So, it turns out that Houston Rockets fans have some...ahem...disagreements about what the team should do this summer.
That’s fair. We all have our preferences, and we all have our biases. This is not an exact science. You may think that slow-footed big men can be schemed around defensively, and I may think that interior stopping power is the hallmark of a good modern defense.
Gandhi once said that disagreement was “often a sign of good progress”. At least, we think he did. There seems to be an entire industry built around misattributing profound quotes to Gandhi. Let’s not take that line of thought any further.
Some facts are just facts. I’m about to present you with one:
The Rockets need to offer Cam Johnson a competitive contract in restricted free agency this summer.
Weakening the Nets
I can’t wait until this summer. You probably can’t either.
After this summer, we can probably stop bringing up the Brooklyn Nets every time we bring up the Rockets. The Rockets should have their own identity. With another lottery pick and the most cap space in the NBA, they should be able to flesh out a roster that, if nothing else, has a discernable identity.
This current roster does not. Instead, we’re left with the eternal optimism (or cynicism) that springs from owning another team’s first round in the draft through to 2027.
So the Rockets must offer restricted free agent (RFA) Cam Johnson a pretty penny. Whatever the market value is on a deal for him, they should go a little over. I suspect it’ll be in the neighborhood of $20 million per season.
There’s a two-pronged benefit here. If the Nets decide that they've got to match that offer, the Rockets have jammed up their books. This roster has a lot of solid players on it. They won’t be able to keep them all. Having Johnson on the books for a slightly above-market value deal complicates their outlook.
Of course, the Nets will know this. They may not match the offer. That would be fine. The Rockets can absolutely afford Johnson.
As a matter of fact, they need him.
Strengthening the Rockets
Here’s the other thing about Johnson. He’s a very good three-and-D wing.
Last season, Johnson had a D-RAPTOR of 1.7. That would be the best mark on the Rockets this season. It’s not indicative of an elite defender, but it’s strong. Johnson is solid at the point of attack, and he can survive guarding two-through-four.
That’s not even the best part of his game. In 2021-22, Johnson shot a blistering 45.5 percent from long-range on 5.8 attempts per contest. He’s a career 39.2 percent three-point shooter. Simply put, Johnson is one of the best shooters in the entire league.
You may have noticed, but the Rockets could use a player like that. Sometimes, it feels like this team couldn’t throw a rock in the ocean from the side of a boat. Johnson would do wonders to open up their spacing.
The enemy of your enemy is your friend, right? What’s bad for the Nets is good for the Rockets, and vice versa. That’s one thing, but offering Johnson a contract isn’t merely good for the Rockets because it’s bad for the Nets. It’s good for the Rockets because it’s good for the Rockets.
In other words, it’s a no-brainer.