Lacking a better option to build up the talent base of the team, Rockets GM Daryl Morey has turned to trying to find sleeper players to borrow a fantasy sports term. In the past they've gone after the stars like Deron Williams, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and recently Dwight Howard but have struck out in every attempt. On the heel of that rejection, they've turned to guys they think can be key players over players they know can be key players. The latest example became official yesterday when the Chicago Bulls decided not to match the three year, $25 million offer made to free agent center Omer Asik, making him a member of the Houston Rockets. This signing of course came roughly one week after they signed Jeremy Lin to a similar contract. In both deals, the Rockets put in a poison pill that escalated the contract to around 15 million dollars in the final year; important to remember that the money will be spread out equally in terms of the Rockets salary cap number.
It's a risky strategy, but one that I think Morey is capable of pulling off. That being said, these additions will be good role players even if the strategy works; I don't think either Lin or Asik has star potential. Morey will have the salary cap space to chase a star during the next two off-seasons, he'll have to land one or signing role players is just a waste of time.
Morey has had success with similar gambles in the past with the additions of Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic via trade. Each player had little to no starting experience, but turned into borderline all-star players for the Rockets after they were acquired via trade. Lowry only started nine games during his first two seasons in Memphis, but the Rockets saw something in Lowry and traded for him despite already having Aaron Brooks on the roster. Over the last two seasons Lowry averaged 14 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game. Goran Dragic started just five games in two and a half seasons with Phoenix, but averaged 18 points, 8 assists, and shot 49% as a starter with Houston last season. Luis Scola wasn't even playing in the NBA when the Rockets traded for him, but averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds as a starter for Houston over five seasons.
Obvious problem is, none of those players are still with the Rockets. In some ways, the Rockets are starting over so Morey will have to prove again that he's capable of finding the diamonds in the rough.