waive one more player to reach the regular season cap of fifteen players.With the regular season starting in mere hours, the Rockets will have to make a choice, and soon.
Much of the roster is locked in. The starter caliber players are all sacrosanct. James Harden, Dwight Howard, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, Ömer Aşık and Patrick Beverley are absolute keepers. Francisco Garcia, veteran player on a veteran minimum contract, is a lock. With Camby gone, Greg Smith moves up in the rotation and is a valuable insurance policy against injury to Aşık or Howard. Who, then, of the remaining players is going to go?
Omri Casspi was in the hotseat the moment he signed on with the Rockets. After a disappointing stint with the Cavaliers, many saw him as little more than a warm body on the bench. Instead, Casspi came out swinging during the preseason and seems to have played himself into a roster spot. Whether his preseason performance is at all indicative of his regular season potential, he looked leagues better than Donatas Motiejunas, a player he’s on track to leapfrog. Terrence Jones, in the games he played before suffering a shoulder strain, looked capable, especially on the glass. As sophomores, both players are still extremely young and on extremely good contracts. The forward spots are are weak and Houston needs all the potential they can get.
The other overstocked position for the Rockets is the point guard, a spot which begins with two starter-quality players in Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley. Aaron Brooks and rookie Isaiah Canaan bring up the rear for the Rockets’ point depth. Brooks played aggressively in preseason, presumably trying to cement his spot on the roster. With Canaan on a valuable rookie contract, he’s likely safe for the time being. He’s expected to spend a large part of this season with Houston’s D-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Because Canaan isn’t going to be ready or even with the team, Aaron Brooks’ tenure is actually strengthened as the point guard insurance policy.
The cut, then, is between a few players who didn’t do much during summer league. Robert Covington, Ronnie Brewer and Reggie Williams are the clear candidates in a contest where the loser gets paid to stay home. Each of them has factors that make them expendable, and traits that are desirable. Covington has the advantage of being a rookie, though an undrafted one. He’s a clear candidate for the Valley Vipers, which is a place he’s likely to go whether he’s waived or not. The biggest advantage to waiving him would be that Houston could stash him in the D-League until their season starts, allowing them to come back and re-sign him later if the situation changes.
Ronnie Brewer has the most NBA experience of the group, and is an able defender. The downside is that he’s a poor shooter, something which is anathema to Houston’s system. Reggie Williams, on the other hand, has shown promise before and is only in his fourth year. Unfortunately, he was only able to crack the preseason rotation in garbage time, something that is anything but promising for his prospects. He fulfills a similar role to Omri Casspi, but Casspi can play the four, and soundly outplayed Williams in general.
Any of those three players may get the axe in the extremely near future. In fact, a second might be cut if Camby recovers and looks ready to play later in the season. The Rockets can’t bank on potential and trade value any more. A tight rotation and able players are the name of the game, now. Unfortunately, the rules of that game mean that one more player will have to be cut, and we’ll find out who it is soon enough.