This year’s FA class is a little light, but there are some names that might help.
As the season comes to an end, the Houston Rockets’ organization looks forward to the offseason. This year, it involves the lottery, NBA Draft, and free agency. It has been confirmed that the Rockets’ chances are high to get the number one pick alongside the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic. But what if the lottery goes backward and Houston falls out of the top five? They’re unlikely to get a top difference-maker should they slip.
The Rockets also have the 22nd and the 24th pick in the NBA 2021 draft, which were two picks acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers and Milwaukee Bucks via trade. Besides the draft, the Rockets expect to be active in free agency. Houston GM Rafael Stone said:
“I promise you we will be aggressive, and I promise you we won’t be outworked.”
Kelly Olynyk is still a focus for Houston, but they could potentially afford two more players. So potential free agents Tim Hardaway Jr., John Collins, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Will Barton could become options for the Rockets.
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Hardaway is 29-years-old and in his prime with the Dallas Mavericks. His shooting splits are 44.1/39.1/81.6 while averaging 16.6 points per game this season, which are similar numbers from last year.
Hardaway is making $18.98 with the Mavericks right now, so he could possibly ask for more. He has shown dramatic improvement during his career, and Mark Cuban letting him walk could be impossible. It is realistic to see Hardaway get his asking price, but could Rafael Stone match it?
For the Rockets to fit Hardaway, trading 32-year-old Eric Gordon might be in the cards. Although the Rockets do sound loyal to Gordon because he helped the younger players for the Rockets. Stone recently said:
“Eric Gordon is a consummate professional basketball player, how can it not be helpful to practice alongside him.”
Paying Hardaway could cost between $20-25 million, so it could hurt signing Olynyk and other free agents a little. Hopefully, the Rockets’ front office have a financial plan moving forward.
Kelly Oubre Jr.
Moving on to Oubre, who the Rockets can afford at a better price. Oubre’s stock has dropped off after this season with the Golden State Warriors. He spent two seasons with the Phoenix Suns and averaged 17.8 points per game combined. In the 2019-2020 season with the Suns, he averaged 18.7 points per game while his shooting splits were 45.2/35.2/78.0. That was his best season because of his confidence level.
Now with the Warriors, it’s a different situation because of the past dynasty. The fanbase and organization demand so much that the expectations are high. Oubre is having a tough time living up. His numbers have decreased while playing for Golden State.
His shooting splits are 43.9/31.6/69.5 while averaging 15.4 points per game. The Rockets’ organization would be a great look for Oubre. They inspire confidence because of Stephan Silas and John Lucas. Stone had this to say:
“I’m positive that everybody in the NBA likes Stephen (Silas), and I’m hopeful that people, for the most part, like me. So I think this is a really attractive destination.”
Kevin Porter, Jae Sean Tate, Kenyon Martin Jr., David Nwaba and Sterling Brown have either improved or had career highs in points and minutes. Oubre could electrify the Rockets’ bench points with his swagger and explosiveness.
Oubre would bring more excitement and another younger presence on the Rockets at age 25. If the Rockets could get him between $13-18 million a year, it could be affordable.
Barton could become a possibility for the Rockets if he doesn’t return to the the Denver Nuggets on a player option of $14.6 million. He could opt into another season because no other team is likely to pay him more because of his injuries. Barton has only played two full seasons with the Nuggets while being there for seven years.
The Rockets could offer Barton $9-11 million a year. He could be looking for a fresh start after two-year player Michael Porter Jr. took his starting job. The 30-year-old Barton could be another veteran voice for this young Rockets’ core. He is shooting 38 percent from three and could be an added marksman for the five-out offense for Silas. The Rockets do need more shooters around Christian Wood, John Wall, and Porter.
Collins is one of the biggest names in free agency because of his star potential. It’s weird that the Atlanta Hawks have not extended him. He could get between $25-29 million a year because Collins has improved in his career. His field goal percentage has always been over 55 percent and his three-point shooting continues to get better. During this season and last, Collins has shot three-ball at 40 percent on 3.6 attempts per game. He has averaged 17.3 points per game in four seasons with the Hawks.
At 6’9”, Collins is an athletic specimen that can defend the rim well next to Wood. He averaged a career high 1.6 blocks per game for the 2019-2020 season and blocked a shot per game this year. Collins would be great in pick-and-roll situations, which he averaged 1.22 points per possessions and finished in the 72.7 percentile this season.
The question is: are the Rockets looking forward to paying Collins? He could become the second highest-paid player in Houston should they sign him.
The Rockets might have everything mapped out of if they miss out on a top lottery pick or Olynyk does not come back. According to Space City Scoop, the NBA salary cap is projected to be at around $112 million with the luxury tax threshold at $136.6 million for the 2021-22 season.
Stone has said:
“We’ve kind of abandoned the strategy of just intentionally trying to be bad for five-to-ten years, or whatever it takes. We’re not trying to do that. We’re trying to compete.”
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