Just a few months ago, free agency did not look to be something to look forward to as the Rockets only had two free agents in Nene and Bobby Brown, but after the Chris Paul trade, the Rockets now only have seven guaranteed contracts going into next season: Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Ryan Anderson, Clint Capela, and Eric Gordon. In free agency, they will look to lock up those remaining roster spots.
Who will fill this roster? The Rockets can go in several different directions. The Chris Paul trade has opened up a lot of flexibility and leverage for the roster, and this next week or so becomes even more important as the team looks to round out its roster for this championship-contending campaign.
Here’s what you need to know before midnight ET on July 1st:
Tier A Free Agents: Nab Another Paul
If the Rockets want to follow the “Big Three” blueprint, there are really only two options: Paul George, who is not even a free agent, or Paul Millsap, arguably a Top-5 free agent this offseason, looking to cash in on what is to be his final large deal.
The Rockets do have interest in George, but the Rockets do not have much to offer the Pacers. A third team is necessary if they want this deal to work, and it would likely involve a sign-and-trade where Daryl Morey exceeds his creativity he used in the Paul deal.
Bringing Millsap to Houston does not require as many moving parts, but he is a max contract, and the Rockets would likely need a sign-and-trade to do it. Anderson would have to go, and I reckon the Hawks would ask for Capela in the trade, which would easily lead me to decline. However, if the Rockets can find a way to get Millsap to Houston without letting Capela go, I’d be for it.
Tier B Free Agents: Quality Veteran Role Players
If the Rockets do not end up landing George or Millsap, then they need to establish their team around Paul and Harden and build their bench. There are several players in free agency worth a look.
Stealing Andre Iguodala from the Warriors would be such a key move, and with Iguodala reportedly interested in leaving Golden State, having him in Houston would be a kick in the gut for the Warriors. It would require a hefty price tag, but if Houston can entice Iggy enough, having him in a Rockets uniform would definitely change the title race in the West.
According to Chris Haynes from ESPN, the Rockets will meet with Iguodala.
Houston continues its ultra aggressive approach and has now secured a meeting with free-agent Andre Iguodala, league sources tell ESPN.— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) July 1, 2017
J.J. Redick is looking very unlikely to remain a Clipper, and with his buddy Chris Paul now a Rocket, it would make sense for Redick to follow suit, right? If he wants a chance at a ring, Houston is easily his best fit. He would be a dream fit for D’Antoni’s offense and offer an extra shooter for Houston, and a great one at that. However, the Rockets cannot offer him the same kind of contract that teams like the 76ers and Nets can offer. If Redick wants money, he’ll head east. If he is willing to take a discount and contend for a championship now, Redick’s best chance is with Houston.
Joe Ingles also fits this build, and is arguably a poor man’s J.J. Redick, but a slightly better defender. He’s not as good of a shooter as Redick, but he is serviceable and is a great fit for Houston. He is also a restricted free agent and is less likely to come over, but if Utah is not looking to match, Houston is a nice destination for the Australian sharpshooter.
Tier C Free Agents: Cheap Bargains
Signing Nene back would be ideal, especially considering how well he performed last season. He outperformed his contract, so maybe a small raise is in order, but there is no way he costs more than $5-6 million. He’s an easy buyback for Houston.
Other small veteran guys that could contribute for the Rockets include Mike Dunleavy, Gerald Henderson, Tony Allen, and Marreese Speights.
The Rockets have the opportunity to go in several different directions, but with only six guaranteed contracts currently on the roster, free agency has become paramount and building this championship team begins this weekend.