Shopping Season

5 mid-level targets for the Rockets  in free agency

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After another disappointing playoff loss to the Golden State Warriors, Houston's front office, led by general manager Daryl Morey. chose to attack this summer the way they've attacked many summers: ultra aggressive. After hinting at it a couple of weeks ago, the Rockets have made it clear to everybody in the league that they will indeed be in the market for Philadelphia 76ers free agent Jimmy Butler. This isn't a surprise to anyone who's played close attention to this team over the past decade, but it's definitely a bold direction to go in after the Western Conference has seemingly become wide-open after devastating injuries to Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.

However, publicly the Rockets have maintained that they will likely bring their starting five back with the addition of a strong role player through the use of their $5.7 million taxpayer mid-level exception.

"We're very confident going into next season," said Morey on The Dan Patrick Show two weeks ago. "Most contenders are scrambling to keep their five starters or put together their five starters. We've got our five starters that were the best team in the league down the stretch. We're going to add a mid-level (free agent) that's going to get us to six. That's worse case (scenario)."

So let's assume worst case scenario that the Rockets don't acquire Jimmy Butler. What kind of player can they realistically fetch with their taxpayer mid-level exception?


1. Danny Green

Danny Green has been one of the best perimeter defenders in the league of the past half decade. At 32-years-old, Green has taken a small step back over the past couple seasons. However, at 6'6" with a 6'10" wingspan, Green is still a really good defender who played a key role in two of the last six NBA champions (Spurs in 2014, Raptors in 2019). Green is also an excellent shooter (career 40.4% from three-point range) and could slot right into Houston's starting unit if the Rockets elect to move Eric Gordon back to the bench.

Normally, a player like Green would be demanding around $10-12 million in this market and out of Houston's price range, but the Rockets remain hopeful that they can land him. according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. It will be tough to pry Green from the defending champion Toronto Raptors and take an undermarket deal, but undermarket deals are what Houston's known for.

2. JaMychal Green

JaMychal Green is someone the Rockets targeted at the trade deadline along with the next player on this list, Garrett Temple. The Grizzlies prioritized finding deals for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley and the Rockets had to move fast, so they opted to trade for Iman Shumpert instead. Green is a huge wing, 6'9" with a 7'3" wingspan - perfectly capable of playing and defending multiple positions. Though Green has been a slightly above average shooter for his career (36.9% from three-point range), he's shot nearly 40% from three-point range over the past three seasons.

The Clippers acquired Green with his bird-rights last season, making it really hard for a team like Houston to acquire him for the taxpayer mid-level exception. However, there's a chance the Rockets can offer a bigger role for Green than Los Angeles can. Houston's starting position may be tempting enough to sway Green.

3. Garrett Temple

Temple is another guy the Rockets targeted at the deadline, but were unsuccessful rebuffed by the Grizzlies. Temple is 6'6" with a giant wingspan of his own and he's used it successfully throughout his NBA career to be an effective perimeter defender. Temple is an average shooter (35.3% from 3-PT range), but it's his defensive versatility as a big guard who can defend forwards that would make him a preferred target for Houston.

4. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope


The Rockets have had interest in Caldwell-Pope for some time now and tried to acquire him via trade earlier this year. Caldwell-Pope has caught a bad reputation because of his contract size and his agency (Klutch Sports), but he's a legitimately capable defender for a team that's been looking for someone who can defend quick guards for the past couple years. It's one of the reasons the Rockets drafted De'Anthony Melton last summer.

5. DeMarre Carroll

Carroll was briefly a Houston Rocket in 2011, but has come into his own as a player over the past decade as a solid perimeter defender who can capably shoot open three-pointers. Carroll has been thought of as a bad contract over the past couple years due to the four-year, $60 million deal he signed with the Raptors in 2015. However, at the taxpayer mid-level exception, you could do much worse than Carroll.

*Honorable mentions: Al-Farouq Aminu, Kevon Looney, Wesley Matthews, J.J. Reddick, and DeAndre Jordan.

*Nof listed because most of these free agents will be out of Houston's price range.

It's not the end of the world if the Rockets strike out on Butler, as there are a number of quality free agents on the market and many that didn't make this list. Houston could still come out of the summer of 2019 as a significantly better basketball team by just using the tools they have on-hand. It will be interesting to see who they come out of the fray with.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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