Best Potential 2014 Free Agents to Pair with Dwight Howard and James Harden

D.J. Foster@@fosterdjContributor IMay 9, 2014

Best Potential 2014 Free Agents to Pair with Dwight Howard and James Harden

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    The Houston Rockets don't necessarily need to bring on a star free agent to add to the core of James Harden and Dwight Howard, but if the right player expresses interest, don't be surprised if Houston pounces on the opportunity.

    Once again, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has his team in a good position as the offseason approaches. Houston owns all their future draft picks, and with the expiring deals of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, the Rockets can get under the cap even more quite easily.

    It also doesn't hurt that the 2014-15 projected cap is going to be $5 million more than it was this season, according to's Marc Stein. With more space to work with, Houston could land a big fish, should one become available.

    That sounds like it might be the plan, based on what Rockets owner Leslie Alexander told Mark Berman of

    "We're going to have cap room to bring in a terrific free agent and I think next year we'll be a lot better than we were this year," Alexander said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports.

    "I think the nucleus is great. I think we have two of the brightest stars in the league. We have players who are going to be much better next year, young guys. We have a very good nucleus."

    While a "terrific" free agent can be defined a few different ways, for the sake of this article, we'll focus solely on the big name players that could be the best potential fits for Houston in the 2014 free agency period.

Carmelo Anthony

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    Could Carmelo Anthony be on his way to Houston? Here's what Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports had to say:

    Anthony has free-agent options, and two have risen above everything else: Chicago and Houston, sources with direct knowledge of his plans told Yahoo Sports. The Bulls have an easier path to clear the necessary salary-cap space to sign Anthony, but the Rockets believe they can shed the contracts necessary to offer a third near-max deals alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden, league sources said.

    If Anthony decides that New York is no longer a good fit for him, and if he's willing to take one less year and at least $30 million less from another team, Houston would be a very intriguing option.

    Although the Rockets already have two players that require a lot of touches offensively in Dwight Howard and James Harden, Anthony would make the Rockets nearly unstoppable on that end as a pseudo stretch 4 who can get to the rim.

    While there are questions as to how the three players would co-exist and how they'd defend as a unit, the talent level of Houston's roster would be by far the best in the league, especially when you consider how useful Patrick Beverley and Chandler Parsons could be as role players.

    If Anthony gives Houston the indication he wants to sign there, it would be as simple as moving Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik to create the necessary max space. There's always the possibility of a sign-and-trade deal as well. Keep an eye on Houston in the Anthony sweepstakes.

Chris Bosh

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    While it seems pretty unlikely that Chris Bosh will leave Miami this offseason, Houston should be knocking down his door if he gives any indication that he's ready to opt for free agency.

    Bosh would be silly to pair up with anyone not named LeBron James going forward, but Dwight Howard and James Harden aren't a shabby consolation prize.

    More likely than not, LeBron would have to express his desire to leave Miami before Bosh would consider it, as the titles are rolling in, and Miami has provided Bosh with everything he could possibly want.

    But let's assume that Bosh was ready to leave. Houston would be a near-perfect fit, as Bosh has experience playing as a third wheel offensively, and Howard will allow him to shift back to his natural power forward position. Bosh is also a much better defender than he gets credit for, and his ability to stretch the floor offensively would be a perfect mesh.

    Getting Bosh to return back to Texas would be a best-case scenario for Houston in free agency, but again, there probably isn't any incentive for Bosh to leave Miami unless things suddenly go south or James opts for free agency first.

Trevor Ariza

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    Would Houston really put in a big offer on Trevor Ariza for the second time? Probably not. Ariza is in the midst of a contract year, and it can't be expected that he'll perform this well going forward.

    Ariza already burned the Rockets after a big playoff showing when he was with the Los Angeles Lakers. When he failed to live up to expectations, the Rockets dealt him.

    But aside from their prior history, Ariza is on this list because he's really the perfect type of player Houston could use on the wing. Adding another deadly three-point shooter, particularly from the corners, would take Houston's already potent offense to the next level. 

    Defensively is where Ariza could make the biggest impact. With his length and ability to cause turnovers in passing lanes, Ariza could help both on and off the ball and protect Harden by taking the tougher wing assignment.

    Maybe what's in the past can be forgotten, and the two sides can reunite. It seems extremely unlikely, but Ariza would be a great fit if Houston was only able to move Omer Asik or Jeremy Lin and not both. 

Gordon Hayward

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    How high are the Utah Jazz willing to go on Gordon Hayward? If the Houston Rockets were to make a max offer to the restricted free agent, would the Jazz match or let him go?

    While it seems more likely that Hayward will be retained regardless of the price, there's always the chance he can be snatched away. The problem here, though, is that Houston would have to clear enough cap space to give Hayward this offer with zero assurances that they'd be able to get him.

    Timing with restricted free agents is always an issue as well, as other unrestricted free agents could be signed in the period Utah gets to decide whether they want to match or not.

    You're probably catching the theme by now. Hayward would be a very interesting fit as a third option offensively who can do a little bit of everything and shoot the three, but he's not going to be readily available. He'd be a strong fit, but the logistics don't line up unless Utah is open to negotiating a sign-and-trade deal. That's probably the only realistic way this could happen.

Isaiah Thomas

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    Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas is another restricted free agent, but there seems like a decent chance he'll be in a new uniform next year if he receives a sizable offer.

    That's primarily because Sacramento is facing the luxury tax next season, particularly if Rudy accepts his massive player option. 

    With the strong late-season play of rookie guard Ray McCallum, maybe Sacramento would let Thomas walk or negotiate a sign-and-trade deal similar to what they did last season with Tyreke Evans.

    Thomas may not seem like a great fit on the surface for Houston, as he's limited defensively because of his small stature, but Thomas is a dynamic pick-and-roll player who can really score in bunches and set up his teammates well.

    Houston needs a point guard for the future, as Patrick Beverley is an excellent three-and-D guy but comes up short as a distributor. Ideally, he could be a third guard that could fill in at either spot off the bench.

    Thomas would be an unconventional signing, but his ability to score as a starter or off the bench could be worth an offer around $8 million a year, which might be enough to pry him away from Sacramento. He's an underrated player, and with so few stars likely going to be available in free agency, he could be an attainable option.