In December, the Houston Rockets were a David Stern Ambien from landing the legit star that Daryl Morey craves in the form of Pau Gasol, acquired via a three-way Chris Paul trade with the L.A. Lakers and New Orleans Hornets. Stern said, "No," and Houston kept Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kevin Martin. All three have been pretty good as Houston contends for a top-4 seed in the vicious West.
But Morey (understandably) wants an upgrade in the frontcourt, and the Rockets have some pretty intriguing assets. Few teams are as active as Houston, so there's plenty reason to tune in on what Houston has in store of the next 10 days.
NEEDS & TARGETS
A frontcourt star is the major target, with Dragic, Scola and Martin -- the Gasol package -- apparently in play. Of course, one acquisition there creates a hole elsewhere, especially with regards to Martin. Houston does have the Knicks' first-round draft pick unless New York slips into the lottery and wins a miraculous top-5 pick. That should end up right around No. 16 or so. Houston's own pick will be closer to No. 20, but so long as the Rockets make the playoffs it will be headed to the New Jersey Nets (Terrence Williams trade, huzzah!). Houston has already traded its 2013 first-round pick (lotto protected) for Donatas Motiejunas and, uh, Jonny Flynn; it should receive Memphis' 2013 as a result of the Hasheem Thabeet-Shane Battier trade. Short version: draft picks aren't really in play for Houston.
Houston could be an intriguing third team in a Dwight Howard deal, especially if the Nets are involved since additional assets are needed. I fail to see how Houston can land a star in such a deal, but the Rockets always seem to be willing to get in the mix with assets at stake.
No one on the Houston roster can be deemed "untouchable," but Kyle Lowry is pretty close, one would imagine.
SALARY CAP SITUATION
The Rockets are at a salary of $57 million, right under the cap, according to ShamSports.com. But Houston stands to sit at about $20 million under the cap in July, depending on a few key decisions.