2017 Free Agency Preview: Rockets

Eric Spyropoulos

Heading in to the 2017 NBA offseason, the Houston Rockets are in very good shape in relation to their roster and financial flexibility. That is great news for a team that many already consider to be a true contender or at the very least on the brink of contending.

With that being said, let's take a closer look at the Rockets' financial situation as well as the key free agents the team will be looking to bring back for next season.

This offseason, the Rockets can have around $11 million in cap space. As stands, that isn't really enough money to sign a starting caliber player or even a good bench player. With the increase in the salary cap last offseason, even average players are commanding upwards of $12 million per year.

However, there are two factors that benefit the Rockets when it comes to their cap space and free agency. The first is that after coming off a successful, image-rebuilding season of 55 wins and a close second-round elimination, there may be good role players looking to join a team that is contender. Also, it has been seen in previous years that many players would enjoy playing in Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo, free-flowing system, especially if they are looking to improve their statistics.

The second aspect is that the Rockets could very easily clear upwards of $20 million in cap space with a trade or two. There are three players that come to mind when thinking about trades the Rockets could look to make: Trevor Ariza, Lou Williams, and Ryan Anderson.

Anderson would be the toughest of the three to move due to the $19-plus million he is due next season in combination with the limited production you get from him. Anderson was great for Houston this past season, as he stayed healthy (playing in 72 games) and shot over 40 percent on 3-pointers. Anderson is undoubtedly a key part to the Rockets offense as a result of his floor spacing, but he is a defensive liability. Plus, as seen in the playoffs, if Anderson's shot isn't falling he can be a liability on both ends of the floor.

However, there would very likely be suitors to take Anderson's contract. If the Rockets decide to go that route, that could give them nearly $30 million in cap space (assuming they take little to no salary back in return).

Moving Ariza and/or Williams wouldn't be hard, as both players are still productive, useful players that are set to make $7.4 million and $7 million respectively next season. Ariza is still an above average defender and capable 3-point shooter, while Williams is a professional scorer and excellent sixth man. If the Rockets were to trade just one of the two, they could still create around $18 million in cap space, enough to sign a significant role player.

All of this is to say that without trades the Rockets may be able to attract low-end role players to add to their bench, but with even just one trade the team can clear enough cap space to add a significant piece to their rotation.

The other good news for Houston this offseason is that the only free agent from the regular rotation is Nene, who as a combination of his age, injury history, and public desire to return to Houston, should resign with the team for relatively cheap. Nene was great for the Rockets this past season, as the team effectively managed his minutes allowing him to be fresh throughout the entire season.

The Rockets should look to bring back Nene next season, as his veteran presence and contributions were key this past season. Even if Nene isn't playing he is a valuable player to have around Clint Capela and Montrezl Harrell.

In the end, the Rockets will surely have the ability to improve their roster this summer. Whether it is by making trades in order to sign a star or simply adding a valuable bench piece or two, the Rockets will be improved heading in to next season as they look to become a true contender in the Western Conference.