We are in the home stretch of the NBA regular season with the Houston Rockets down to their last five games before the most crucial off-season in years for the franchise. Of course, the draft has dominated most Rockets fans' attention for weeks and — let's be honest — the last couple of seasons with the possibility of drafting Victor Wembanyama. However, another part of the off-season that could have enormous implications for the Rockets is the upcoming free agency period.
We all know the top free agents that will be available this off-season. Players like James Harden, Kris Middleton and Kyrie Irving will dominate the headlines, but there is plenty of under-the-radar players the Rockets should consider this offseason.
Here are three players the Rockets should consider this off-season that will not break the bank. Remember, this could change depending on who the Rockets draft. For instance, if they draft Wembanyama, they may not need a backup center, but for this article, we will go with the players I think would make this team better regardless of who they draft.
The Rockets have some glaring weaknesses; shooting has stuck out the most. The Rockets have been at the bottom of the league in three-point shooting, so much so that the Rockets’ attempts have plummeted throughout the season.
Houston’s number-one priority in free agency has to be shooting, and Seth Curry fits the bill. We know the Curry name doesn't bring warm and fuzzy feelings in the city of H-town, but this Curry could help the Rockets improve from their league-worst shooting.
Curry is a career 43.5 percent three-point shooter and doesn't have a season where he shot under 40 percent from the arc. Every team Curry has gone to, he instantly made them a better shooting team. For players like Jalen Green and Jabari Smith to take that next step, they will need room to operate in the paint. Teams do not fear the Rockets’ outside shooting and clog the lane.
The Rockets have lacked consistent knockdown shooters since drafting Green, which is even more evident this season. Of course, the Rockets will not be the only team going after one of the best shooters in the league, and I am not advocating overpaying Curry, but the Rockets will have the money to outbid almost every team in the NBA for free agents.
Naz Reid has turned into one of if not the best backup center in the NBA and is only in year four of his career. Reid is averaging a career-high in points, rebounds and overall field goal percentage. Reid has also increased his three-point attempts to over three per game and is shooting 34.6 percent from deep.
The Rockets have struggled to find a legitimate backup center this season. They have tried Bruno Fernando, Usman Garuba, Boban and Frank Kaminski, but none have stood out as viable options. Many hoped that would be Garuba, but he has been up and down all season and may not even be on the roster next year.
Reid would bring the toughness and inside scoring the Rockets will need to take the next step into playoff contention in the next couple of seasons. But of course, this is all predicated on who the Rockets draft is because there is a chance Sengun could occupy that backup spot.
In the Rockets’ heyday, when they were competing for championships and not ping pong balls, they had multiple tough wing defenders. Unfortunately, the current iteration of the Rockets lacks those types of players. Tari Eason has been a welcome addition and is excellent at playing the passing lane, but the Rockets still lack a lockdown one-on-one defender, and Josh Okogie would be a great addition to fill that hole.
Okogie has shown from his rookie season he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. The Rockets have seen that up close several times, with Okogie making two highlight defensive plays. One against James Harden.
Also, one against Jalen Green.
Okogie would give the Rockets a player who can guard the top guards and wings in the NBA and help improve one of the most significant issues on the team, which is their perimeter defense. The Rockets rank again at the bottom of the league in almost all defensive categories.
In today's NBA, you need multiple wing defenders as teams continue to shoot three-pointers at a record pace and try and spread out defenses with five-out offenses. Okogie's offense may not be anything to write home about, but for the first time in his career, he is shooting over 30 percent from deep for a career-high 32.8 percent.
The Rockets will go big game hunting in the draft and free agency this offseason. Still, even if they get everything they want this offseason, they will need players like Okogie, Reid and Curry if they're going to finally get out of the NBA basement and back to the penthouse.