It’s been just a few days since the Houston Rockets suffered a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. They’ve barely had time to lick their wounds, and the team is already focused on the offseason and how they can improve for next year.
First, according to Mark Stein, Chris Paul has already begun his recruitment of LeBron James. While James is still playing this season, and Rockets team executives aren’t in a position to contact him, there’s nothing preventing players from having private conversations, and Stein wrote in his piece for the New York Times that Paul has done just that:
“There will still be plenty of talk over the next two weeks about what James will do July 1 and the growing belief that he’ll be leaving his home-state Cavaliers this offseason to join a team better suited to consistently challenge Golden State. Rest assured that the Rockets’ understandably devastated Chris Paul — who made a fast exit from Toyota Center late Monday night after being forced to watch the biggest game of his life from the bench because of his hamstring injury — has already begun his recruitment of James to Houston.”
In addition, the Rockets are also looking at other big names. According to USA Today Rockets guy (and occasional TDS contributor) Kelly Iko, the Rockets also have significant interest in adding Paul George.
The Rockets pursued George last season before he was eventually traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and according to Iko, the Rockets will be in hot pursuit of George again this season along with LeBron:
“With the offseason approaching, the Rockets will once again be aggressive in free agency, targeting James or George, both sources said. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record about George.”
Both George and James hold player options for the upcoming season, so either one could opt out in order to sign with Houston, and either one would also have the option to re-sign with their current teams in order to facilitate a sign and trade deal.
Both GM Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta have stated multiple times they are committed to spending in order to improve the team and also that they have ways to incorporate another big name into the mix despite any possible cap limitations (trade Ryan Anderson, anyone?). Though it is important to note that also according to Iko, George’s number one preference destination is the Los Angeles Lakers, so the Rockets will definitely have their work cut out for them in getting him to H-town.
Lastly, the Rockets will need to decide what to about their own current crop of players. Paul is slated to be a free agent, though Morey has already stated that CP3 will be back in the fold next season.
Clint Capela will also be a free agent, though his restricted status gives the Rockets some leverage to re-sign him despite the fact he’s expected to draw heavy interest. Morey’s already stated that they want Capela back.
The Rockets will also need to figure out a plan for the aforementioned Anderson and his $20 million per year contract. Anderson was unplayable down the postseason stretch for the second consecutive season, and you can bet that team management will be looking to move that deal.
Joe Johnson will also be a free agent, though he recently told ESPN that he’d love to be back. He’s essentially just ring-chasing at this point, so the Rockets can likely get him back on the cheap.
That’s a lot to have come up in just three days since the end of Houston’s year. So if these early developments are any indication, the Rockets are about to have another interesting offseason.