Jeremy Lin’s days with the Houston Rockets might be numbered as the team continues to try and create salary-cap space. Houston has already agreed to trade Omer Asik, and Lin could be next, in the team’s quest to land LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, or both.
In order for the Rockets to be able offer a free agent a large contract, they’ll have to shed some salary. They began the process on Wednesday night, agreeing to send the big man to the New Orleans Pelicans for a future first-round draft pick. Before the deal, Houston had a guaranteed payroll of more than $70.6 million for the 2014-2015 season. If the organization can unload the contracts of both Asik and Lin, they could find themselves well below the projected salary cap of $62.3 million.
Both players are set to make close to $15 million next season, but each has a cap number of just over $8 million. The Rockets have already dealt Asik without taking back and guaranteed money, and they could do the same with Lin.
With money to spend, Houston could add James or Anthony to a roster that already includes Dwight Howard and James Harden, possibly forming their own Big 3. The team might also explore the possibility of including Harden in a sign-and-trade to ensure that they get both James and Anthony.
In his two years with Houston, Lin hasn't been able to replicate the success he had with the New York Knicks during “Linsanity.” Still, he’s proven to be a serviceable starting point guard that has occasional scoring outbursts. Considering he has an expiring contract and a reasonable cap number, he could be an attractive option for several clubs.
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According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Golden State Warriors might be interested in trading for Lin. While the team has been heavily involved in discussions about acquiring Kevin Love, they could look to make a deal with the Rockets.
The Warriors already have a starting point guard in Stephen Curry, but they might be willing to absorb Lin’s contract, if it gets them Chandler Parsons. Houston could include the restricted free agent in a deal, if it means getting rid of Lin and creating more cap space. Parsons averaged 16.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per games last season, and a trade might not be hard to execute since the Warriors have a $9.8 million trade exception.
In addition to a possible second stint with the Warriors, Lin could return to the place where he became a star. The Knicks could trade for Lin, if they are unable to keep Anthony. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reports that New York might agree to send Anthony to Houston in a sign-and-trade to ensure that they don't lose Anthony for nothing. In exchange for their top player, the Knicks would receive Harden and Lin.
The possibility of Houston acquiring both James and Anthony isn’t likely, but the two reportedly have an interest in playing together. James teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010, and the Rockets could be in a position to allow the four-time MVP to play with two new All-Stars. If James signs with the Rockets and the team trades Harden for Anthony, they would become the heavy favorites to win the 2015 NBA Finals.
Houston could already have a destination for Lin in mind. USA Today's Sam Amick has reported that the team has a deal “teed up” for Lin, which was also reported by Howard Beck. However, if the Rockets determine that they won't be able to sign a top free agent, Lin might not be going anywhere.