NBA Rumors: Houston Rockets Interested in Making a Play for Samuel Dalembert

John Friel@@JohnFtheheatgodAnalyst IDecember 16, 2011

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 13:  Samuel Dalembert #10 of the Sacramento Kings reacts to the crowd during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on February 13, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Suns 113-108.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Aside from the Chris Paul saga, one of the biggest surprises over this offseason is the fact that Sacramento Kings center Samuel Dalembert is still an unrestricted free agent and has yet to receive an offer from any of the contenders that showed interest in him.

The Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks appeared to be front runners for Dalembert's services, but it seems as if they have both backed off, possibly due to the contract that he is asking for.

The Heat and Dalembert seemed to hold mutual interest after he proclaimed to FOX Sports Florida that joining the Heat would be fantastic, but then backed off of the rumors and said that it would be very difficult for him to sign with the team at the MLE.

For someone who has made $67 million over a career to play defense and catch alley-oops, Dalembert sure is asking for a lot in return that contenders like the Heat and Mavericks just can't offer.

Both teams could use a center, especially Miami, but they're not willing or just plain don't have the cap space to sign the longtime Philadelphia 76er.

Over a nine-year career, Dalembert has averaged eight points, eight boards, and two blocks per game with his most recent output in his stint with the Sacramento Kings on par with his career averages.

With the Kings renouncing their rights to Dalembert earlier in the week, he's either going to get signed to a team with the money, spend the year as a free agent, or take the pay cut and join Miami or Dallas.

That may not be the case, however, as word is coming in that the Houston Rockets are in heavy negotiations with Dalembert, according to My FOX Houston, and are looking to make him their starting center for the 2011-'12 season.

The Rockets have plenty of cap space to obtain Dalembert, as they have yet to use this offseason to their advantage yet.

Aside from their draft picks in Donatas Montijunas and Marcus Morris, the Rockets have done little to improve their standing.

Improvement is going to be crucial for the Rockets as they continue to lack a center and are still considered far behind Dallas, San Antonio and Memphis.

If Houston is going to make a free-agent signing, it has to be Dalembert. Now that Yao Ming is no longer with the team or in the NBA, the Rockets are officially in desperation mode and are on the lookout for their next starting center.

With Chuck Hayes gone to Sacramento, it only gives the team even more reason to go and openly pursue a center like Sammy.

The dilemma at center is looking very bleak for the Rockets. The depth chart at center has Hasheem Thabeet starting with his back-ups being Omar Samhan, Jordan Hill, and Marcus Cousins.

With Samhan and Cousins being young and Hill standing at only 6'10" and not having the girth to play center, it's going to be up to Thabeet to start and produce at center if the Rockets don't make their move and sign Dalembert.

It was in 2009 when the Memphis Grizzlies used up their second pick on Thabeet and it didn't take them long to recognize that they made a monumental mistake.

At 7'3", Thabeet was slow at just about every aspect of the game, didn't have an offensive repertoire whatsoever, and was quickly designated to the D-League when the Grizzlies grew frustrated with the little progress he made after averaging three points, four rebounds, and a block per game in his rookie season.

It took one and a half seasons for Memphis to give up on the No. 2 pick in the draft. The Rockets will soon find out why if they don't sign Dalembert.

Samuel may not come cheap, but it'll be worth it to a team like the Rockets, who are desperate to find a capable replacement for Yao as well as addressing the need of a strong, defensive-minded center in the front court.

With players like Luis Scola and Chase Budinger rounding out the frontcourt, it's obvious to see that a player of Dalembert's caliber is needed.

The Rockets were one of the league's worst defensive teams last season and it came as a result of players being able to get to the rim at will and then finish with little resistance.

While the backcourt may not be any more improved, the front court will at least sport a little resistance if Dalembert joins the fray because, even at 7'3", nobody is worried about getting blocked or hammered by Thabeet.

With Dalembert, you at least provide some resistance as well as adding one of the league's top shot blockers throughout the 2000's.

He has usually ranked near the top in blocks per game every year aside from his rookie season and has averaged more than two three times in his career. A shot blocker and a deterrent like Samuel is exactly what the Rockets could use at the moment to put slashers at bay.

While this won't be the permanent answer, since Dalembert is 31 years old and has a limited offensive game, it will be an answer that the Rockets would be able to rely on to play consistent defense and pose as sort of threat in the post.

Yao Ming is never going to come back, unfortunately, and that means the time to find a center who isn't 6'6" is now, especially when that answer is currently being untouched.