It all started when the Rockets waived Remi Yusuf. Yusuf was the first domino in a series of "capological" transactions that allowed the Rockets to finally sign rookie Montrezl Harrell to a 3 year, $3.1 million using some of their non-taxpayer exception.
By signing Harrell, the Rockets finalized 14 out of the 15 available positions on the team. Soon after Christian Wood signed with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Rockets splurged on young candidates for the final spot; acquiring Will Cummings, Joshua Smith, Chris Walker, Denzel Livingston, and Jeremy Tyler.
All on non-guaranteed, exhibit 9 contracts, which protects the Rockets from paying a steep amount of money to the player if he gets injured, the rag-tag group of aspiring NBA players will try to distinguish themselves for the next month during training camp.
If my calculations are correct, five players are fighting for one job. So who will it be? The speedy point guard from Temple, the 22-year-old Houston native, or the explosive big man who has already been on three NBA teams?
Will Cummings, PG
Cummings, the highly touted prospect from Temple University, stood out for the Rockets during summer league. The 6'1 rookie averaged 10 points, 3 assists, and nearly 2 steals in just 23 minutes in Las Vegas, including a break out 18 points, 7 assist performance.
At Temple, Cummings exploded his junior year, scoring 17 points and dishing out almost 5 assists per contest. According to DraftExpress, Cummings is "one of the quickest guards in college basketball" who also has the "ability to play above the rim with ease."
Physically similar to Rajon Rondo, Cummings has a combination of speed and athleticism necessary for an NBA point guard. However, with Patrick Beverley, Ty Lawson, and Jason Terry all on the roster, the Rockets don't have a hankering for another point guard.
While Cummings might be the most talented prospect out of the five, his home is likely somewhere other than Houston.
Jeremy Tyler, PF/C
Tyler is the only option with real NBA experience under his belt. Having played for the Knicks, Warriors, and Hawks already in his short career, Jeremy Tyler knows what it takes to play in the Association. Whether or not he is capable of doing that is the question.
The big man has the athleticism, that is for sure. The reason he has bounced around the league and in-and-out of the D-League is everything besides his physical aptitude.
Tyler lives above the rim, but his effectiveness with both feet on the ground is negligible. He does not have the defensive intelligence to navigate a pick and roll or effectively patrol the paint in sophisticated NBA defenses.
Tyler has already had chances to showcase his talent for other teams without much success. It could be time for the 24 year old to look elsewhere professionally.
Denzel Livingston, PG/SG
Livingston, who considers himself the underdog for the roster opening, said playing for the Rockets in summer league was like a dream. Hs performance in Vegas; however, was more like a nightmare.
The combo guard from Houston scored merely 2 points in 7 minutes per game in three summer league affairs.
While it would be a heart-warming story if the Houston native made the team, Livingston is an extreme long shot.
Chris Walker, PF
Chris Walker did not have the college career at University of Florida he hoped for. The NCAA investigated his eligibility his freshman season, allowing him to play just 18 games. Even in the games he played for the Gators, he did not receive many minutes and his production was underwhelming.
In his two year career at Florida, Walker averaged 3.7 points and 2.7 rebounds per game while shooting a troubling 37 percent on free throws.
The former top-10 high school recruit stands at 6'10, 208 pounds with a 7'3 wingspan comparable to Trevor Ariza's. With exceptional strength and motor, Walker has a solid body to play in today's fast-paced, small ball game.
While Walker's physical attributes are what make him an intriguing prospect, Walker is such an unproven commodity, he really has no place on an NBA team at 20 years old.
Joshua Smith, C
The 6'10 UCLA/Georgetown product has a massive frame, weighing in at 360 pounds. Despite his huge frame, Smith is remarkably nimble and athletic.
Smith has incredibly soft hands for a big man and he scores most of his baskets using his size in the post. As a freshman, he recorded a 19.5% offensive rebounding percentage, which was second-best in the nation.
Smith played for the Miami HEAT this summer, averaging 5 points and 4 rebounds supplemented by high praise from HEAT coaches:
"He's super skilled and he's got great footwork, so he does bring a talent in the halfcourt," HEAT assistant coach Dan Craig said. "For a big center, he gets up and down the floor pretty well and he moves pretty well in pick-and-roll coverage."
Just by looking at him, you doubt his potential in an increasingly fast league dominated by small, quick guards. How would Smith get up and down the court? Is his most relevant comparison 2011 Shaq on the Celtics? How many times would opposing teams make him defend a pick and roll? (The answer to that last question is every time).
None of those questions matter. The Rockets are such a deep team, no matter who the 15th man is he's not getting any minutes. The 360-pound Smith is an unlikely candidate, but there's a reason the Rockets signed him in the first place.
The Houston Rockets see value in Smith's size when it comes to challenging Dwight Howard, Montrezl Harrell, Terrence Jones, Clint Capela, and Donatas Motiejunas in practice.
McHale wants to strengthen and toughen up Clint Capela. One possible way to do just that is to bring in Smith. It is unique to have a legitimate giant banging bodies with you every practice.
While one Josh Smith took his talents to Los Angeles this summer, another Josh Smith will replace him as a Houston Rocket this year.