With NBA teams now cleared to talk to player agents, the stage is set for a whirlwind free-agency process that is expected to begin Dec. 9.
The Houston Rockets, with only $47 million in payroll committed for the 2011-2012 season and without any significant free agents to re-sign, are one of the NBA teams best positioned to make a move in free agency. They are well under the estimated $58 million salary cap and $70 million luxury tax thresholds.
However, it's still unclear what direction the Rockets want to go. They desperately need a center, and there are three near-elite players (Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler and Nene) available, but there will be a fierce competition for them.
Houston is a popular off-season spot for NBA players, but a team that has averaged 42 wins over the last two years will have a tough time selling free agents to sign with them.
The Rockets have two solid veterans in Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, as well as a huge mix of interesting young prospects, but they don't have the kind of star power that traditionally attracts elite free agents.
As a result, Morey might try to use cap space to facilitate trades and accumulate more assets or he might try to roll it over to 2012 when a much deeper class of free agents is expected to be available. If the Rockets stand pat in free agency, they would have only $28 million in payroll headed into next season.
For the latest news and notes on the Rockets off-season, check out The Dream Shake.