Summer of 2022: Rockets Off-season Salary Cap and Outlook

There are still over two months until we officially flip the calendar to the 2022-23 season. But it’s never too early to start looking at the next season’s roster and salary cap.

Let’s start with numbers projections. The salary cap should be around $122m and the luxury tax threshold at $149m. There are no worries about the tax, though. The following 13 players are under the contract for 2022-23:

John Wall (player option)$47,366,760
Eric Gordon$19,568,360
Christian Wood$14,317,460
Jalen Green$9,441,840
David Nwaba$5,022,000
Alperen Sengun$3,375,480
Kevin Porter Jr.$3,217,631
Usman Garuba$2,471,160
Josh Christopher$2,372,160
Garrison Mathews$2,000,000
Jae’Sean Tate (team option and non-guaranteed)$1,782,621
Kenyon Martin Jr.$1,782,621
Daishen Nix$1,563,518


John Wall will opt-in, and Jae’Sean Tate’s option should be picked up by the team and his salary guaranteed. There’s little incentive to decline Tate’s option. The main reason would be to make Jae’Sean a restricted free agent this offseason, which would allow the Rockets to sign him to a long-term deal. But he’ll also be a restricted free agent after the 2022-23 season, so unless you think he’ll make a sizeable leap, his contract will be in the same range next season. In addition, Tate has a low free agent cap hold which helps generate more cap space for the 2023-24 offseason. So I don’t think a contract extension is likely during the 2022-2023 season.

Total salaries for all 13 players are $114.7m, including dead money. In addition, two upcoming rookies will earn from $7.2m to $10.9m (#1-#5 depending on lottery luck) and $3.3m (#17). So that’s 15 players and a total payroll range between $125.2m and $129m, which is over the salary cap.

Two players will be free agents: Dennis Schroder (unrestricted) and Bruno Fernando (restricted). It’s doubtful either one will return to the Rockets. However, having Non-Bird Rights to Schroder might come in handy if he joins a new team via sign-and-trade transaction. In addition, two more restricted free agents are coming off of their two-way: Anthony Lamb and Trevelin Queen. Both could be re-signed as two-way players.

Trade Candidates

There are already 15 roster spots taken. Teams can get to 18 regular and two two-way players in the offseason but have to cut down to 15 regulars before the season starts. As things stand, there’s no room to add more players. So who’s the most likely trade candidate?

John Wall

The Rockets will try to find a trade partner to offload Wall’s massive $47.4m expiring contract. Easier said than done, as the Rockets would have to take back at least $35.4m (before July 1) or $37.8m in salaries for Wall or trade him to another team’s cap space. There are not many candidates that fit this criterion. Russell Westbrook would seem the most likely one, but I think that would only be a desperate move for the Lakers.

As Jake Fischer reports, if the Rockets can’t find a trade and Wall is still on the team after the draft, both sides would engage in buyout talks. In most cases, players are only willing to give back as much as they can from their new team, and I think Wall could give back around $10m-$15m. Either way, it’s improbable we see John Wall on the roster going into next season.

Christian Wood

Wood is on an expiring $14.3m deal. The Rockets held firm last season and were only going to accept the right deal. Rafael Stone might be more willing to find a trade if he’s not looking to hand Wood a 4-year extension. In the offseason, Wood can sign for an additional four years at $77m. Here’s what his max extension would look like:

Total $76,970,665

This isn’t a bad deal for a player averaging 17.9 pts and 10.1 rebs with .390 3p%, but developing Sengun should be the priority. If a good deal is on the table, Christian Wood could change teams before the season starts.

Eric Gordon

Gordon’s deal is also expiring as his 2023-24 salary is non-guaranteed. Like Wood, the Rockets were only going to accept the right offer during the last season. However, he should still be an intriguing talent acquisition for a title contender. Despite this, he’s a valuable team member, both on and off the court. Young teams need a veteran presence in the locker room, and Gordon is remarkable in that role; I would expect him to still be on the Rockets for the 2022-23 season, and maybe closer to the trade deadline; we start hearing some rumors again.

Spending power

Without any major moves, the Rockets are above the salary cap and can use the following to sign free agents:

Available cap space: none
Full mid-level exception: $10,349,000*
Bi-annual exception: $4,050,000*
Minimum exceptions: $1,811,516*
*- numbers based on the projected salary cap of $122m

Unless John Wall is giving back around $20m, the Rockets are most likely to end up with the above exceptions to sign free agents. That’s not very fancy, but some quality players in that salary range could be later used to flip for more draft capital. The 2023-24 offseason will be more exciting from a fan’s perspective, as the Rockets could potentially have two max contract slots.

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