2018 Free Agency

Houston Rockets' front office hoping to keep core players in free agency

The Houston Rockets’ season came to an end on Monday with their Game 7 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. That defeat still stings for Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, GM Daryl Morey and the rest of Houston’s crew. But the future looms for the Rockets as well — namely some key decisions in free agency about keeping their team together.

On the heels of their 65-win season, both D’Antoni and Morey told reporters yesterday that they intend to keep the team’s key pieces together for 2018-19. Point guard Chris Paul, swingman Trevor Ariza and center Clint Capela will all be among Houston’s free agents come July 1 (Capela is a restricted free agent). Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports Morey and D’Antoni are willing to keep that pair as well as perhaps add to Houston’s core in free agency, too:

“Generally, we want to bring our free agents back,” Morey said.

Morey said Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta had green-lit the kind of payroll and enormous luxury taxes it would take to return a starting five’s worth of free agents — Paul, Clint Capela, Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and Gerald Green — to next season’s roster. Tarik Black, Joe Johnson and Aaron Jackson also will be free agents.

The cap holds — the amount of money that counts against the salary cap to retain rights until players are signed or renounced — just for those five players to be free agents is $56.5 million. That is on top of the $84 million already under contract. Capela especially is expected to command far in excess of his $7 million cap hold.

“The better you get, the more expensive the team gets, the more cap exceptions go away that help you improve the team,” Morey said. “We’ll just have to do our normal job, be creative and do whatever is possible to try to get better.

“We have an expensive team. Tilman has for sure signed off for that.”

“My job is to try to always improve,” Morey said. “I’ll be kicking every rock, like we always do. But coach and I talked, if we have basically have this group back, we feel very good about it as well. The realities of the NBA, you have many free agents you are not going to have the same group back. But we feel good about the players in the locker room.”

Feigen also reports that the Rockets are not expected to be in the running for standout free agents such as LeBron James (should he opt out of his contract) or Paul George. The Rockets also do not have a first-round pick in the 2018 Draft.

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