Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: Some names to watch as possible future Rockets

Jermaine Every: Some names to watch as possible future Rockets
Gerald Green was an underrated signing. Is there another one out there to be made? Rockets.com

LeBron has opted out of his contract with the Cavs and decided to sign a four-year deal with the Lakers. Paul George decided to stay with the Thunder. The Rockets went on to re-sign Chris Paul to a four-year, $160 million-dollar deal, although they lost Trevor Ariza to the Suns. The team is also in negotiations with restricted free agent Clint Capela. The Rockets have the right of first refusal since Capela is restricted. Meaning, if another team signs him to an offer sheet, the Rockets have seven days to match. So far, no team has signed Capela to an offer sheet. This bodes well for their chances to retain him at a relatively decent salary, and sans any poison pills. Also, bringing back Gerald Green on a veteran minimum deal was underrated.

So what’s next for the Rockets? What will they do now? They drafted a couple guys in the second round in De’Anthony Melton (6’4, 200lbs) and Vincent Edwards (6’8, 225lbs). Melton is a slashing defender, while Edwards is a solid 3-point shooter. Neither is expected to contribute much this season. If I had to say who is more likely to see more valuable court time this year, I’d say Edwards. He can step into the small forward/wing role vacated by Trevor Ariza. Melton may only see garbage time, or may earn more time as a defensive replacement.

There are still free agents to pursue that can help this team. But the team doesn’t have the cap space to sign any high dollar guys and will once again have to bargain buy. Here are a few guys I believe Daryl Morey can secure at a reasonable price:

Avery Bradley, Guard

Bradley is the type of “three and D” guy you need on the perimeter. He’s a proven veteran who remains unsigned. Paul has an extensive injury history and Bradley can provide valuable backcourt depth. Someone like him can aid in the loss of Ariza as he can help fill the quarterback of the defense role on the court. UPDATE: Bradley agreed to a deal with the Clippers.

Isaiah Thomas, Guard

I know. I know. He’s a wee fella that’s a defensive liability. But his scoring punch off the bench at the backup point guard spot could work wonders. Thomas had an injury-plagued year and may be willing to take less money and a lesser role to rehab his image in hopes of one last payday.

Luc Mbah a Moute, Forward

His shoulder injury wasn’t fully healed and it seemed to affect him mentally in the playoffs. He’s 31 now and shouldn’t command much more than a veteran minimum contract to return to the Rockets. It’d be worth it to see if he can be the contributor they expected him to be last year.

Jeff Green, Forward

Green missed the ’11-’12 season due to a heart issue. Now that he’s been back and playing well for a few years, his love of the game has been evident. Last year, he proved valuable for the Cavs’ run to the Finals. A long athletic guy that is a willing defender and can score would be a welcomed edition.

Jamal Crawford, Guard

Crawford is a consummate professional who won the NBA Teammate of the Year Award in his 18th season. Crawford is a scoring savant still at age 38. The Warriors and Sixers are teams rumored to be in pursuit. This signing would not only strengthen the Rockets, but keep a potential scoring threat away from their biggest rival.

Honorable Mention:

Alex Len, Center; Jahlil Okafor, Center; Rodney Hood, Forward; Yogi Ferrell, Guard

All of these guys are still out there and unsigned after the initial wave of free agency. None of them should command an outrageous salary because none of them are superstar caliber players. The Warriors just got even stronger with the addition of Demarcus Cousins (I have thoughts on this tomfoolery, but that’s another article). The Rockets can’t match talent with them, so they’ll need to add pieces that fit their puzzle. The better pieces, the better the fit, the better their chances are of knocking off the Warriors. Oh…and they have to watch out for that guy in Los Angeles also.

 

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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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