Free agency officially got kicked off at midnight last night with Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey traveling to Philadelphia to pitch Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry on being the team’s third highest priority (after James, Melo, Love) during this summer season. This marks the second point guard whom Houston has relinquished and then later pursued. The team also is rumored to have made contact with the representatives of Paul Pierce and James Johnson in addition to navigating the awkward waters of the Chandler Parsons situation. As has been known since the season ended, Houston also is in pursuit of Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Love. Anthony, specifically, will meet with the Rockets on Wednesday in Houston before taking a short nap and meeting with Dallas. Or maybe Dallas first, then the nap, then the Rockets. In summary, Houston has targeted most of the major names on the market. Jeremy Lin has hired a realtor.
More Draft Stuff - Now that we know who the Houston Rockets have selected in the draft, we can go back and catch up on some of the coverage we may have overlooked heading into the draft. Most of this content is ESPN Insider material, so I though I would pass on some of the more important tidbits from ESPN’s top-secret files. But first, Chad Ford’s grades for the Rockets from draft night.
HOUSTON ROCKETS | GRADE: C-
Round 1:Clint Capela (25)
Round 2:Nick Johnson (42)
Analysis: The Rockets are busy trying to clear cap space for a run at LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Again, I’m not sure how likely it is they land either guy, but both players are worth the effort. So the Rockets took a player in Capela, whom they can leave in Europe to develop — and he needs the time. Capela is long and athletic, but very raw. His analytics numbers were off the charts for Kevin Pelton, but watching him in games was pretty painful. He has a ways to go.
Johnson, who is tough and super-athletic, could help now if the Rockets have a roster spot. He defends and can shoot it a bit. If he were a few inches taller, he would’ve gone much, much higher. Read More
Sup. Thought I’d pop in to nerdify things a bit before everyone goes bananas over LeMeloLove.
Like everyone else, I watched the NBA finals completely slackjawed. If you were not clapping for the Spurs out of admiration, or at least begrudging respect, then I will dedicate my next chart to showing how statistically dead to me you are. Anyone who has ever complained about isolation-happy heroball watched those finals with a few tears welling up in their eyes.
Afterwards, the internet was somewhat split over what the Spurs victory portended. On one hand, it might be a harbinger of things to come–more teams would employ ball movement, passing, and all that good stuff. On the other hand, it might portend nothing because the Spurs are a complete anomaly that cannot be replicated. Rahat agrees with this opinion.
It’s time to look at the data.
A reader, @RayanB24, writes:
@RedNinetyFour but are you really that sure that a 3rd star is better than a deep team around Harden and Howard?
We’ve been talking some time about the Rockets’ need for a third star stating that until one was acquired, money could not be spent elsewhere, such as upon re-signing Chandler Parsons. This is because to acquire a third star, the Rockets need to maintain salary cap flexibility. The situation of Kevin Love is an interesting one because getting him would require gutting the team to a far greater degree than would the scenario involving Carmelo Anthony. If Anthony were signed, it would only be at the cost of whatever it took to unload Jeremy Lin (in addition to Jeremy Lin himself). Chandler Parsons could then be re-signed with his bird rights. But to get Love, the team would have to trade Parsons and most likely the freshly acquired Pelicans pick, in addition to whatever, again, it would take to unload Jeremy Lin. In essence, getting Love would require, most likely, sacrificing two major pieces that would not need to be sacrificed in an Anthony scenario. The above analysis lends naturally towards the reader’s question: is it all worth it? Would it not be wiser to just simply round out the roster?
Pursuing a third max-level free agent is the wisest course for two major reasons: 1) max players are the best value contracts and 2) the Rockets’ reality.
What do I mean?
With a salary cap, and an artificial ceiling on salaries, the max-level player represents the best value in the NBA simply because, if he’s a true max, (as I think most people would agree Kevin Love is), his production would probably merit a greater percentage of a team’s salary cap in a true free market. As things stand, fitting as many of these guys as you can within your cap represents the most efficient allocation of resources.
But really underscoring this point is my reason #2: the Rockets’ reality. Let me explain:
Let’s say you’re the Heat. (Assume for a minute that Dwyane Wade isn’t completely washed up and is actually still a superstar caliber player). Because of their recent history of personnel transactions, you could make the case that for them, using Wade’s money on two or three other guys would be smarter than bringing back Wade. Why? Because 1) they’ve demonstrated they are not willing to exceed the luxury tax in consecutive seasons and 2) they have no history of player development. In essence, when the Heat sign three stars, that’s basically their entire team.
The Rockets, on the other hand, have two things going for them. First, Les Alexander seems willing to pay the tax. While he’s only ever paid it once, in fairness, he’s never had a team worth paying it for. For purposes of this analysis, we’ll just have to take him at face value when he proclaims to The Chronicle every summer that he’s willing to exceed the tax. But more importantly, what the Rockets have going for them is Daryl Morey’s penchant for finding unearthed gems. Look at history of finding contributors off the scrap heap, a laundry list that includes Pat Beverley, Chandler Parsons, Chase Budinger, and Carl Landry, and guys like Goran Dragic, Kyle Lowry, and Courtney Lee via trade before their true values had been realized.
Basically, what I’m saying is that Daryl Morey will never have trouble “rounding out a team.” He can always find quality contributors on the cheap to round out his team, even when he’s capped out. What he can’t find on his own are superstar level talents. He’s bidding against the entire league in that chase and he’s constrained by financial realities. When he has a chance to actually get one of these players, he has to jump on it. That course represents the most efficient use of the team’s cap.
If the Rockets get love, they probably end up with a starting lineup of Love, Howard, Harden, Beverley, and a hole at small forward, with Terrence Jones and Troy Daniels off the bench. But they will have their exceptions available in coming years (or even this year depending on how the transaction is enacted), and will always have the ability to add guys on the minimum as they had done with Beverley. Is anyone really doubting whether Daryl Morey will be able to duplicate the feat of years past and round out the roster with hidden diamonds? Think back through Morey’s tenure as general manager, back before the Harden trade. This team always had well-rounded rosters featuring home grown products Morey had found himself.
Another benefit Houston would have at its disposal is that superstars are veteran magnets. If they form a Big 3, you can bet quality veterans will be willing to sign at less than market value for the opportunity to chase a ring, as Shane Battier and Ray Allen had done with the Heat.
Carmelo Anthony should still be choice #1. Losing Parsons and the Pelicans pick hurts. But if the team strikes out on Anthony and gets the green light from Minnesota, acquiring Kevin Love is still a no-brainer. While the cost looks prohibitive on the surface, the Rockets can quickly recoup their losses in the coming years. They won’t again have the opportunity to get a guy like Love.
In today’s episode, I discuss Minnesota’s reported interest in Chandler Parsons in a Kevin Love trade.