Summer agenda: Houston Rockets

The Vertical Front-Office Insider Bobby Marks, a 20-year executive with the Nets, offers his thoughts on the offseason plans of NBA teams whose seasons have ended.

Be diligent in coaching search
The Rockets have had coaching stability the past 25 years. Kevin McHale, Rick Adelman, Jeff Van Gundy and Rudy Tomjanovich each coached Houston for at least four seasons.

Houston needs to find a long-term answer who fits the franchise’s philosophy going forward. Houston must avoid the trap of shuttling coaches every other season.

Know the locker room
There’s more to the NBA than “looking good on paper.” When Dwight Howard joined James Harden in 2013, it certainly looked good on paper.

The most difficult evaluation on a free agent or trade target is not the scouting report or what the numbers show. It is the personality fit that can really make a difference. All-Stars who are headstrong and stubborn often do not mesh with players who are more laidback.

With nine guaranteed contracts, a new coach on the horizon and possibly $30 million in cap space, Houston will have to look outside the box score for the right pieces.

Get a seat at the free-agent table

Will free agents want to join James Harden and the Rockets? (Getty)
Will free agents want to join James Harden and the Rockets? (Getty)

Give the Rockets credit.

Whether it was Dwight Howard in 2013, Chris Bosh in 2014 or even LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015, the Rockets have always had a seat at the table when it comes to free agency.

But this summer presents a challenge. Even with cap space, it won’t be easy for the Rockets to meet with key free agents.

Houston took a step back this year and has a cloudy future. The franchise will have to sell free agents on a long-term vision and not on past playoff berths.

Don’t lose faith in role players
The easy excuse is to blame players not named Harden or Howard for the Rockets failures’.

Corey Brewer, Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverley certainly took a step back this season, but all three have value. They just need defined roles.

They are known quantities who remain better options than creating cap space to overpay similar players in free agency.

The restricted free agents
The Rockets have decisions to make on restricted free agents Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. Although productive when they play, both players have been plagued by injuries.

The likely scenario is for both players to receive qualifying offers and then Houston sits back to see if either player gets an offer sheet from another team.

Because both players have a combined cap hold of $11 million, there is no reason for the Rockets to rush into signing either player.

Houston needs to determine if Jones or Motiejunas – if signed – will have on-court or trade value down the road.

The new head coach will certainly have a role in how the roster transforms.

The offensive and defensive philosophies will determine who fits.

The Rockets have many questions to answer. Can the holes on the roster be filled by young players K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Clint Capela? Have all three developed enough to have roles next season? Will Motiejunas and Jones stay healthy to man the power-forward position?

With a lack of quality point guards and wings on the open market, the Rockets need to be creative in how they spend their possibly $30 million in cap space.




    Insider info

1. Dwight Howard


    Player option

2. James Harden



3. Trevor Ariza



4. Corey Brewer



5. Patrick Beverley



6. K.J. McDaniels



7. Sam Dekker



8. Clint Capela



9. Montrezl Harrell





    Free-agent status

10. Andrew Goudelock


    Aug. 1

11. Michael Beasley


    Aug. 1

FA cap holds


    Free-agent status

12. Terrence Jones


    Restricted/full Bird rights

13. Donatas Motiejunas


    Restricted/full Bird rights

14. Jason Terry


    Full Bird rights

15. Josh Smith


    Non-Bird rights






FA cap holds


First-round holds


Minimum holds


Dead money




Salary cap


Cap space


The most likely scenario is for the Rockets to have $30 million in cap space.

The $30 million in room factors in Howard opting out of his contract and signing elsewhere. Additional cap space can be created based on the Rockets’ decisions on Jones and Motiejunas.

Houston can use the room created when Howard opts out, use cap space and then sign both Jones and Motiejunas to exceed the cap.

First round: To Denver

Second round: Own and has New York’s pick

First round
Rockets own all their future first-round picks.

Key rights to: Alex Gentile (second round, pick No. 53, 2014); Marko Todorovic (second round, pick No. 45, 2013)

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