Free Agency 2016: Houston Rockets

Free Agency 2013 (revisited):

The Rockets officially signed Dwight Howard in free agency and the chase for the Larry O’Brien trophy was underway. Harden and Howard were going to lead the Rockets in pursuit of the franchise’s first championship in almost 20 years…Now, three years later, that once achievable goal has become a long distance dream for the Rockets and Dwight Howard. While the Rockets could still win The Finals in the near future, the chances that it will be with Howard are very slim.

With multiple reports stating that Howard will not return to the team, the Rockets must find a way to make a big splash in this summers’ free agency. Without Howard, the Rockets would lack a big presence inside the paint, so it would only make sense for them to pursue a big man this summer. However, this team needs to bring a lot more than just one big man.

If and when Howard opts out, it will clear a lot of cap space for Houston. This would be the best option for both parties. This, for one, will be Howard’s last big contract he will ever sign, and on the other hand, the Rockets have made it very clear they will not be offering him a max contract. To create more space to bring in players expect the Rockets to look at potential trades for Corey Brewer who just signed a 3 year/$23 million contract last season. The Rockets front office members definitely have their work cut out for them this summer.

Point Guard

This team needs chemistry, and what position controls the chemistry more than any other? Point Guard. While Patrick Beverly is a very solid player, the Rockets need someone who is more valuable on offense that can help make things happen with James Harden, who has had to carry this team on his back, basically, for the last two years.

One very good underrated guard, who will also be a free agent this summer, is Mike Conley. He has had a productive career with Memphis and he averaged 15 points and 6 assists per game for the 2015-2016 season. Conley was offered an extension with the Grizzlies last summer which he declined because he wanted to test free agency, and told ESPN, ‘the Grizzlies need to make moves for me to stay.’ According to ESPN, after Memphis was swept by San Antonio this post-season, Conley released this statement:

“We need to be committed to doing the things, whatever it may be and however hard the decision may be, to do the right things in order to get us where we need to go.” 

http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/15355545/mike-conley-memphis-grizzlies-need-make-moves-stay

Even though the Grizzlies finished ahead of the Rockets in 2016, they are a team that no one ever expects to do anything in the playoffs. With Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph on the back 9 of their careers, Conley better think long and hard about where he wants to take his talents. He would be a terrific fit in Houston and would definitely take some of the load off Harden and help lead this team back to the top.

Small Forward

If the Rockets do indeed trade away Corey Brewer, who was a major disappointment this season, the team would obviously need to bring in another forward to either backup Ariza or even start. While Ariza is a very solid forward, the team needs to explore players this offseason. While Kevin Durant is obviously the biggest free agent name this summer, I actually would like to see the Rockets stay away from Durant and pursue Harrison Barnes who is in the final year of his 4 year contract with the Warriors. He is the dark horse in the long list of free agents.

He has been a great role player for the Warriors ever since he was drafted. Even though Barnes has been pretty inconsistent this season he still averaged 12 points and 5 rebounds per game which is better than most. I can still guarantee he will be on the short list of a lot of teams this summer. Houston has voiced their interest in Barnes and he would be a major key in creating a team that can get back to the top of the Western Conference.

Power Forward

The Rockets seem to be strong at this position as they have an abundance of power forwards. However, as crazy as it sounds, this is the weakest position. With Josh Smith, Terrence Jones, and Donatas Motiejunas contracts all expiring this summer, the team needs to bring in someone that can either start over Michael Beasley or back him up.

Houston is probably just going to re-sign D-Mo, or Smith as this would be the cheapest option as neither player deserves big money. Terrence Jones will leave Houston and probably go home to Portland. He did not play a single minute in the playoffs and played very few minutes in the regular season. Any player can obviously not be happy on a team that struggles and sit there and watch them the struggle from the bench. I expect him to leave and not even think about returning.

Center

The moment we have all been waiting for. Who will the Rockets sign in place of Dwight Howard? Players such as Andre Drummond, Hassan Whiteside, and Al Horford are among the big names that will all be free agents this summer. While I expect Drummond to resign with the Pistons, money can persuade anyone so do not count him out.

I expect Whiteside to be the favorite simply because he is younger and more athletic than Horford and probably cheaper also. Whiteside, who has had very good numbers over the last couple of years will fill this position very nicely. Over the course of the last couple of years, he has averaged 14 points, 3.5 blocks, and 11.3 rebounds per game. Those are some of the best stats in the NBA at the center position. Whiteside would be a great fit in Houston. It will be an interesting offseason for free agency and it needs to be a good one for the Rockets.