With the first wave of free agency gone, the Rockets were able to get most of the business done by signing top point guard and wing targets in Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks.
Not to mention the addition of recent NBA champion Jeff Green, VanVleet signed a three-year, $130 million deal, while Brooks earned $80 million over four years in a sign-and-trade with $6,600 available. Spent a good chunk of the $10,000 cap space. And Houston was able to add four veterans ready to step in and contribute to the win from day one.
This is where the real fun begins.
Late last month, Rockets head coach Ime Udoka spoke about the prospect of adding several veterans to the roster, highlighting the “level of competition” that the impending change would naturally increase.
“Nothing is being dealt out anymore,” Udoka said of playing time. “We have stressed that to our players. I love some young players and that’s the balance. It may not be a starter or a finisher, it’s how we can balance those lineups.”
Free agency ended up paying another price, too. Houston part ways with former first-round picks Taiti Washington Jr., Josh Christopher, Usman Galba and talented, athletic winger Kenyon Martin Jr., 2020 second-round pick bottom. Expecting three first-round picks in the middle of a rebuild is questionable, but given the direction the Rockets wanted to pivot, it was a necessary sacrifice. There was no easy route across the dev/depth chart fence. Some might argue that all three should have been given more time, but it was done under a completely different regime. A move for Martin, who joined Houston’s starting lineup following the departure of Eric Gordon, will hurt somewhat given his form and athleticism, but it’s still a necessary move to reduce the blockage.
Training camp is still far away, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be at least an early overview of the Rockets’ rotation. Try it…
rocket depth chart
J. Smith Jr.
K. Porter Jr.
• I understand Udoka’s comment that new players are not given anything when it comes to playing time. VanVleet and Brooks are exceptions. Gone are the days of Porter being a makeshift point guard, and the legitimate lead ball handler and NBA champion Undercenter was born. VanVleet will organize his teammates on the halfcourt and, more importantly, he will be a capable extension of Udoka on the floor. VanVleet’s combination of demeanor, intelligence and experience makes him the perfect mentor for Armen Thompson as he grows in the league. I still think Houston will use Porter as a ball handler, but it’s no longer a necessity but a luxury. The Rockets have done a decent job helping him develop into a player he can create for others, but he could be more effective without the burden of carrying offense.
• Likewise, Brooks will be Houston’s go-to ballstopper from this point forward. Perhaps Udoka is already preparing an aggressive interview while we speak. Jokes aside, Brooks wasn’t named to the All-Defense squad last season, but he snatched it up. This theme will be something we see on a daily basis in the near future. We’re talking switchable stout wings like Patrick Beverley and Marcus Smart that will haunt you, and will combine top-notch PJ Tucker’s upper body strength with top cornerback hands and footwork I have it. Brook’s new contract comes with incentives and bonuses, league sources said.
• There was genuine disappointment internally over not making Brook Lopez a free agent. That said, assuming we don’t see DeAndre Ayton again in a situation where Randale continually eats up minutes, Alperen Schengyun should be able to lock in his starting center job before things calm down. is. At this point, its talents and advantages are too many to ignore. The next Randall should have a definite role. He was a clever rim protector for the Suns last season and made headlines during the postseason. But I don’t think he’s dynamic enough to replace Shenggyun. That said, Shengyun needs to take further steps in his development, especially defensively, but if rumors of his small growth spurt are true, he should be in a good position to improve. Jeff Green has been internally considered a small ball center since the 2019-20 season.
• Tari Eason and Jeshawn Tate duo have been pointed out as standout early defense players in the recent summer scuttlebats. On paper, at least, Houston seems to have a much better defensive culture than it did at this time last season. Players such as Eason, Tate, VanVleet, Smith and now Brooks would be a good starting point for a team that has fallen to the bottom of the league in defensive efficiency. Eason’s impressive defensive effort as a rookie (88th percentile impact according to Cleaning the Glass) should continue to climb. Assuming Tate can recapture some of the two-way form of his rookie season, reflecting Thompson’s versatility, the Rockets’ second unit will have the strength and aggression to consistently push the starters. It will be setup. The training camp battle is also going to be interesting.
• There are plans to acquire Villanova’s Cam Whitmore, who was picked with the 20th pick in last month’s draft, but I would like to emphasize patience. No need to throw him into the fire right away, especially given the number of players probably ahead of him on the depth chart. Again, Udoka’s presence gives him reason to believe he’ll have a level playing field once camp starts, but he’s on a path similar to Martin’s, who spent some time with Houston’s G League side, the Rio Grande Vipers. Don’t be surprised if he brings
• At first glance, the Rockets could still use another veteran combo guard. Houston is still scouting the market for guard depth, with a full-room mid-level exception still available ($7.7 million), and about $4.5 million in cap space after an early splurge, according to team officials. It is said that it remains.
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