LOOKING AHEAD

Del Olaleye: 3 biggest roster questions for the Rockets in the offseason

Should the Rockets pay Clint Capela? Jason Miller

After 99 games the Rockets season is done, leaving a number of people with a “where do we go from here” feeling. After nearly 100 games of meaningful basketball there are no more Rockets games on the schedule. Free Agency is over a month away so improving the roster outside of trades will take a little time. Despite being a championship contender and one win away from a Finals appearance the Rockets roster could go through plenty of upheaval. There are questions about the starters and bench players alike. Here are some of the roster questions the Rockets have to answer as they try to gear up for another title run.

What to do with Chris Paul?

The answer seems simple. The unrestricted free agent was the catalyst for a Rockets team that was one win away from the NBA Finals. Bringing back the 13-year veteran will be a priority. The debate should be about for how long as opposed to how much. At 33 years old Paul may have two years of elite point guard play left. Are the Rockets willing to guarantee Paul max money when he’s 36 and 37 to keep him from considering another destination this offseason?

Is Trevor Ariza a part of the Rockets Future?

The swingman certainly didn’t leave a great final impression if he moves on from the Rockets in the offseason. His poor shooting in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals was historically bad. Ariza is 32 years old and may be looking for one last relatively big deal. What does an older “3 and D” guy command in free agency? Take a look at what the Rockets gave PJ Tucker during the 2017 offseason. Tucker was the same age as Ariza is now at the time of his signing. He got four years and $31 million. Are the Rockets willing to give Ariza a salary that averages just less than $8 million per season and for multiple years as well? Those salaries are moderate by NBA standards but signing multiple 30+ year olds to multi-year deals in two consecutive offseasons doesn’t appear to be the Morey way.

Is Capela at Max Money the right way to go?

Clint Capela’s continued growth on both ends of the floor helped change this Rockets team. It also made him a target of teams with money to spend . Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has made it clear that Capela along with Paul are top priorities this offseason. Capela at 24 years old is the only Rockets starter besides James Harden that is under 30. He is not only part of the Rockets present but has the ability to be part of their future long after most of the current rotation has aged itself out of championship contention. Does a team obsessed with beating the current version of the Golden State Warriors pay a player max money when his offense is generated by others? The Warriors are elite on the perimeter. Is Capela’s presence in the paint a great equalizer or should the Rockets try to match the Warriors on the outside?

There will be multiple elite wing players on the open market. LeBron James and Paul George being chief among them. Would you take Paul George, James Harden and Chris Paul for the next four years over Capela, Harden and Paul? That could be a question the Rockets are faced with if the math and money gets a little tight.

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It more of the same from the Houston Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Sunday afternoon provided a high-res snapshot of the state of Houston sports. The Astros, already assured of the best record in the American League, played a game they didn’t need to win. The Astros won, ho-hum, their 104th win of the season.

Meanwhile, eight miles away, the Texans, mired in last place with fan support dwindling, played a game they really needed to win. The Texans lost 34-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers in front of (giggle) 69,071 fans at NRG Stadium. The Texans really ought to stop saying the stands are packed. Every time a team punts, and cameras follow the ball skyward, there are thousands of empty seats on display. I know the NFL methodology for determining attendance, (total tickets sold, no-shows don’t count) but it just looks silly when the Texans announce 69,000 fans.

The Texans came close as usual before sputtering to another defeat. The Texans now stand at 0-3-1, the only winless team in the NFL. It’s the second time in three years they’ve started a season without a victory after four games. It’s telling to note that not one of the Texans opponents has a winning record for 2022.

In other words, the Texans have played four games they shoulda/coulda won. Shouda against the Colts, Broncos and Bears, and coulda against the Chargers.

Should/coulda four wins. Instead, none.

That’s the Texans. They’re in every game but can’t close the deal. Yeah, yeah, on Monday we hear, “the Texans are playing hard for coach Lovie Smith” and “they’re competitive” and “they’re a young team.” These are NFL equivalents of a participation trophy.

Sunday’s loss to the Chargers at NRG Stadium was straight out of the Texans playbook. Fall behind, make it interesting, lose. The Texans stuck to their script, timid play calling, momentum-crushing penalties (nine for 67 yards), self-inflicted drops, lackluster quarterbacking and Rex Burkhead on the field for crunch time. After one play where a Texan player was called for holding, the announcer said, “and he did a poor job of holding.”

Statuesque quarterback David Mills keeps saying “we’re in a good spot” and “we’re improving.” Statuesque as in he doesn’t move – or barely moves to avoid sacks. Sunday saw his first touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He’s now thrown four interceptions in the past two games. Let’s go to the tote board: 5 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, 4 fumbles, 11 sacks, qbr rating 28.5 – good for 28th in the league.

A bright spot, sort of. This was the first week the Texans didn’t cover the spread. They’re now 1-2-1 against Vegas oddsmakers, meaning you’ve won money if you took the Texans all four weeks. They head to Jacksonville next as early 6.5-point underdogs.

Meanwhile, Alabama’s brilliant quarterback Bryce Young, who will be available for the Texans when they draft first in 2023 (as Paul Heyman says, that’s not a prediction, that’s a spoiler), suffered a shoulder injury last Saturday. The Texans need to take out a Lloyds of London insurance policy on Young.

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