Houston Rockets

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Southwest Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re finishing up our series with the Southwest division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Southwest teams:

Memphis GrizzliesMarc Gasol vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $101,105,736
Projection: Over the cap

Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, and Marc Gasol will earn a combined $78MM+ in 2018/19, so unless the Grizzlies trade one of those players, the team is extremely unlikely to create any meaningful cap space. If Memphis struggles and misses the playoffs this season, I could see trade rumors surrounding Gasol begin to intensify, but for now, we’re assuming the Grizzlies will begin the 2018 offseason over the projected $101MM salary cap.

New Orleans Pelicans
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $91,577,138
Projection: Over the cap

With nearly $92MM committed to just seven players, the Pelicans would need to account for cap charges for five empty roster spots. Once those cap charges are added to team salary, New Orleans is left with about $5MM in potential cap room, which is less than the value of the mid-level exception. So even if the Pelicans don’t end up keeping DeMarcus Cousins‘ cap hold on their books to try to re-sign him, they’ll likely function as an over-the-cap club.

San Antonio Spurs
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,410,994
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Spurs ultimately don’t have any cap room at their disposal for 2018. The team has three veterans holding player options, in Danny Green ($10MM), Rudy Gay ($8.8MM), and Joffrey Lauvergne ($1.7MM), as well as three potential restricted free agents (Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes).

It’s entirely possible that all three of those players with options turn them down, and it’s also within reason that the Spurs will let their RFAs go. Still, I’d expect at least two or three of those six players to remain in San Antonio. And if guys like Green and Gay are among those returnees, either on their options or on new contracts, then the Spurs’ cap space will evaporate in a hurry.

Houston Rockets
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,123,448
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

Like the Spurs, the Rockets could create a modest amount of cap room by parting ways with all their potential free agents, but the more likely scenario will see them stay over the cap. Chris Paul, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza will be among the most coveted free agents in the NBA, and re-signing even one of the three would likely take Houston over the cap, or close to it. Re-signing two, or all three, could push Houston into luxury-tax territory.

Dallas Mavericks
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $41,269,318
Projection: Up to approximately $35MM in cap room

Based on their current team salary projections for 2018/19, the Mavericks could theoretically create up to $53MM in cap space. However, that’s probably an unrealistic estimate, since it doesn’t include Wesley Matthews‘ $18.6MM player option.

The 31-year-old guard has failed to make more than 40% of his field goal attempts in any of his three seasons with the Mavs, and his .359 FG% so far this season is his worst mark yet. He’s also averaging just 11.2 PPG despite playing 34.6 minutes per contest. Simply put, Matthews isn’t going to find an $18MM salary on the open market if he turns down his option.

As such, our projection for the Mavs assumes that Matthews will exercise that option, which still leaves Dallas with about $35MM in cap room. That would be more than enough to bring back Seth Curry and Dirk Nowitzki – if he doesn’t retire – and still have space left over.


Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Chris Paul Set To Return On Thursday

The Rockets are officially listing Chris Paul as questionable for Thursday’s game in Phoenix, but it sounds like the team expects its veteran point guard to suit up. Head coach Mike D’Antoni said today that he plans on having Paul in the starting lineup tomorrow and will likely have him play about 20 minutes, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

“He’s ready to go,” D’Antoni said. “I think he’s playing tomorrow. We’ll see. It’s good. Now, what we have done up to now doesn’t count. We have a new team tomorrow. When you put that big of a rock into a pond, there’s big waves. We have to figure out, one, give him a chance to get into game shape, and two, everybody’s rotation is a little bit different.”

Paul’s stint in Houston has gotten off to an anticlimactic start, with the former Clipper appearing in just one regular season game for his new club before being sidelined due to a knee injury. Recognizing that their roster is strong enough that there was no need to force Paul into action in October and November games, the Rockets opted to hold him out until he got 100% healthy.

The Rockets have an 11-4 record so far this season, with Harden playing a point guard role similar to the one he played last year. 2017’s MVP runner-up is leading the NBA with 10.3 assists per game this season, but Harden should still benefit from having CP3 back. Games like Tuesday’s loss to the Raptors, in which Harden went 8-for-25 from the field, turned the ball over nine times, and ran into foul trouble, show that Paul’s ability to share ball-handling duties figures to come in handy for Houston.

In addition to helping the Rockets win games, Paul will also be looking to improve his stock as he nears free agency. He’ll be 33 years old when he reaches the open market in 2018, and no longer seems like a lock for a long-term, maximum-salary contract.

Chris Paul Could Return On Thursday

Chris Paul is ramping up his workouts and could return to action on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. The longtime All-Star point guard has been out since suffering a bruised left knee in the Rockets’ opener. “We’ll see how he feels Tuesday and Wednesday,” coach Mike D’Antoni told Feigen. “That [playing Thursday] is what we’re shooting for.”

Tarik Black Prepares Despite Irregular Role

  • The Rockets haven’t found a way to incorporate Tarik Black into their regular rotation. Until they do, the productive reserve will need to continue to prepare, as he tells Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “There’s nothing like basketball rhythm. I have to get back on the court. As far as staying prepared, every day I come in here and prepare like I am playing. I do my same routine and after the game, if I don’t play, do extra work,” Black said.

Rockets Appear Eager To Invest In Clint Capela

  • The Rockets appreciate the asset on their hands in Clint Capela and don’t appear to be afraid of investing in him when he hits free agency. “We’ll have him here as long as he’ll have us,” general manager Daryl Morey tells Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “He couldn’t price himself out.

NBA G League Assignments/Recalls: 11/9/17

Here are the G League transactions for Thursday:

Rockets Assign Zhou Qi To G League

  • The Rockets have re-assigned rookie big man Zhou Qi to the G League, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. Zhou should have an opportunity to suit up on Wednesday night for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers against Austin.

Chris Paul Nearing Return

Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni provided an update on injured point guard Chris Paul, who has missed all but one game this season due to a bruised left knee. At this stage, D’Antoni feels his prized offseason addition is closer than he has been to a return (via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon).

“He’s probably rounding second and pretty close to third,” D’Antoni said of Paul’s estimated return. Once Paul is cleared for basketball activities, D’Antoni said that Paul needs “five days or so” of practice to get his endurance up to par. The Rockets have been fine without Paul, boasting an 8-3 record, tied for first with the defending champion Warriors.

“I just hope we can get him back quickly so we can start building on what we really have,” the Rockets coach added.

Rockets Recall Zhou Qi From G League

  • A day after sending him to the G League, the Rockets have recalled rookie big man Zhou Qi, the team announced (via Twitter). Zhou scored 15 points on Monday for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
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