There’s no denying that the upcoming NBA free agency period is going to be a must-watch event.
Some of the game’s most prolific players will be on the unrestricted market, including LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Chris Paul, DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan. Others like Clint Capela, Aaron Gordon, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle are going to be restricted free agents.
Therefore, a lot can happen in terms of shifting the balance of power, especially if two or three decide on the same location.
If you already noticed, two of the ten players listed above were starters on the Houston Rockets this past season (Paul and Capela).
Since the team is fully expected to offer both players multi-year max deals, adding a difference-maker will be an issue from a financial perspective. Without those two presumed deals on the books for next year, the team already has $78.9 million tied up in salary. While James Harden’s $30.4 million cap hit makes sense given his MVP-caliber play over the past couple seasons, Ryan Anderson ($20.4 million) and Eric Gordon ($13.5 million) have the next two highest numbers on the books.
PJ Tucker, Nene Hilario, Chinanu Onuaku and Zhou Qi are the only other players on this past year's roster that have contracts for next season. Starter Trevor Ariza and key reserves like Gerald Green, Luc Mbah a Moute will also be free agents.
Therefore, a lot of work will be done in order to improve Houston’s roster over last year’s stellar club that came one win away from dethroning the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Someone has to go
Since he was essentially benched in the playoffs, Anderson seems like he’s the logical choice to go, especially with Tucker coming back next season. But, there are a couple obstacles present.
The first is his salary. In 2016, he signed a four-year, $80 million deal in Houston and still has $41 million guaranteed coming his way. Finding a trade partner willing and able to accommodate that salary would likely involve handing away multiple first-round draft picks. Also, there’s no financial reason for Anderson to agree to a buyout since he’s owed every cent of his contract. Therefore, waiving him using the stretch provision might be the best option, since it’d allow the team to pay him the $41 million equally over the next five years, thus lessening his cap hit.
The second is his current basketball ability. Averaging 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 26.1 minutes during the regular season and just 1.7 points and 1.2 rebounds in 8.6 minutes over 11 postseason games, the 30-year-old forward might not have much to offer a team at this point in his career, especially at his price point.
According to Kelly Iko of USA TODAY Sports, Houston is going to try every possible way to get rid of Anderson this summer.
“According to two people with knowledge of the Rockets’ thinking, the team’s general manager Daryl Morey is intent on moving Anderson in a trade. One person said the Rockets could pursue buyout options if no such agreement is met. Both people requested anonymity because they are unauthorized to speak on the record of Anderson’s situation,” Iko reported.
In order for the Rockets to accomplish their goal and convince LeBron to join their team, they’re going to need to clear some space. Anderson’s contract presents a roadblock for any major free agent signing, so Daryl Morey and company have their work cut out for them.