The Houston Rockets haven't had a pretty offseason so far. They failed to land Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony after offering both stars four-year max contracts. They allowed starting small forward Chandler Parsons to become a restricted free agent a year before they had to and then watched him sign a three-year, $46 million deal with Dallas. Key contributors Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin have also been dealt away to clear cap space for a minimal return.
When you put it all together, calling Houston's offseason a disaster right now wouldn't be a stretch. Can the team and general manager Daryl Morey recover? Marc Stein of ESPN.com believes that Morey may try to salvage the summer by going after a familiar target.
As we just discussed on @SportsCenter, Rockets didn't match on C-Parsons because they wanted flexibility to keep chasing starry targets— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 14, 2014
So look for Rockets to re-enter trade game for longtime Houston target Rajon Rondo as well as try to work their way into mix for Kevin Love— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 14, 2014
Analysis: With Parsons out of the picture in Houston, it's very challenging to find any kind of a deal that might satisfy Boston's high asking price for Rondo at the moment. If you safely assume Dwight Howard and James Harden are off-limits, Houston has very few compelling pieces to trade for a star.
Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, and Patrick Beverley are the top remaining players on Houston's roster, but none of these guys have the kind of promise Danny Ainge would surely be looking for as a return for his prized point guard. Additionally, the salary numbers will be tough to match up in a swap between the two sides at the moment. Rondo has a $12.9 million salary next season, and every current member of the Rockets roster outside of Harden and Howard will earn $1.6 million or less next year.
Houston could throw some first round picks into any offer, but they have already dealt their 2015 first rounder to the Lakers in the Lin salary dump. Due to that, a 2017 first rounder would be the earliest pick they could deal right now, according to the Stepien rule. With Houston's talented roster, those picks would expect to land in the 20's anyway, minimizing their value for Boston.
So if any trade involving Rondo is going to get done here, how would it happen? Most likely, a third team would need to get involved and/or the Rockets would need to sign-and-trade a free agent that appeals to Boston.
Much like Boston's pursuit of Kevin Love at the moment, you can probably characterize any Houston targeting of Rondo as a long shot at best. Yes, it could happen, but Morey is going to have to get creative in order to make an impressive offer to Ainge.