Despite coming up short in the Western Conference Finals, the 2014-15 Houston Rockets campaign was ultimately a success when you consider the preseason forecast by many in the NBA community. Most experts thought the Rockets would take a step back after the alleged "downgrade" from Chandler Parsons to Trevor Ariza. In fact, no ESPN "expert" predicted the Rockets would even win the Southwest division.
As Jalen Rose always says, success is measured by expectations. The Rockets overachieved by defeating the Clippers and Mavericks to advance to the Conference Finals. But the organization can't be satisfied, despite the success.
To quote the great Bill Belichick, "On to next year." As Ethan Rothstein outlined, offseason agenda includes an upgrade at point guard, finding a sharp shooter, and figuring out the "bigs" hierarchy with Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, and Josh Smith.
Daryl Morey and the front office have plenty of work to do with roster construction and player development for the 2015-16 season. Will they try to build though the draft or via trade? Will they swing for the fences in free agency?
How does Daryl Morey want to improve the Rockets? Going into the mind of Daryl Morey, there are only three realistic possibilities.
Option 1: Ty Lawson
By targeting the disgruntled Denver Nugget point guard, the Rockets would address the weakness at the position. By adding a true point guard, the burden on Harden to have the ball all the time, score, initiate the offense, and involve his teammates is decreased.
Also, Josh Smith's ball handling responsibilities would be reduced to zero, which is obviously a good thing. With Lawson, all of Smith's touches would be in transition or in the "foul line extended" area, where Smith can be "Smiff."
Lawson would add yet another dimension to a creative Houston offense and free up more off-ball action for The Beard. The Lawson/Howard high pick and roll would be devastating in the half court and the Rockets would be unstoppable on the fast break with Brewer leaking out, Howard outletting to Lawson, Smith, or Harden, and Jones running the floor.
If Ty Lawson could run a pick and roll with J.J. Hickson like this, then imagine what he could do with Dwight Howard.
If Patrick Beverley is a B overall point guard, then Lawson is an A-. Whatever Lawson loses defensively, Beverley immediately makes up for it off the bench. Plus, when Howard is healthy, he covers up for any and every defensive mishap on the perimeter at the rim, as evidenced by his peak-Dwight playoffs.
Lawson locked up on a fair, $13 million-per-year contract for the next two seasons. The Rockets could easily piece together a trade for him by packaging the Pelicans' first round pick (high twenties) and either Motiejunas or Jones, whomever intrigues the Nuggets more.
Option 2: Kevin Love
The Rockets nearly signed Chris Bosh last year and the power forward spot is currently occupied by three extremely capable players. However, if Love wanted to play in Houston, Morey would do everything he could to make it happen. Morey's philosophy is to never pass on talent (Exhibit A: James Harden, Exhibit B: Josh Smith).
The scenario in which Houston becomes a potential destination for Love is if he A) wants out of Cleveland and B) demands to be on a contending team. While most people close to the league believe it's a two-team race between the Lakers and Celtics, neither of those teams can say with certainty they can win a championship in the near future.
Kevin Love is not the player he was in Cleveland because of the way he was used in their offense, but he probably isn't Minnesota Love, top 5 player in the league, either. He is somewhere in between those two extremes and he would fit excellently in the "MoreyBall" system.
One thing we know for sure about Kevin Love is he's the best outlet-passer in the league. He and Brewer could hook up for two or three home run passes per game (just like they did in Minnesota), which is a difference-maker in transition.
The Rockets shoot a ton of threes, but they don't have any special three-point shooters besides Harden. Love would contribute knock-down shooting from all over the court, including behind the arc. He would also help on the boards, where Houston struggled mightily against the Warriors, who themselves are a mediocre rebounding team.
Morey and the front office sharks would have to clear cap room for Love, which wouldn't be especially difficult if they set their mind to it. They could trade Motiejunas and/or Jones for a bundle of future picks and decline to offer Kostas Papanikolaou the team option. Then, they could offer Love nearly a max contract, which is affordable with the new TV deal kicking in the 2016-17 season.
Kevin Love would be a fantastic addition to an already extremely talented roster. His exceptional shooting fills a need and his outstanding outlet passing would reignite a fast break fire between him and Corey Brewer.
Option 3: Stay Put
Bringing back the gang for another go at the Larry O'Brien is more probable than not and a completely fair action. Re-signing Patrick Beverley (restricted), Josh Smith, and Jason Terry shouldn't be a problem. Plus, Corey Brewer has expressed that he will likely exercise his player option to remain with the Rockets.
Morey has said he finally likes this group of players and does, in fact, value continuity. All that matters is who is in that group— The Dream Shake (@DreamShakeSBN) May 28, 2015
Another interesting prospect is K.J. McDaniels, who can reject the Rockets' qualifying offer because of his understandable distaste for his lack of playing time. He will likely test free agency and the Rockets' interest in him is unknown.