Rockets rumors: Daryl Morey given green light to pay luxury tax next season
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Report: Rockets GM Daryl Morey given green light to pay luxury tax next season

Daryl Morey, James Harden, Rockets

In the wake of the Houston Rockets’ season-ending loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals, James Harden was asked what the team needed to do to get past Golden State in the future.

Harden, as trite as ever, simply responded with a “we’ll figure it out in the summer” line:

Was it possible that Harden was hinting at a potential roster makeover? Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle believes this may be the case.

Although the Rockets do not have cap space to make a big splash in free agency — they have to pay Harden and Chris Paul over $75 million next season alone — Feigen indicates general manager Daryl Morey may look to make upgrades via the mid-level exception and will not have to worry about ducking the luxury tax:

Q. So how do they get better?

A. Never rule out a bold move, but the most likely avenues are with the mid-level exception and minimum contracts. They could have as much as $9 million of mid-level money to spend, though given what that would take under CBA rules and the roster constraints that would bring, it is much more likely they operate with the $5.7 million exception.

Though spending the exception money would push the Rockets back into the luxury tax, general manager Daryl Morey has already been given a green light to pay the tax, a person with knowledge of the team’s planning said.

Houston made a concerted effort to stay under the luxury tax this season. Morey rewarded Paul with a massive contract after last year’s performance, which helped sacrifice Trevor Ariza in the process.

Morey also initially replaced Ariza with James Ennis and Danuel House, only for Ennis to be dealt at the deadline for nothing but a 2021 second-round pick swap. The Rockets rostered the minimum of 13 players for nearly the entire season, offering 10-day contracts to the likes of Terrence Jones and Chris Chiozza.

But Morey may be less “cheap” if he has the approval from owner Tilman Fertitta to exceed the tax in 2019-20, especially considering the Rockets have now lost to the Warriors in four of the last five postseasons.