Until he was able to secure a foundational star post-Yao Ming, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey conducted his management of the team's roster each offseason like the producers of True Detective, cycling out virtually the entire cast for a brand new set of characters. It made it hard for all of us, on some level, to connect with the team, but we all realized it was for a greater good.
Then, once James Harden and ultimately Dwight Howard came on board, there was at least some semblance of a foundation, of a roster coalescing. Others would come and go, longtime characters would leave (hello, Chandler), but we knew James and Dwight would be here.
I say all of this to point out what all of you are probably thinking — it appears as though the Rockets are going to return for the 2015-2016 season with virtually the entire roster that finished last season's Western Conference Finals intact, only healthier. In an offseason where the two big free agents that fill a need on the Rockets either stayed home (Kevin Love) or were preordained to wind up in San Antonio (LaMarcus Aldridge), this is probably the Rockets best course of action. For now, at least.
The "stand pat" strategy played itself out on Friday afternoon when, within a couple hours of each other, swingman Corey Brewer and point guard Patrick Beverley re-upped with the Rockets on multi-year deals. Brewer inked a three-year, $23.4 million deal, after getting interest from the Knicks and the Kings. Beverley signed a three-year, $18 million deal (team option for $5 million fourth year) after coming close to signing an offer sheet with another Western Conference team (Dallas, the heavy favorite for the culprit).
Brewer, 29, emerged as a key member of the Rockets' rotation after coming over in a December trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 11.5 points per game and notching seven games with 15 points or more in the postseason. Brewer (along with Josh Smith, and with Harden on the bench) played a huge key role in the fourth quarter comeback that saved the Rockets postseason in Game 6 against the Clippers. He provides perimeter defense and, as one of the fastest players end to end in the entire league, is good for a few easy baskets each game.
Beverley, 26, spent the entire postseason nursing a surgically repaired ligament in his left wrist, the second straight season in which Beverley sustained a significant injury (meniscus in 2014). Indeed, if there is one concern about Beverley, it would be the constant health issues. However, for the dollar value the Rockets have him locked upon for the next few seasons, Beverley brings one highly necessary commodity in the Western Conference (home of Curry, Paul, Parker, Conley, Westbrook, Lillard) — perimeter defense at the point guard position.
Having made the Western Conference Finals with a point guard combination of Jason Terry and Pablo Prigioni (average age of around 93 years old, give or take), it's fair to speculate that Beverley's presence could have been the difference in splitting (or even sweeping) the first two games against the Warriors in Oakland. (Of course, with Aldridge's signing in San Antonio, a whole new set of problems may have been created, but that's another conversation for another time.)
So, if you're scoring at home, here are the central players — rotation and injured — on the Houston Rockets when the season ended in five games against the Warriors in the conference finals (* injured for postseason):
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
JAMES HARDEN, SG (signed through 2018)
Three more years at around $16 million per year, one of the best bargains in the NBA
DWIGHT HOWARD, C (player option in 2016)
One more season at $22.3 million before a $23 million player option in 2016, a healthy season is big for Dwight in 2015-16
TREVOR ARIZA, SF (signed through 2018)
Three more seasons at around $8 million per year, salary actually declines each season making Ariza (and his contract) a major asset
* DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS, PF (signed through 2016, RFA after 2015-16)
Rockets most improved player in 2014-15 before back injury derailed his season, big potential as low post/stretch four scorer
* PATRICK BEVERLEY (signed through 2018, team option for 2018-19)
Starting point guard in 2015-2016, one of the top defensive point guards in the league and decent three point shooter
TERRENCE JONES, PF (signed through 2016, RFA after 2015-16)
Still viewed by an asset around the league, needs to reestablish himself after a second straight underwhelming postseason
COREY BREWER, SF/SG (signed through 2018)
High energy, veteran bench player who brings defense, streaky shooter
CLINT CAPELA, PF/C (signed through 2018, RFA after 2017-18)
Minor revelation in the postseason, an offseason in the weight room and at the free throw line could make him a valuable piece
PABLO PRIGIONI, PG (signed through 2016, partially guaranteed for $440K in 2015-16)
Low risk option for now as backup point guard, team can cut ties for relatively nominal $440,000 cap hit (versus his $1.7 million salary)
KOSTAS PAPANIKOLAOU, SF/PF (signed through 2016, non-guaranteed)
Non-guaranteed contract makes him a valuable trade chip, if Morey has a last second deal up his sleeve in July
NICK JOHNSON, PG (signed through 2017, RFA after 2016-17)
2014 second round pick, must improve offensive game to get any sniff of rotation minutes
JOEY DORSEY, C/PF (signed through 2016)
A big body that's really good at things that don't require touching the basketball
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SAM DEKKER, SG/SF/PF (2015 1st round pick)
MONTREZL HARRELL, PF (2015 2nd round pick)
REMAINING FREE AGENTS
JOSH SMITH, SF/PF (unrestricted): Candidate to be brought back on Mid Level Exception
JASON TERRY, PG/SG (unrestricted): Candidate to be brought back on veteran;s minimum deal
K.J. McDANIELS, SG/SF (restricted): Has interest from a handful of teams around the league
So the only new faces in the mix are a couple of draft picks. Oddly, bringing back all the old faces makes this feel like a new age of Rockets basketball.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast.