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Monday, July 16, 2018

Rockets

Rockets set sights on offseason to bounce back from finals


Fiona Legesse-Sinha | The Cougar

The Houston Rockets suffered a gut-wrenching loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals in late May, putting an abrupt end to its historic season.

Emotions ran high immediately following the loss, but the Rockets could aggressively pursue multiple high-impact players this offseason to stack the deck in its favor next season.

Nobody took the loss harder than Rockets guard Gerald Green, the Houston native who wears his emotions on his sleeve much like the I45 tattoo across his shoulder.

“Heartbroken,” said Green when asked by KPRC Houston how he felt immediately after the loss to the Warriors. When Green was asked to describe his emotions in more words, he said, “Heart. Broken.”

As disappointing as the end to this fairytale season was, the Rockets organization is already focusing on the coming offseason.

Reports from the New York Times have already circulated about Rockets guard Chris Paul reaching out to Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James and gauging his interest in coming to Houston.

James can opt-out of his contract and become a free agent or take an extension on his current contract and seek a trade.

Oklahoma City forward Paul George, who was OKC’s second-leading scorer, is another potential acquisition for the Rockets.

George has not been shy about his desire to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers if he opts out of his contract at the end of the season, but he could opt-in and seek a trade to make himself more affordable.

Given the salary cap gymnastics required to sign James or George as free agents, the more likely course of action would be for one of them to extend their contract and be traded.

A trade for either star would likely be centered around Rockets guard Eric Gordon as well as forward Ryan Anderson for salary matching purposes.

This route is only possible if the Rockets can convince James or George that a move would be competitively beneficial while being worse financially since they would be accepting less than maximum pay contacts.

While adding either James or George would greatly bolster the Rockets’ chances against the Warriors, the organization must also work to re-sign its current players.

The Rockets have the bird rights for Paul, forward Trevor Ariza and center Clint Capela, meaning they may go above the salary cap to re-sign them.

Green was already on a veteran minimum contract after the Rockets picked him up mid-season, and given his love for his hometown, he might be willing to re-sign a team-friendly deal.

The last important cog in the Rockets’ machine was forward Luc Mbah a Moute. While Mbah a Moute had a productive regular season, an injury prevented him from playing in the playoffs.

Out of all the current Rockets, Mbah a Moute is near the top of the list for most likely to leave if another team offers him a big contract since he is one of the Rockets’ oldest players and not as needed as Capela or Ariza.

Given that the Rockets were winning the series before Paul was injured in Game 5, most people might be inclined to just run it back and hope Paul remains healthy next time.

However, general manager of the Rockets Daryl Morey is not most people. He has always aggressively pursued free agents and trades to make the team better.

The Rockets fell just five wins short of being crowned champions, but with careful planning by Morey and spending from Fertita, the team could dethrone the Warriors next season.

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