With free agency winding down and the Rockets having used almost all of their remaining cap space on the James Harden extension, there is still one hole on the roster that needs to be addressed: backup point guard. The Rockets currently have just one point guard on the roster, Patrick Beverley.
Beverley is known to struggle with injuries (he's only played more than 70 games in a season once in the past four years), making the need for a backup that much more important.
Jarrett Jack (ATL) & Aaron Brooks (IND) coming off the board on 1-yr vet minimum deals. Rockets seemingly standing "Pat" at PG?— David Weiner (@BimaThug) July 11, 2016
However, the Rockets have very limited options in their pursuit of this backup. Their limited cap space and trade assets make the pursuit that much harder. However, there are some options still left on the table. Let's take a look at them and see which one is the most likely:
1) Play Harden at point guard
Yes, something that many Rockets fans (including our own editor, Ethan Rothstein) have called for is surely the most likely option to fill the point guard need. With Harden lining up at the point, Eric Gordon will play shooting guard, creating a dynamic scoring machine lineup that will also create a layup line for the opposing team on offense. In all seriousness, if Gordon can capably guard point guards, this lineup could be a great success and is the most reasonable solution to the point guard situation.
Patrick Beverley can come off the bench to replace Gordon as the first sub, allowing Harden to move back to the two before the next set of subs (sadly, that probably includes Brewer) come in. This way, Harden and Beverley are the point guard rotation, while Gordon-Brewer-K.J. are the rotation at shooting guard. However, there are some concerns with this plan, mainly injuries.
It is almost a guarantee that Gordon and Beverley will miss anywhere from 10-15 games each next season. If they happen to get injured in the same time frame, that creates a serious need for another backup guard, particularly at the point. That is why, although I would be in favor of starting the Beard at point, I would still feel more comfortable if the Rockets brought in another backup for the guard rotation.
2) Depend on Gary Payton II
This option is both unlikely and the least assuring. Payton went undrafted and signed with the Rockets immediately following this year's draft. So far in Summer League, he has shown some promise, but is ultimately showing why he went undrafted. His defense has been solid (but unspectacular), but he hasn't shown the development of a consistent jumper and has struggled with running the offense.
Relying on Payton to miraculously transform in to a legitimate NBA role player over the next couple of months is a risk the Rockets can not afford to make. This is only listed as an option because it is the easiest way for the Rockets to bring another point guard on the roster, although I would not feel comfortable with Payton being the backup point guard.
3) Sign a point guard on the free agent market
This option includes several veterans and young point guards that are still on the market. Such players include Raymond Felton, Mario Chalmers, Isaiah Canaan, and Shane Larkin. These players would presumably take small contracts at this point, making them low risk investments at the backup point guard slot. If the Rockets have the cap space to sign one of these guards I strongly believe they should look in to doing so. I would particularly look at Mario Chalmers or Shane Larkin. Although Chalmers is coming off a torn Achilles, he was solid in his role in Memphis last season and provides veteran leadership and solid three point shooting. Larkin is less proven, but is only 23 and averaged 7 assists per 36 minutes last season.
I strongly believe this is the best realistic (key word: realistic) way to bring in a backup point guard to the Rockets rotation. However, there is one sexier path to bring in another guard to the rotation:
4) Make a trade for a starting point guard
As I just mentioned, signing one of the remaining free agent point guards is the most realistic option. But rockets fans would rather see the Rockets trade for a player such as Ricky Rubio, Eric Bledsoe, or Brandon Knight. However, let's not get our hopes up. The Rockets have VERY limited trade assets (if any). If Daryl Morey is able to trade Corey Brewer over the next couple of months, it will define his lasting legacy and we may as well build a statue of him outside the Toyota Center. Brewer's contract (owed $15 million total over the next 2 seasons) is not an atrocity in today's market, but Brewer essentially forgot how to play basketball in the past year.
That leaves the Rockets with even less to include in a trade package for one of those point guards. An example package could be Brewer, Beasley, K.J., and a first round pick and I doubt that gets you more than just a laugh from opposing GMs. The Rockets could include Beverley in such a package, but that leaves them with the same hole (backup point guard) that they're trying to fill.
It would be a sexy, splashy move to acquire one of the guards listed above, but in all likelihood, the Rockets either start Harden at the point with Gordon or sign one of the remaining cheap free agent options. Either way, barring a significant trade, backup point guard will be the main hole and weakness of the Rockets rotation next season.