Houston Rockets’ general manager Rafael Stone followed his offseason agenda by signing prominent players. Although he couldn’t sign Brook Lopez, he signed Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks and Jock Landale. Stone even required former Rocket and now NBA Champion, Jeff Green, as his veteran leadership is needed among younger players.
The Rockets had $66 million dollars in cap space, which need to be used because of the CBA rules of the NBA. They cleared extra cap space by trading KJ Martin, TyTy Washington, Usman Garuba and Josh Christopher to different teams. Trading those players allowed the Rockets’ front office to haul in VanVleet and Brooks. Stone was hoping to get those two players underneath a two-year deal, but the Dallas Mavericks and Toronto Raptors had interest too.
The Raptors were creating a four-year deal worth $120 million, which almost swayed VanVleet to resign. Stone had to muster up an extra year that included more money. When the deal was inked by VanVleet, it became a three-year deal worth $130 million.
Ime Udoka received his point guard that he wanted instead of James Harden. He believes VanVleet can be the leader the younger Rocket players need in the huddle, locker room and on the court. VanVleet will show great mentorship towards Amen Thompson and Jalen Green.
Brooks became interested in joining the Mavericks, but probably used them as leverage to get more money out of the Rockets. He succeeded by getting a four-year deal worth $80 million.
Although the dollar amount is high, the Rockets needed a defensive wing next to VanVleet. The Rockets were the third worst team on defense last season. VanVleet and Brooks will change the defensive mindset of the Rockets. Udoka wants the Rockets to set the tone of defense first. Brooks will become more confident after making an All-NBA Defensive team. While playing with the Memphis Grizzlies, he notched a 108.6 defensive rating per NBA Stats.
There is an understatement that Brooks struggles on offense on the perimeter. Brooks shot 34.2 percent behind the three-point line, which included 35.2 in catch-and-shoot per NBA Stats. For him to be successful on the Rockets’ offense, he has to improve his shooting percentage. He’ll be left open because of how dangerous Green, VanVleet and Sengun are on offense. That will allow him to have open looks at the basket.
Unfortunately, Stone got blindsided by Lopez after he signed back with the Milwaukee Bucks for a two-year, $48 million dollar deal. The Rockets had a two-year $40 million dollar deal waiting for Lopez, but he turned it down to return to the Bucks.
Luckily, Stone managed to sign former backup Phoenix Suns’ center Landale to a four-year, $32 million dollar deal. He became reliable for Monty Williams by backing up Deandre Ayton. Landale averaged 14.2 minutes per game and had a defensive rating of 105.1. He’ll give much needed rest to Alperen Sengun and serve quality minutes behind him. Landale is a great screener on offense and the defender around the rim that Udoka needs for his defense.
The Rockets still have Jae’ Sean Tate on their roster, which is urprising. His contract is worth $7.1 million dollars per year. Tate by himself doesn’t contain too much leverage, but adding Kevin Porter Jr. and next year’s draft pick does. On another note, Udoka is fond of Porter’s skillset on the court and his personality. Porter will be valuable for the Rockets off the bench this season. If the Rockets cannot get a prominent player back for Tate and Porter, they should withhold both players until it’s possible.
An influx of money was spent in free agency, but it needs to be worth it if the Rockets want to have a successful season underneath Udoka. Stone wants to continue to make the Rockets better.