September 27, 2022
Rockets

Unlike the 2020/21 Rockets, who entered the season clinging to an unhappy James Harden and hoping for a playoff position. The ’21/22 team had no doubts about its status in the NBA’s pecking order. The primary goal in Houston this season was not to reach the playoffs. But to develop the team’s incoming rookies, especially the No. 2 overall selection Jalen Green.

The eventual outcome in 2021/22 was the same previous year. The Rockets won under a fourth of their games and ended with the poorest record in the NBA.

But there’s more cause to be optimistic today than there was at this time last year. Even if Houston is still a year or two away from genuinely challenging for a postseason spot. Green and big man Alperen Sengun seemed to be long-term players worth developing around. And the club will have a top-five choice again this June, presenting a fantastic chance to add another cornerstone component to the team.

The Rockets’ Offseason Strategy

It is typically overdone for a rebuilding club to move away from its valuable veterans. Having a pair of dependable veterans on the roster for young players to rely on and learn from might be more beneficial to a club than the minor draft assets obtained by trading those guys.

With that in mind, I can appreciate the Rockets’ choice to keep Eric Gordon and Christian Wood through the 2022 deadline. However, this offseason seems to be the ideal moment to contemplate dealing with one or both of those guys.

Gordon’s 41.2 percent three-point percentage this season was the second-highest career. His deal, which has one more guaranteed year before becoming non-guaranteed in 2023/24, is no longer particularly onerous. On the other hand, Wood is in his contract year and has a reasonable $14.3MM cap charge for 2022/23. The Rockets may get a good deal on both of them right now, which may not cause Gordon’s productivity drops or either player to be hurt.

Of course, the Rockets will once again explore the market for a fair deal for John Wall, who is sure to pick up his $47.3MM player option. But finding a decent trade will be difficult. The Rockets are unlikely to get an attractive offer with little willingness to link draft rights to Wall and no stomach for taking on hefty multi-year veteran contracts.

Cap Outlook for the Offseason

The Rockets presently have roughly $65.6MM in guaranteed money for next season, but that statistic is misleading. Even renouncing all free agents, the Rockets will be over the cap after Wall and Tate’s options. And the lid holds for their two first-round choices. However, the team payroll will stay considerably below the tax line, allowing Houston to use the total mid-level exemption if necessary.

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