Over the last few weeks, the Rockets have continually appeared in the news as they ready a pursuit for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in free agency. The biggest impediment to such talks, however, has been a lack of cap space. With nearly $60 million in salary committed to next season, the Rockets are not in a position to offer a full max deal as of yet. However, by clearing Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik's contracts from their books, the Rockets can reach a near-max offer.
Today, Sam Amick of USA Today reported that the team has a plan for how to jettison those contracts of their books if they can get Anthony or LeBron to agree to a deal.
Addendum on Rox free agency front:I'm told they have moves teed up for necessary Asik/Lin trades but want to keep them if can't get LBJ/Melo— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) June 20, 2014
The Rockets are in a similar position to last summer, where though they were chasing a big free agent, they didn't have the money to make it happen until close to July. Last year, the team traded Thomas Robinson for a pair of second rounders and international prospects and gave away Royce White, and this year, the salary is greater but so is the caliber of players to trade.
Asik obviously has the most value, with a full season of above average center play on his resume in 2012-13 and a solid close to the 2013-14 season, and can likely fetch a pick if need be. Lin, on the other hand, has been hot and cold and will likely require some sweetening for another team to take on his deal.
If they do end up making a deal, Boston seems like the most likely landing spot for Asik, and where Lin ends up is anyone's guess. The Celtics have a trade exception from the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce deal that they can use to absorb Asik's whole salary without sending any back to the Rockets, have a whole at center, and have shown an interest in Asik in the past. If the Rockets do pursue a trade, having Asik in Boston makes sense.
But what is also interesting about Amick's report is that the team is prepared to hold onto both of those players if they do strike out in free agency. Both seem likely to leave the team after this season, and with Parsons getting a big free agent deal this summer, the Rockets are not going to have much cap space moving forward. I would think that Morey would consider going for it this summer and sign up a Luol Deng type if he can't land Bosh, LeBron, or Carmelo, but we do know how much Morey values flexibility and $16 million in expiring deals could be helpful down the line.
Free agency is less than two weeks away. Strap in, because it's going to be a fun ride.