Houston Rockets Begin Laying Out Summer Plans

April 8, 2012; Sacramento, CA, USA; Houston Rockets guard Courtney Lee (5) talks with Goran Dragic (3) during a break in the action against the Sacramento Kings in the third quarter at the Power Balance Pavilion. The Rockets defeated the Kings 104-87. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

This summer will mark the third off-season in a row that the Rockets are coming off a trip to the lottery. Each off-season seemed to bring more hope than the next, but the perpetual mediocrity has caused some to sour on Daryl Morey's efforts to improve the roster.

This afternoon, news started to filter out about the Rockets' summer schemes. According to Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston, the Rockets intend on retaining Chase Budinger, Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic, and Marcus Camby. Budinger will be retained via a team option for just under $1 million, Lee in restricted free agency, and Dragic and Camby will get new contracts in free agency.

Here's a few excerpts from Berman's story:

NBA sources told FOX 26 Sports the Rockets plan to give Lee the required tender by June 30 that will make him a restricted free agent, giving Houston the right to match any offer he gets.

League sources told FOX 26 the Rockets will exercise that right, matching any offer Lee gets, keeping him in a Houston uniform.NBA sources also told FOX 26 the Rockets will exercise the upcoming option in Budinger's contract.

League sources indicate the Rockets also will re-sign Camby, who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Dragic, who also becomes an unrestricted free agent, told the Houston media at the end of the season that he would like to continue his career with the Rockets, if possible.

The Rockets will be very aggressive in trying to retain him.

"We'll want to get something done early," said Daryl Morey, Rockets general manager, in an interview with members of the Houston media on Thursday. "I agree they may want to wait."

On the Chase Budinger and Courtney Lee fronts, the deals seem to be no-brainers. Chase Budinger is by no means a complete player, but he is coming off arguably his strongest season and at $1 million he is one of the best values in the league. Though the Rockets may opt to hold onto Kevin Martin this summer, Courtney Lee appears to the shooting guard of the future and won't break the bank either.

Camby is a great veteran center who can fill a need for a few seasons as he transitions into the Dikembe Mutombo role for the Rockets. He wants to stay in Houston and will cost next to nothing, perhaps even signing for the veteran's minimum.

Then it gets interesting. There are no ifs ands or buts about it; the Rockets have to choose between Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry this summer. Both players want to start and I can't imagine a scenario where the Rockets retain Goran Dragic without an indication that they intend to trade Lowry.

By retaining Dragic, even at an inflated price, the Rockets could add the return of a Kyle Lowry trade to the roster, allowing the Rockets to potentially land Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, or a lottery pick. On paper, the move makes a lot of sense, especially if the Rockets can agree early with Dragic before the market gets out of control.

Jump for some more news about the Rockets summer plans!

On top of the reports on the Rockets' intention to retain their potential free agents, word has begun to leak out about a potential Samuel Dalembert trade. Steve Kyler of Hoopsworld first reported it, and it was later corroborated by Sam Amick and yours truly.

Luckily enough, I was able to talk to a Rockets official with whom I'm acquainted about the potential for the deal. He said that the Rockets had expressed a willingness to take on money (by way of the Dalembert contract) in order to move up from #16, but that no deal had been reached. He remarked that the Rockets had received "3 to 4 serious offers" for Dalembert and either the 14th pick or the 16th, but that the Rockets were not in a position where they "had to make a deal."

Just before I hung up, the Rockets official had one closing remark that stuck with me. He said, "Trust me when I say that trading a pick and taking on money to get into the top ten is definitely not the endgame."

In the conversation, I never truly got a feel for whether a deal was imminent or likely. Later in the evening, it became clear that if there was a deal to be had, it was not near completion. Jonathan Feigen later tweeted that a deal with Dalembert was "not happening."

With the draft quickly approaching, expect to hear a hundred such rumors about the Rockets. Just as they've done the last few years, the Rockets are furiously trying to move up in the draft to land an All-Star who can carry them deep into the playoffs. The one caveat with taking on money in a Dalembert deal would be that it could hinder the Rockets in their efforts to land a marquee free agent.

Obviously, the Rockets top priority this summer is to bring both Dwight Howard and Deron Williams to Houston. If they can get either of them in a Rockets jersey, all bets are off. This dream scenario may simply be a fantasy, but if the Rockets don't waive Dalembert and instead opt to trade him for equal salary, they might be unable to sign a max level free agent.

It'll be interesting to see what happens. In about a month, the Rockets' roster might look dramatically different from the one you see today. If history is any indicator, Morey will not hesitate to make a deal.

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