Summer agenda: Houston Rockets

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·The Vertical
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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.

THE PLAN GOING FORWARD
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.

TEAM NEEDS
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.

SUMMER CAP BREAKDOWN

Guaranteed

  2016-17

    Insider info

1. Dwight Howard

  $23,282,457

    Player option

2. James Harden

  $16,784,032

    None

3. Trevor Ariza

  $7,806,971

    None

4. Corey Brewer

  $7,612,172

    None

5. Patrick Beverley

  $6,000,000

    None

6. K.J. McDaniels

  $3,333,333

    None

7. Sam Dekker

  $1,720,560

    None

8. Clint Capela

  $1,296,240

    None

9. Montrezl Harrell

  $1,045,000

    None

Non/partial

  2016-17

    Free-agent status

10. Andrew Goudelock

  $1,015,696

    Aug. 1

11. Michael Beasley

  $1,403,611

    Aug. 1

FA cap holds

  2016-17

    Free-agent status

12. Terrence Jones

  $6,223,825

    Restricted/full Bird rights

13. Donatas Motiejunas

  $5,720,513

    Restricted/full Bird rights

14. Jason Terry

  $980,431

    Full Bird rights

15. Josh Smith

  $980,431

    Non-Bird rights

CAP PICTURE

Guaranteed

  $68,880,765

Non/partial

  $2,419,307

FA cap holds

  $13,905,200 

First-round holds

  $0

Minimum holds

  $0

Dead money

  $0

Total

  $85,205,272

Salary cap

  $92,000,000

Cap space

  $6,794,728

PROJECTED 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.

JUNE DRAFT PICKS
First round: To Denver

Second round: Own and has New York’s pick

FUTURE PICKS
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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