The Houston Rockets want to move up in the Western Conference significantly when they start the 2023–24 season. They called it to phase two because they want to be a postseason contender.
Realizing that free agency was their best opportunity to become one of the elite teams in the West, the Rockets went out and spent a fortune on it. This is also the reason they felt that Ime Udoka, a follower of Gregg Popovich, had to take Stephen Silas' place as head coach in order to make a significant improvement.
It can be difficult for a number of the Houston Rockets players to get playing time. However, the Rockets made a few dubious or pointless acquisitions along the road. In contrast, the Rockets were able to hold onto players who, because of a logjam or positional redundancy, are either unfit or simply don't belong on the squad.
Let's examine four players who meet this requirement.
4. Jae'Sean Tate
Jae'Sean Tate had a particularly rough 2022–2023 season, regressing in almost every area. Tate's playmaking, scoring, rebounding, and defensive efficiency were all notably lower than they had been in his previous two seasons in Houston.
Tate's inability to overcome the injury bug only made things worse.
Under Stephen Silas, Tate was a favorite and it seemed inevitable that he would play a big part for the club. Ime Udoka has stated unequivocally that under his leadership, things would change, which may be problematic for the Ohio State recruit.
Not to mention the positional redundancy brought about by the signing of Dillon Brooks, particularly regarding non-shooting wing defenders.
Tate shoots even worse than Brooks (28.3 per cent in 2022-23) despite the fact that Brooks' poor shooting (32.6 per cent in 2022-23) has received a lot of attention.
Tate's value is lower than Tari Eason's, who is anticipated to improve next season.
Tate can play power forward, but even with his versatility, he and Eason would still be behind Jabari Smith Jr. in the hierarchy. Tate has been with the Rockets for a little too long, so if he is benched, it may be hard to sell him because clubs will know they must make a trade for him at that time.
As a result, our NBA Expert Picks reckons the Rockets' potential acquisition value would be reduced.
3. Jock Landale
Probably the simplest name to include on this list is Jock Landale. In fact, if Brook Lopez hadn't made the last-minute choice to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks, Landale wouldn't even be on the squad.
At the last minute, the Rockets attempted to switch their focus to Dwight Powell, but it was too late because the Dallas Mavericks had already concluded their talks with the Mavs center.
In a desperate move, the Rockets signed Landale to a four-year contract that was mostly non-guaranteed. Because just the first year of the four-year contract is fully guaranteed, it is evident from the arrangement of the deal that they do not want to keep him around for very long.
For Landale, however, this still made sense because his earnings increased from $1.6 million in 2022–2023 to $8 million in 2023–2024. Landale will mostly act as Alperen Sengun's backup and be a big man in the rotation for the Rockets.
Although they won't find one as inexpensive as Landale, the Rockets could find a better player to replace him even in that capacity.
2. Aaron Holiday
Due to his very restricted skill set, Aaron Holiday is unlikely to see a lot of playing time. Although he did shoot about 41% from three last season, his volume of attempts (1.4 per game) was so low that it's difficult to determine if he's a top shooter.
The Rockets know they won't likely need him, so they didn't even offer him a fully guaranteed contract. On the surface, the reasoning makes sense—the Rockets wanted to give their young core more experience.
But it would have made more sense to give rookie Amen Thompson, who was just picked, those reserve point guard minutes. After all, Holiday will most likely end up playing 10 to 18 minutes every game, which is approximately where he has spent the previous three seasons in a row.
Thompson and Kevin Porter Jr. could have easily split those minutes between the Rockets.
While it is understandable that they wish to end the KPJ experiment at point guard, asking him to play mostly as a third-string point guard is essentially the same thing because he would not be starting for extended amounts of time.
In addition, if the Rockets had never traded TyTy Washington—the player they selected 29th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft—they would not have needed to sign Holiday.
1. Dillon Brooks
Yes, I am aware. Brooks's inclusion in the Rockets lineup makes sense. Ime Udoka, the new coach, intended to change the team's identity by putting more of an emphasis on defense, and Brooks is unquestionably among the greatest wing defenders in the league.
He is a bothersome opponent who suffocates them, and their situation is exacerbated by his stocky frame. And when he plays with the right edge, it can spread like wildfire. Now that we have cleared things out, let's discuss the disadvantages.
In terms of his offensive ability, he is inconsistent, having made only 30.9 percent of his threes in 2021–2022 and 32.6 percent in the previous year. Furthermore, Brooks has attempted at least five long-range shots per game during the last four seasons, so it's not like the volume or attempts were reduced. It goes beyond that, though.
Additionally, Brooks' two-point percentage was only 45.1%. Furthermore, let's ignore the actual shooting percentage of 49.4%.
The Rockets paid a premium for an unproven shooter in the hopes that he would conform to the 3-and-D model. That's problematic since Brooks has said that he isn't interested in that post. Again, considering his shooting splits, he asks to be featured more offensively, but why would he be?
Starting Tari Eason, who is already an offensively superior player to Brooks, would have been a wiser move for the Rockets. Although he isn't quite at Brooks' level defensively now, given his strengths, measurables, and attention on that end of the court, he has the potential to be just as good.
The Rockets can only hope that the Brooks experiment succeeds because if it fails, things might get ugly. Because of his large, fully guaranteed contract, they would probably have a difficult time finding another team to rescue them by trading for him.