The Houston Rockets are making big plans if Dwight Howard leaves this summer

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The summer is an intriguing time for all 30 franchises in the NBA as players come and go, the draft takes place and foundations are laid in earnest for the forthcoming season the following October.

Some franchises are, of course, better placed than others and already have much of their roster committed for the long term while their veterans are virtual formalities. The San Antonio Spurs are like that, but the Houston Rockets are most certainly not.

Although they possess one of the best offensive players in the league in James Harden, the parts around him perhaps don't do the shooting guard justice. Dwight Howard was billed as the complimenting All-Star when he arrived three years ago, but if he exercises his player option like he is expected to, chances are he will not be returning to the Toyota Center next season.

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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told SiriusXM NBA Radio yesterday that if their star center decides to opt-out this summer, they are well prepared to chase a marquee name to fill the void.

"If [Dwight Howard] chooses to come back, I think we’ve already shown that combination can win 56 and make the Western Conference Finals. If he chooses to opt out and we can’t get him back in free agency, then we’re ready-made to add a star level player. We have the cap room."

It's hard to tell how seriously Morey believes his own words. They may well pursue a top-of-the-line talent this summer, but how many gala free agents are really attainable for a poorly balanced Rockets unit who have consistently been reported to have problems in the locker room?

Kevin Durant is the top name in free agency this summer and if reports are to be believed, KD has no intention of linking up with his former Thunder teammate, Harden, in Houston.

If 'Durantula' won't entertain a meeting with the Rockets, then who will?

Excluding the restricted free agents like Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond who are bound to have any offer thrown their way matched by their teams, names like Hassan Whiteside, Mike Conley, DeMar DeRozan and Al Horford are the biggest stars available this summer.

If Howard does indeed set sail, Horford and Whiteside would be the obvious targets if it was like-for-like replacements that Houston wanted. It could be safe to assume that is not the direction the organisation is heading in, though, as the chemistry between Harden and his pivot left a lot to be desired.

DeRozan plays in Harden's position so, one would assume that is a no-go. That leaves Mike Conley to come in and form a potent backcourt with Harden as the only viable free agent destined to make max-contract money that the Rockets could chase.

Reports have suggested they hold a long-standing interest in Horford, though, but either way, Morey's comments indicate Houston are going to be proactive and very busy this summer.

Kevin Durant
Oklahoma City Thunder
Northwest Division
Western Conference
Houston Rockets
Southwest Division
James Harden

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