With all the noise about Dwight Howard coming to the Houston Rockets, it’s easy to forget about all the other guys who will be running up and down the court for the boys in red next year. Houston has a team full of adjustable pieces outside of their three foundation players–James Harden, Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons–just how good those three can be together will determine what moves general manager Daryl Morey will have to make with the rest of his puzzle pieces.
Of the three foundation guys, only Chandler Parsons is still in the midst of his maturation process. Don’t get me wrong, Harden and Howard will need to fine tune their games so that they fit coach Kevin McHale’s offense and the skill sets of the rest of the roster, but they’ve already displayed what kind of players they’re going to be in their primes (or in other words, their video games ratings will pretty much plateau for a while). Parsons on the other hand, is key as to whether or not the Rockets will be fighting for a ring next year and beyond, for more reasons than one.
Chandler Parsons gets paid nothing for two seasons. Over the next two seasons, Parsons will not make $1 million in either of them, giving him by far the best contract in basketball. When the contracts of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin run out in the summer of 2015, the Rockets will have to give Parsons NBA dollars, which will translate into the nucleus of Harden, Howard and Parsons being paid like a top-flight NBA three-headed monster.
In the matter of those two years, the Rockets have a lot of things to figure out regarding personnel. There’s no doubt in my mind that Houston will be planning their spending and personnel moves around the fact that Parsons will demand an extension of around $10 million per year somewhere between the summer of 2014 and the early part of the 2014-15 season. Once they dish out that deal, they’ll turned into a cap-strapped squad, meaning that they should already have made decisions regarding their starting point guard and power forward positions.
After the 2014-15 season, both Asik and Lin will be free agents. I wouldn’t be surprised to see either of them get moved before then, though, as a trade involving one of them could be their best avenue towards attaining a starting solution at the 1 or the 4. Any trade including one of them would likely also include one of their young bigs, as Donatas Motiejunas, Terrence Jones and Greg Smith are all in their early stages of development and filled with potential (although Jones and D-Mo have much higher ceilings).
Once training camp starts, there’ll be a competition for the starting power forward job and Houston hopes either Jones or Motiejunas can win it. Both T-Jones and D-Mo played sparingly last year, but they both look like they could evolve into decent starters. If one of them emerges as the clear-cut starter, Houston hopefully will find their solution to one of their most pressing issues of who is going to be Dwight Howard’s frontcourt mate for the next handful of years.
Unfortunately for Daryl Morey and the Rockets, it seems less likely that their point guard of the future is on their roster today. After a year of watching Jeremy Lin, it’s clear that he isn’t going to cut it as Harden’s backcourt mate and Patrick Beverley probably can’t provide enough of a stable force offensively to become the long-term starter either. Before the Rockets give Parsons the hefty contract extension he deserves, they’re going to need to address their situation at the 1, which will be Morey’s toughest challenge yet.
Morey has been looking to lock up stars since he came to Houston and now he’s finally done it with the drafting of Parsons, the trade for Harden and the signing of Howard. Now, it’s on Morey to finish the deal and ornament the rest of the roster with enough firepower to contend for a title. Morey has tweaked the roster so many times over the last few seasons and has done a great job with not just the major moves, but with the small moves too.
The clock is ticking on the Rockets as a speak and it’s on Morey to figure out how to put the cherry on top of this roster; something he saw Danny Ainge do in Boston in the summer of 2007.