NBA free agency season is just about upon us, and we’ve gotten word about some of the names the Rockets are targeting in order to improve their roster. Most of these guys can be had with the mid-level exception that the Rockets are planning to use, or at least part of it (with one big exception).
Sam Amick of The Athletic (subscription required) listed a small group that the Rockets are targeting, and here’s a quick glimpse at all of those names:
Butler is Morey’s new white whale. He always has one, whether it was Dwight Howard or Carmelo Anthony, and the GM often gets his man eventually. Things are going to be pretty tricky to get Butler aboard, however, as the Rockets can’t sign him as a free agent should he opt out of his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. So that leaves a sign and trade as the only realistic option, and that would require Butler to either opt-in to his current contract or to sign a max extension.
It’s also going to require the Rockets to give up a hefty player package in return that may even require a third team. The Rockets would likely be giving up Eric Gordon, Clint Capela, and Nene in some capacity in order to make this work, but there’s no denying Butler’s fit on paper. There are some concerns about personality fit next to other alphas Chris Paul and James Harden, but those are mostly overblown, in my opinion. Still, this won’t be an easy deal to get done, and the Sixers are said to be very interested in bringing Butler back into the fold as well, so Morey certainly has his work cut out for him.
Green is an unrestricted free agent, and the Rockets can offer him their full MLE in order to bring him aboard, and the 6’6” swingman would be a perfect fit in the Houston system as a quintessential three-and-D guy. Green’s coming off one of his better seasons in the league last year in which he averaged 10.3 points per game and a dazzling 45.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc on over 5 attempts per game. Can you imagine what that would look like in H-town? He’s also a solid defender that hasn’t had a negative defensive-plus minus since 2011, so he’ll fit right in with what the Rockets are looking for in a wing player. He’ll surely have plenty of suitors, including re-signing with the world champion Toronto Raptors, so this would be a tough get for Morey.
How cool would this be? One of the key pieces of the James Harden deal back in 2012, if Lamb could find his way back to the Rockets, it would weigh an already lopsided Beard deal even more in Houston’s favor. Lamb is just a 33.8 percent career three-point shooter, but he averaged a career-high 15.3 points per game last year with the Charlotte Hornets and would provide the scoring punch from the wing that the Rockets are desperately after. Lamb’s never made more than $7 million in a season, so the MLE might be able to get it done, but Lamb’s also likely looking for a possible bigger deal somewhere else first.
Jordan’s going to have plenty of suitors — with the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers the two names most in the press at the moment — and the New York Knicks are reportedly interested in bringing him back as well, but Jordan grew up in Houston and has previously expressed interest in playing for the Rockets, so Houston could have an edge if they really pursue him. I have a hard time seeing a fit with both Jordan and Capela on the roster, but should the Rockets ship out Clint, Jordan is still a nightly double double and would fill in quite nicely playing with Harden and CP3.
The Rockets have long been after a big man who can shoot, and Lopez has really developed that part of his game over the last three seasons. Formerly a traditional paint-bound big, Lopez has shot 35 percent from deep the last three years while still maintaining a heavy presence as a defender. Lopez averaged 2.2 blocks per game last year, and his unique skill set means he’ll likely be heavily recruited by many teams, including a possible return to the Milwaukee Bucks. While his UFA status means some team could easily outspend the Rockets if they so choose.
The swing forward is another name that’s been linked to the Rockets in the past, and his sturdy defense along with the ability to guard multiple positions and knock down an open triple (34.3 percent from beyond the arc last year) has Aminu profiling as P.J. Tucker-like in the Rockets' system. He doesn’t bring much in the way of handles or creation, but the Rockets once before had success trotting out multiple defensive-minded forwards, and they could again if they would add Aminu to the fold. Portland does hold his Bird Rights, so they can offer Aminu more than an outside squad, but it’s yet to be determined how interested they are in bringing him back. He could be available.
Looney mostly ate Capela’s lunch in the Western Conference Semifinals this past season, and he’s another versatile defender whose 6’9” height lets him play either power forward or a small ball center, which would come in handy in Houston’s system. But he has no three-point shot to speak of, which is, needless to say, a big blemish. He’s also never averaged more than 6.3 points per game in season and isn’t a complete player, but he’s just 23 years old, likely still has some developing to do, and has postseason experience from his time in Golden State. Still, it feels like he’s a guy who is ripe for an overpay by someone betting on upside.
Let us know in the comments who you prefer!