There have been rumors swirling around in recent weeks that the Houston Rockets are prioritizing a few players as free agency targets. With $60M+ available in cap space, the Rockets can be major players out on the open market whether they acquire a big-name player or a veteran presence (or multiple). Accompany that with hiring head coach Ime Udoka, who made an NBA Finals appearance in 2021-22, and Houston has a legit shot to turn things around after being a lottery team for three consecutive years. This offseason will be one of the biggest this team has had in recent years.
Houston Rockets Rumored Free Agency Targets
To kick off the offseason rumors, a familiar name appeared as a potential free agency target for Houston, none other than former Rockets star James Harden. Harden spent nine seasons in Houston before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets after an ending that left a bad taste in the mouth of fans. He spent the past two seasons with the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 21 points per game with 10.7 assists and 6.1 rebounds while shooting 44.1 percent from the field.
After being eliminated in the second round, it’s being reported that Harden intends to opt out of his $35.6M player option for next season with Philly. Of all the teams, it’s expected that Harden reunites with the Rockets this offseason. The talk around the league is that he’s seeking a four-year deal. Whether or not this is just a leverage ploy to get the best deal from Philly, there are some legs to this rumor.
Floating around before the 2022-23 season even began was the talk of the Rockets maybe pursuing Dillon Brooks come free agency. Fast forward to after the season and those rumors have picked up. In 73 games with the Memphis Grizzlies this past season, he averaged 14.3 points. While he’s very streaky and his numbers on offense are down, his offense won’t be what Houston is after.
Brooks is known for his defense, making the All-NBA Second Team on defense. He has the ability to guard anyone and take them out of the play with his strength and physicality. One thing he does a lot is trash talk. That can be one of the best parts about his game but it might be a bit too much to fans liking, especially if you don’t back it up like in the playoffs. Nonetheless, Brooks would be an interesting option for Houston with the style they are looking to instill.
After being one of the most improved players in the league in just his second year, Austin Reaves becomes a top free-agent target for the Rockets. In 64 games this past season, Reaves averaged 13 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor and 39 percent from behind the arc. He got even more recognition in the playoffs, specifically in the Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets.
The Los Angeles Lakers might’ve lost but Reaves was one of the best players on the floor. In that series, he averaged 21.3 points per game with 5.3 assists while shooting 54 percent from the floor and an impressive 56 percent from three. With Reaves entering the offseason as a restricted free agent, it’s not certain he hits the open market but the Rockets certainly have the money to pressure on the Lakers to bring him back.
Like Reaves, Cam Johnson enters the offseason as a restricted free agent. In 42 games with the Nets, Johnson averaged 15.5 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. He’s performed very nicely ever since being traded to Brooklyn this past season and that includes in their first-round loss in the playoffs this season.
The 27-year-old spaces the floor pretty well on the perimeter and is nearly a 40 percent shooter from behind the arc. Johnson is also a solid defender, being able to guard multiple positions and excel on the perimeter, just like he does on offense. At one point, many thought the Rockets should’ve perused Johnson in the trade market this past season but it didn’t happen. Now, the Rockets just have to pay up if in fact he leaves Brooklyn and they certainly have the money to do so. It’s hard to imagine a better fit than Johnson on this young Houston team.
If Houston can sign both Dillon Brooks and Brook Lopez, they would be adding two All-Defensive players from last season. In this case, Lopez made First-Team All-Defensive. He was third in the league with 2.4 blocks per game and averaged 4.7 rebounds on that side of the floor. Lopez is a pesky defender and can get under the opponents’ skin. This all catapulted him to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
While he is best known on defense, Lopez has a solid offensive style to his game that any team would welcome on the floor. He averaged 15.9 points per game while bringing down 6.7 total rebounds. The 35-year-old veteran is a talented scorer and can shoot three from anywhere along the line when he needs to. The Rockets adding someone like Lopez would do wonders for their youth movement.
This isn’t exactly a rumor put out by anyone but more so what Patrick Beverley recently said. When asked about his chances of returning to the Rockets, Beverley said “very likely.” He went on to say “that was one of my decisions when I got traded from the Lakers, but (Houston) told me ‘We don’t need you right now. You might not play. We need you to mentor young guys.’ I still wanted to play.” That is a mouthful coming from the former Rocket, who played in Houston from 2012-2017.
Beverley would be coming over for his defense and veteran leadership, something that the Rockets might need to compete. He anchors a defense with his energy and intensity while also having an entire fanbase behind him after returning for the first time since 2017. If this actually has a chance of happening, Houston would be smart to take advantage of Beverley wanting to be there.
Interest In More Veteran Point Guards?
Per Kelly Iko of the Athletic, the Rockets acquiring a veteran point guard might be their primary objective this offseason. If they become available, some more names they could be interested in are Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Donte DiVincenzo, and Chris Paul. This all hinges on if they get Harden back or not and what else they do in the free-agent market.
Call For Number Four Pick
In another report from Kelly Iko of the Athletic, he suggests that there have been multiple teams expressing interest in trading for Houston’s number four overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. With there being some really good prospects at the top of the draft, the Rockets could use that pick to acquire immediate help. If they end up keeping it, the team would still be getting a pretty good player at the top of the draft.
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