Coming off a 55-27 season in which the Rockets cemented themselves as the West’s third best team, and their goal is to take things to the next level.
For the Nets, that unfortunately means there is little to see here in terms of player availability … if the Rockets maintain the status quo.
However, the NBA is a fluid league, and the Rockets will look at every option. Sure, the Rockets have perfect role players for their system, and will not engage in a dramatic shake up just to upgrade their role players. Nevertheless, Daryl Morey has always been a huge advocate of doing everything you can to obtain stars, and his only way of getting one this summer is a money dump of a key role player. Morey is pragmatic, and while the Rockets were great in 2017, that does not guarantee that they leap the Warriors in 2018. Morey knows this and he will be pragmatic in building his roster.
There are three obtainable big free agents the Rockets could pursue that both fit their system, and arguably warrant a money dump to get them: Gordon Hayward, Blake Griffin, and Paul Millsap. For the Rockets to add any of the three, the Rockets would need to carve out approximately $16 million in cap room (more for Millsap if they maxed him).
To open space of that magnitude, the Rockets would need to dump Ryan Anderson, or Eric Gordon and either Trevor Ariza or Lou Williams. They would need to do this without taking any return salary back. And the need to execute the deal, combined with the other team assuming all the salary, would provide the other team with leverage.
Enter the Nets. If the Rockets are engaged in salary dumping these pieces this summer, the Nets should seriously consider taking advantage.
Keep in mind that these scenarios are highly unlikely. All 3 players will have multiple options (including staying put) and the Rockets would not engage in money dump talks without assurances. However, LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio, and the Hawks taking advantage of the Spurs needing to money dump Tiago Splitter, was unlikely in 2015. You never know.
The Rockets do not have a first rounder in 2017 to offer. But the Nets could target the following in a deal; the Rockets 2019 first rounder, Sam Dekker, who was a nice reserve this year, Chinanu Onuaku, who has upside off a bench, or Montrezl Harrell who boasts excellent per 36 numbers. The Rockets also have two second rounders this year, and a second rounder in 2018, that they can dangle to entice Brooklyn.
Beyond a major move like this (which again is unlikely), the Nets likely will find little mileage with Houston. Harden is going nowhere, as are Pat Beverley and Clint Capela on their excellent value contracts. Nene is a free agent but will likely stay in Houston or join another winner. Troy Williams, Isaiah Taylor, and Kyle Wiltjer have no value.
So to sum up, the most likely scenario is that the Nets do not poach any Rockets this summer. But Morey is always willing to gamble on stars, and if he takes a gambit at dumping Harden’s role players to add a second star, Brooklyn should listen and see if the Rockets would provide them with young value in exchange for clearing their salary cap up.