The Houston Rockets are poised to offer free agent stars like LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony a maximum contract in free agency after gauging the trade market for point guard Jeremy Lin. Lin is drawing interest from the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN's Marc Stein. The Rockets would likely attach at least one first-round draft pick as an incentive for taking Lin in the last season of his contract.
The Rockets can open up close to max cap space if Lin is dealt with no salary coming back. The motivation for trading Lin is the same motivation behind the Rockets' decision to deal backup center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans last month.
Lin is owed $15 million next season, though his contract only counts for $8.4 million against the cap. Let's break down this rumor.
Why this might happen
Houston's roster building plans have been clear: they want to allot the the majority of its cap space to star-level players while filing in the rest of the team with players on rookie deals or near minimum contracts. If Lin were to be traded, the only players on Houston's roster making more than $2 million per season would be James Harden and Dwight Howard.
The Rockets met with Anthony on Wednesday in the second stop on his free agency tour. Anthony is reportedly likely to re-sign with the New York Knicks, but he's also weighing offers from the Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers.
James is obviously the biggest fish in free agency as the best basketball player in the world. His plans remain a mystery at the moment, but his agent Rich Paul did meet with Houston and several other teams earlier in the week.
Bosh reportedly does not want to take a substantial pay cut to stay in Miami, even if James remains. The Rockets are hoping Bosh could be swayed to come to Houston with a big contract.
Why this might not happen
If the Rockets want to deal Lin, it appears as if it will go through. Lin averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists in 71 games last season, but it appears the motivation for Philadelphia or Milwaukee in acquiring him would be the draft pick (or picks) that also come in the deal.
Even if Lin is moved, there's no assurance the Rockets will be able to land a star free agent. The Western Conference is already so competitive that a 54-win Rockets team with Howard and Harden couldn't get out of the first round of the playoffs. Would James, Anthony or Bosh really want to switch to the much harder conference as each player enters his 30s?
The likelihood of Lin getting traded appears to be a 10-out-of-10. The likelihood of the Rockets landing a star player like James, Anthony or Bosh is a coin flip at five-out-of-10. We'll meet in the middle here.