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Houston Rockets trade rumors: Focus still on summer plans

While the Rockets could always make a deal this week, it seems more likely they wait until the summer to really shake things up.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets have young talent and salary cap space, but they're more likely to acquire a star to pair with James Harden this summer than this week. Despite being one of the few teams in the league with financial flexibility, it appears Rockets GM Daryl Morey prefers to it use in free agency, when the franchise will be able to offer a max contract to top players.

The Rockets' outlook

For the most part, the Rockets' core is already intact -- Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons and Omer Asik already fill four of the team's five starting positions. But the Rockets could still use a star big man, and they'll have the opportunity to acquire one this summer.

One of the few teams with the salary cap space to offer a max contract this summer, the Rockets will be able to compete to sign the likes of Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and others. Some of those players will likely stay with their current teams, but even acquiring a second-tier guy like Smith or Paul Millsap would be a major addition.

As such, the Rockets appear to be essentially sitting out the 2013 trade deadline, preferring to keep their flexibility intact by avoiding major deals. Smith is being bandied about in rumors around the league now, but one imagines Morey wondering why he'd give up assets now to acquire a guy he can just sign this summer.

Small possibilities

If the Rockets are going to make any trades this week, expect them to be small ones that keep the team's flexible salary cap situation intact. Houston has a lot of solid young players on cheap deals that could appeal to contenders, particularly Parsons, but he seems more likely to be a part of the Rockets' future than a trade.

One could imagine the team making a deal involving a smaller-but-useful piece like Patrick Patterson or Carlos Delfino, but none of those names has come up in rumors yet. Patterson has been heating up of late, though, so the Rockets would likely command a pretty sizable return for the Kentucky grad.

What about Eric Gordon?

Between all of the talk about this summer, the Rockets were mentioned as one of the teams showing interest in Hornets guard Eric Gordon by ESPN's Chris Broussard. It's unclear whether his name merely popped up internally or the Rockets actually reached out to New Orleans, but the possibility is admittedly intriguing.

If Gordon came to Houston, he'd take over at shooting guard in a smaller lineup featuring Jeremy Lin at point guard and James Harden at shooting guard, according to Broussard. That lineup may seem a tad nuts, but it fits with the Rockets' fast-paced, high-scoring style of play.

Acquiring Gordon would take up a significant chunk of the Rockets' available cap space this summer, though, effectively taking the team out of the bidding for top free agents. Houston may deem Gordon worthy of giving up that flexibility, but it's unlikely considering what the team would need to give up in addition to money.