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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McCullers Jr. out-pitched friend and former teammate Dallas Keuchel on Father's Day. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With three impressive wins to start this series against the once AL-leading Chicago White Sox, Houston tried to extend their winning streak to seven games and finish a four-game sweep on Father's Day. Thanks to a big inning against former-Astro Dallas Keuchel, they would win to keep their hot streak going.

Final Score: Astros 8, White Sox 2

Astros' Record: 43-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (4-1)

Losing Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel (6-2)

Rough return to Houston for Keuchel

In his first game against his old squad, Dallas Keuchel would not have a memorable start on the mound for Chicago. Houston made him labor in the first inning, loading the bases though they only came away with one run on an RBI single by Abraham Toro, grabbing the early 1-0 lead. After going down 1-2-3 in the second, they got after Keuchel again in the third.

They ended up batting around against him that inning, including a two-RBI single by Yordan Alvarez, RBI double by Taylor Jones, and bases-loaded RBI-walk by Jose Altuve, which would end Keuchel's day very early and leave the bases juiced. Chicago's bullpen would walk another batter to give Keuchel another earned run, making it a 6-2 game, with all six going against the former Houston ace. Carlos Correa extended the lead to five runs in the next inning, hitting a leadoff solo home run to make it 7-2.

McCullers Jr. gives up two over six

That gave Lance McCullers Jr. a nice lead to work with, and he managed it well. He had one big mistake in the early goings of the game, giving up a one-out single in the second to set up a two-run home run, which at the time put Chicago in front 2-1 before Houston's offense came alive. He followed that up with four scoreless innings, erasing a walk in each with some tremendous defense behind him—his final line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 94 P.

Astros complete the sweep to jump on top of the standings

Still a six-run game in the top of the seventh, Blake Taylor entered as the first reliever out of Houston's bullpen, tossing a 1-2-3 frame. He continued in the top of the eighth, getting two strikeouts in another scoreless inning. The 8-2 score would go final as Ralph Garza Jr. would enter as the third pitcher of the day to wrap things up with a scoreless top of the ninth to finish the four-game sweep. The win, their seventh straight, paired with an Oakland loss earlier in the afternoon, moves Houston into the top spot in the AL West based on winning percentage.

Up Next: This long stretch of consecutive games continues on Monday in Baltimore, as the Astros pick up a seven-game road trip starting with a three-game set against Baltimore getting underway at 6:05 PM Central. Jake Odorizzi (1-3, 5.68 ERA) will get the start for Houston, going opposite of Keegan Akin (0-2, 5.76 ERA) for the Orioles.

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