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The Rockets’ season was a big success — so too must be their offseason

The Houston Rockets had an amazing 2014-15 season, but they need a strong summer to make a jump forward in 2015-16.



Houston Rockets 2014-15 season James Harden

When this past summer’s grand plan to sign Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh fell apart and they opted to let Chandler Parsons walk away to Dallas, the Houston Rockets were universally mocked by NBA media and fans alike.

But on that day, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey calmly proclaimed something that very few could understand at the time.

“By this year’s playoffs,” said Morey. “We will be a better team than last year’s playoffs.”

He was right.

Despite dealing with significant injuries, the Rockets exceeded expectations by winning 56 games, landing the 2nd seed in a brutal conference and making it to the West Finals. They put the 2013-14 disappointment behind them and got back on track. They did this largely because of the greatness of James Harden.

Morey deserves a lot of credit as well. Replacing Parsons with Trevor Ariza was a boost to the defense. Unloading Jeremy Lin was both a plus on the court and on the cap, allowing the Rockets to later add Corey Brewer. The additions of Josh Smith and Jason Terry played major roles in how far the Rockets got in the playoffs.

The last time the Rockets were in the Conference Finals was the first year for ClutchFans — 1996-97 — so I know well how long it’s been since they advanced this far. This was a hell of a season. I am proud of what they accomplished.

With that said, it’s clear the Rockets have weaknesses and while the future is bright, the window to contend with Dwight Howard can’t be too big. If the Rockets are to win a title with Dwight in his prime, they must fill holes and take a step forward in 2015-16.

Team Needs

Above all else, the Rockets need a point guard.

Yes, this series might have been different with a healthy Patrick Beverley defending Stephen Curry, but if Harden’s turnover-fest in Game 5 taught us anything, it’s that the Rockets desperately need a second playmaker — even when Beverley was healthy, that need was still glaring. A point guard that can shoot, defend and attack the basket should be a top priority, but those are not easy to come by. Goran Dragic represented the ideal, but that ship sailed once he made it clear he didn’t want to return. Kyle Lowry or, to a lesser extent, Ty Lawson may be targets.

They also could use a power forward upgrade. The Donatas Motiejunas back injury really hurt as the trio of D-Mo, Terrence Jones and Josh Smith looked strong heading towards the postseason, but defensive rotations and shots around the basket were a problem for both Smith and Jones at times — particularly Jones, who may have played his last game as a Rocket.

The Rockets have two amazing superstars as their core, but they do have flaws to their games. Rocket brass has to cover those up with the right complements in their role players, with three-point shooting and defensive versatility being absolute musts for the rotation on this team.

Free Agents

The Rockets have plenty of their own free agents to worry about.

Brewer will be an unrestricted free agent, though the Rockets have Early Bird rights on Brewer and can offer him up to $8-9 million. I would be a little shocked if he gets more than that on the market. Josh Smith is also a free agent and while they would like to bring him back, what they can offer him will be tricky. Both Brewer and Smith were big parts of Houston’s success this season.

Beverley will be a restricted free agent, giving the Rockets the right to match any offer sheet he signs. Don’t be surprised if the Dallas Mavericks rear their head again here. Rookie K.J. McDaniels will also be a restricted free agent.

Jason Terry will be an unrestricted free agent and, according to a report, the Rockets want Terry back. I would not be surprised if this is a Francisco Garcia-style situation where the Rockets would like to keep Terry at veteran minimum prices.

Draft and Assets

The Rockets hold picks 18 and 32 in the 2015 NBA Draft. They simply can’t afford a pair of misses here. Their needs are clear, but need has never trumped Houston’s desire for value — they’ll take the best player available.

Both picks are trade assets. My feeling is that Jones will be on the trade block, given that he and Motiejunas are both a year away from restricted free agency and D-Mo has shown more development, particularly as a scorer around the basket and long-range shooter. If the Rockets feel confident in Josh Smith’s willingness to re-sign, that may also make Jones more expendable. Clint Capela could be a strong backup center for the Rockets next season, but he also has to have enormous trade value right now given the potential he has shown. For a team in win-now mode, that raises an interesting dilemma.

Still Hunting Big Game

Everything the Rockets do is about value, as illustrated by letting Parsons walk and signing Ariza. They have always believed that the best value contracts are rookies and max superstars, so you can expect the Rockets to exhaust all options pursuing the top free agents and trying to move up in the draft.

I’ve been told they will definitely go after free agent power forwards LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, but as crazy as it sounds, I’ve also been told they will reach out to Memphis center Marc Gasol, also a free agent.

The most cap room the Rockets can get to by waiving everyone eligible is around $9-$10 million, not enough to chase a top free agent. However, as they proved last summer in shipping out Omer Asik and Lin — you don’t need cap room to pursue a max contract, you just need the ability to unload contracts to get there. In this case, that’s Trevor Ariza, but that’s not a bridge the Rockets want to cross unless they have to. What they need is a top talent to want to join Harden and Howard in Houston — the Rockets will do the rest.

If they are to be this fortunate, the more likely route would be a sign-and-trade here as the Rockets have some attractive trade pieces — namely Capela — that could appeal to teams if their free agent opts to leave.

MLE Conundrum

The Rockets are likely to operate above the cap, giving them their mid-level exception ($5.3M) to work with. The problem is they have three players they could use it on — Josh Smith, European point guard Sergio Llull and restricted free agent K.J. McDaniels.

The hope would be that Smith is willing to take less again (a non-Bird contract of $2.5 million) and that the Rockets can finally lure Llull, who could be a very good complement to Beverley. That may leave McDaniels out in the cold, though we will see what type of contract he receives.

Kostas Papanikolaou, who the Rockets used their MLE on last season, is a very good bet to be traded as his contract counts for $4.8M in trades but is not guaranteed for next season. The same applies to Pablo Prigioni and his $1.7M partially-guaranteed salary for next season. The two combined could bring back almost $9.8M in a trade.


The Rockets proved that they are among the best teams in the NBA, but it was also clear that there is a gap between them and the very best. The Golden State Warriors, who won 67 games (11 more than the Rockets), present a good model to follow as they made one significant change to their starting lineup — removing David Lee for the versatile and defensive-minded Draymond Green — and it filled a hole to complete their team, turning them from a poor defensive squad into the very best in the league.

The Rockets have the ability to make that same kind of leap with an addition or two to their roster, and this is the offseason where it needs to happen.

Armed with a bizarre fascination for Mario Elie and a deep love of the Houston Rockets, Dave Hardisty started ClutchFans in 1996 under the pen name “Clutch”.

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Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets Draft Decisions: Who Will Be the #3 Pick?




Houston Rockets Podcast

It’s officially NBA Draft Week!

The weeks of speculation are coming to an end as we’ve just about arrived at the 2024 NBA Draft. The Rockets hold picks #3 and #44 and could be quite active on the trade market.

Dave Hardisty and David Weiner paired up on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the options before the Houston Rockets as they approach the June 26th NBA Draft. Is it really down to Donovan Clingan and Reed Sheppard as options? The pair also discuss trade-down options and whether Devin Carter could be intriguing to Ime Udoka. And are the Rockets a darkhorse for a Paul George trade?

The podcast premieres at 8:00am CT! Come join us!


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Houston Rockets

Podcast: Houston Rockets options with the #3 pick of the 2024 NBA Draft




Houston Rockets 2024 NBA Draft prospects Zaccharie Risacher Stephon Castle Reed Sheppard Donovan Clingan

The offseason is now underway.

The forecast looks good for the Houston Rockets, but… there’s pressure as well this offseason because there are a handful of other West teams that might have rosier futures. Ime Udoka wants to win and win big. As we are about five weeks away from the NBA Draft, what are the Rockets looking to do this summer?

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Rockets shockingly landing the #3 pick and their options in this draft, including Reed Sheppard, Donovan Clingan, Zaccharie Risacher, Stephon Castle, Matas Buzelis and others. They also discuss the possibility of some big game hunting in Houston.


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Podcast: Steven Adams, Mikal Bridges and Trade Possibilities for the Rockets




Houston Rockets Trade Deadline 2024

The Houston Rockets already made one deal, acquiring center Steven Adams from Memphis for a handful of second-round picks, but we still have several days left before this Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline.

Are more deals on the way?

Rumors of interest in Mikal Bridges have swirled, with the Rockets holding precious (and unprotected) first-round picks from Brooklyn. They also could use some help inside this season, which Adams can not provide. Shooting is always in demand.

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Adams trade, its impact on the Rockets in 2024-25 and beyond, the Mikal Bridges rumors, the Brooklyn picks, other trade possibilities and options for Rafael Stone moving forward. Also discussed is the play of Houston’s core 6 prospects: Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason and Jalen Green.


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Houston Rockets

Rockets trade for center Steven Adams




Steven Adams Houston Rockets

The Rockets made a surprise trade on Thursday, sending the contract of Victor Oladipo and three second-round picks to Memphis for center Steven Adams.

The deal came together quickly and the Rockets had a small window to get it done, hence why this trade was made with a week to go until the trade deadline.

The Price

When you consider that Memphis did this for cost savings primarily and that Adams would not play for any team in the league this season, the price seemed a little high to me. The Rockets gave up the OKC second-round pick this year, which is no big loss, but they also give up the better of Brooklyn’s or Golden State’s second-round pick this season. That’s a pretty good pick (likely in the late 30’s). They also give up the better of Houston’s or OKC’s second-round pick in 2025. If things go as planned for the Rockets, that pick should be in the 45-55 range.

But they didn’t sacrifice a first-round pick, which would have been brutal, and they were not going to use all those seconds this season. So it’s just a matter of opportunity cost — who else could they have gotten for this package?

My understanding is they (particularly Ime Udoka) are very high on Adams.

The Rockets also did this move for cap purposes as well. By moving out the Oladipo contract, which was expiring, and bringing in Adams’ deal, which is signed for $12.4M next season, the window for the Rockets to put together a trade package for a star player is extended out until the 2025 trade deadline. They continue to wait to see which players, if any, shake loose here and become available. They want flexible (see: expiring) contracts that they can combine with assets and this gives them another year to be in that position.

The Trade

It’s not often that the Rockets acquire a player I had not considered beforehand but that’s the case with Steven Adams. The Rockets sorely need a big with size that provides more traditional center strengths, making Clint Capela, Robert Williams, Nick Richards or Daniel Gafford potential candidates, but Adams was overlooked for a few reasons.

First, the 30-year old big man is out for the season after knee surgery cost him the entire 2023-24 campaign, so the Rockets won’t get any benefit from this trade this season. Secondly, Adams is not your traditional center either when it comes to rim protection.

But what Adams does do, he’s really good at and he has some of the same strengths of Brook Lopez, who the Rockets tried to sign in the offseason. Adams is quite possibly the strongest guy in the league and a legitimate 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. He’s an outstanding screen-setter, something that could really benefit the likes of Fred VanVleet, Amen Thompson and Jalen Green. He was also an elite rebounder last season, finishing 6th in the league in caroms at 11.5 a game despite playing just 27.0 minutes a contest.

After watching Jonas Valanciunas absolutely bully the Rockets inside on Wednesday, it should be apparent by now to everyone that this was a pretty big need.

In 2021-22, the Memphis Grizzlies finished #2 in the West at 56-26. Their top two players in Net Rating that season were Dillon Brooks (+11.0) and Adams (+8.3), key cogs in a defense that held opponents to 108.6 points per 100 possessions. They’re both now Houston Rockets.

So this adds another trusted vet to Ime Udoka’s rotation.

The question is will the 30-year old Adams return to form after the knee injury? Adams sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee a year ago, which cost him the end of that season and the playoffs. He tried rehabbing it and it never got better, so surgery became the option just as this season was kicking off.

I like to think the Rockets did their due diligence on that, despite the short time it took for this deal to come together, but that’s unclear.

If he does bounce back, then Udoka has a big man he can turn to reliably in situational matchups or on nights when the younger bigs struggle. He wouldn’t be Boban or even Jock Landale in that scenario — he’s going to play, so the frontcourt depth in 2024-25 should be better. In the end, they got a starting-caliber center who will have no problems coming off the bench, and that’s what they were looking for.

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Houston Rockets

On the KPJ trade and future of the Rockets




The Houston Rockets are back to being a professional NBA team once again.

The Rockets finally ended the Kevin Porter Jr. era on Tuesday, coughing up two second-round picks in order to unload his contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder, getting back the contract of Victor Oladipo and third-year forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The move puts an end to a long investment and very rocky tenure with KPJ.

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Porter Jr. Experiment, the price paid to move him, Houston’s potential trade options moving forward, the new culture and the current state of the Rockets young core.

ClutchFans Podcast: On Apple | Spotify

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