The Rockets bring back House, lose out on Butler

Note: I started writing this before the Butler news broke and had to switch gears midway through. The post was originally supposed to be just about House.

The signing of House was exciting news this afternoon in light of my emotional preparation for the Rockets to lose out on Jimmy Butler. (Note: Butler is now a member of the Miami Heat.) I half-expected Danuel House to get away because I didn’t think the roughly $2 million per year he could get from Houston under his non-bird rights would be enough, and I thought the Rockets would have too many other needs to devote major resources from their mid-level exception. But I guess House’s market was seriously depressed after a disastrous postseason performance. That might be the sole silver lining from the playoffs (though had House performed up to his regular season production, the Rockets probably get past Golden State.)

If you follow me on Twitter, you know my stance on House. I think he’s basically the ideal complement (realistically speaking, outside of actual star players) to James Harden at the wing. He’s looking like he might actually be a pure shooter (48% on 3’s as a starter), has size, can rebound, attacks in transition, and can attack close-outs in the half court. He’s also showing some signs of ability to score off the dribble, though I don’t expect that to ever become a strength of his this late in the game, given his age.

Houston has House locked up now for the next three years, or rather, the duration of the Paul-Harden marriage. Even if they strike out on Butler in the coming days (Note: they have), I expect the Rockets to enter next season on opening day in a better spot than they were in last year when they wasted valuable chunks of the year experimenting with the likes of James Ennis and Michael Carter-Williams in trying to replace Trevor Ariza.

I know many people are down on House after his postseason performance, but I really expect him to continue improving in this system after the glimpses we saw last year. (Note: I planned to write more on House here, but I need to turn to Butler.)

This was really the big news today which doesn’t feel too shocking after this morning when it became clear that Miami was Butler’s preferred destination. This almost felt inevitable. I thought at that point the only way Butler would find his way to Houston was if Miami couldn’t find a taker for one of their large contracts; Dallas took on Goran Dragic.

This actually isn’t as great a gut punch as it feels like as I wasn’t entirely sure acquiring Butler would make the team better this upcoming season, though I did think it was a move which improved the Rockets’ prospects over the long haul. With that said, I’m having trouble seeing how the Rockets improve from here. They used up a large chunk of their midlevel exception in retaining House (if using the taxpayer MLE) and even if they go the nontaxpayer route, it still might not even be enough to keep Austin Rivers. (I’m also not sure they want to hard cap themselves for a low upside outcome.)

If you could get Kevon Looney at the roughly $5million/year left on the NTMLE, that might open the door to being able to trade Clint Capela for an upgrade on the perimeter. (Lets say Marcus Smart now that Horford looks Philly bound.) But considering the fact that DeAndre Jordan just signed for $10 million a year, I just don’t see that happening. I am predicting Looney to get paid.

As of right now, my guess is that Houston runs it back next season with the same core. Will that include Austin Rivers?

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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