It’s that time of year again that everyone knows, loves, and sometimes hates. Free agency. The July 1st start-time is here and general managers are perfecting their pitches (hopefully they don’t revolve around an iPad) and are wheeling and dealing for flexibility, all in order to get a player to sign his name on a dotted line. As a Rockets team, we’ve come a long way from whiffing on Chris Bosh and other stars 3 years ago; now we’re the biggest threat to other teams who are going after the same free agents as us.
Last year we snatched Dwight right out of the Lakers and Warriors' hands, and this year we try to do the same with Lebron and Carmelo. Armed with cap space, a top-tier front office, and a roster built to win now, the Rockets are among the front-runners coming into free agency this year to land any top free agent. There’s much discussion to be had about who are the best free agents outside of LeBron and Carmelo Anthony, so all of us here at The Dream Shake have ranked our top 10. This is the final product of those rankings.
1. LeBron James
There’s no question that LeBron is the best player in the world right now and will be for at least the next 2 years. He’s the best player we’ve seen since Michael and it’s really not close. If he were to come to Houston, we would be the best team in the league. That’s all that really needs to be said about LeBron.
2. Carmelo Anthony
The major question around Carmelo Anthony is fit. Are there enough basketballs to go around if he signs here? Will the locker room be able to stay stable with him, Dwight, and Harden? Will he be onboard with Coach Mchale’s gameplan? These are all valid questions that Carmelo most likely has about coming to Houston. No, he will not get the amount of touches he did with New York and Denver, but that’s a sacrifice he will have to make if he’s realistic about winning in Houston.
His not having the ball in his hands could be molded into a positive, though, as on spot up 3 pointers he shot 43.8%. That’s good for 12th in the league for players who attempted at least 2.5 a game. As a stretch 4 or at small-forward the opposing team has to stick onto him on the perimeter, giving Harden more space to work his isolations and pick and rolls. When the ball is in Carmelo’s hands though, he is great in isolation, can post up in the midrange area, and is a better passer than most give him credit for. He can read the defense and make the extra pass, don’t expect him to be a black-hole whenever the ball rotates to him.
Another one of his strong suits is his rebounding, as he pulls down 71.2% of his rebound chances. He’s 7th in the whole league for players with at least 9 rebound chances a game, and that’s playing next to notorious rebounder Tyson Chandler. He might not provide much on the defensive end at the 3 or 4, but he’ll certainly bring down needed boards. He’s a better fit than most people realize for the Rockets, and hopefully he sees that when Daryl Morey and company pitch him.
3. Chris Bosh
It’ll be hard to have to watch Chris Bosh photo-bomb after every game and those facial expressions are more visually displeasing than they are funny, but this power-forward can still play. He can hit jumpers all the way out to the 3 point line, has a post game, and can take opposing players off the dribble.
He doesn’t have the athleticism he used to have, but his length makes up for it. What many don’t realize about Chris Bosh is that he is still one of the better defensive big-men in the league. He has a high basketball IQ on that end, can move his feet outside of the paint, and has the length to contest and block shots. Pairing him and Dwight on defense will make most opponents think twice before they attack the paint against Houston.
He shot 39.4% on catch and shoot 3’s and has a deadly midrange game. Pairing him with Dwight on offense will allow Dwight to roam the low block while Chris Bosh can navigate both the midrange and the corners. He would be the perfect compliment to James Harden and Dwight on both offense and defense. Hopefully he notices the difference between our iPad pitch in the past and our win-championships-now pitch this year.
4. Eric Bledsoe
After a breakout year with Phoenix, Bledsoe enters the market as a restricted free agent set to get a max contract. As much as I would love his energy, driving ability, and defense, it doesn’t appear that he is leaving Phoenix. Their general manager has been on record saying that they will match any offer that is made to Bledsoe. With that said, I don’t see the Rockets making him an offer and tying up their cap space just for the Suns to match it 3 days later.
5. Kyle Lowry
Hey Kyle, I miss you, I forgive you, and I want you back in Houston. That’s how I approach my ex-girlfriends (I blog about basketball, I don’t have ex-girlfriends) and it never works. With Houston though, it could work. Imagine if I got a real job that paid millions of dollars and transformed into Ryan Gosling. I would get my ex back in a heartbeat, just like how the Rockets can get Kyle Lowry back. It will take a lot of money, at least 12 million a year to do so, but it would be a great fit.
Kyle is a wrecking ball paired with a bulldog. He runs off pick and rolls like running-backs do through their O-line, has a killer instinct, and can shoot the ball off the dribble and when set. He shot a near-NBA best 44.1% on catch and shoot 3's and is a known threat on pull-ups. He can also run an offense better than most point guards, can move the ball around the perimeter, and can drive and kick. The most important impact that Lowry makes though is on the defensive end. The Rockets could deploy a dangerous 2-point guard set with Beverley and Lowry at times and would always be able to defend opposing point guards. We can’t say that right now with Lin coming off the bench.
6. Chandler Parsons
At this point we know who Chandler Parsons is. He's a versatile offensive weapon whose biggest strength is shooting the 3. Despite a strong defensive rookie season, he's regressed to being a below-average defender who gambles too much, but with a presumably lighter workload and experience he should improve. I have questions about how much better all around he will get as he gets older, but having Chandler Parsons on your team is never a bad thing even if he's starting to peak now.
Chandler's contract situation is tricky. He's a Restricted Free Agent and can sign an offer sheet with another team, which would take up the majority of Houston's cap room. There's a belief that him and the Rockets have a "wink-wink" agreement that he will hold off until Houston signs a third star and the Rockets will then extend him, but we can't know that for sure. It'll be a spectacle to see how his situation with the Rockets plays out over the next couple weeks.
7. Dirk Nowitzki
He's not leaving Dallas. Dirk coming here is cool to dream about though.
8. Greg Monroe
There's nothing spectacular about Greg Monroe, but he's a very good player and fits into what the Rockets could want on offense. He doesn't have the 3-point range that we assumably want in a power-forward, but he makes up for it by the majority of his offense coming near the basket.
He can also shoot out to 16 feet, so he's not a total space killer. His real strength comes in his rebounding, he averaged over 10 rebounds per 36. There are questions whether power forward is his natural position, and having watched his games in Detroit, it appears that he is still adjusting to his role at the 4.
9. Gordon Hayward
Obviously these rankings didn't take into account that Hayward played for the Jazz. However, it'd be pretty cool to take away their best player from them and have him consistently kick their ass over the years. Everything I'm reading though points to teams such as the Suns and the Hornets possibly offering him a deal and the Jazz having no issue matching it. With that said, in an alternative universe where Hayward becomes a Rocket, he would mostly be used off the ball. Roughly 50% of his points come off of spot-ups and in transition, making him a good glue guy for a team that revolves around Harden and Howard.
10. Lance Stephenson
I'll leave you with this quote from our editor Patrick Harrel:
I'm staying the hell away from Stephenson if I'm an NBA team.
I agree and wonder how he ended up on our rankings.
Honorable Mentions: Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Cole Aldrich (?)
Here's to an eventful and successful summer!