I think most people agree that the Rockets are a good team, but not great. I think most people would also agree that they’re just a couple players short of being a legitimate contending team in the Western Conference.
Going after a restricted free agent is like chunking up a prayer from half court hoping it will go in. You can try, but most likely you won’t succeed. If you don’t know how it works i will give you a short breakdown. You can offer a contract to restricted free agents, but if their original team matches your offer they win the battle and keep the prized player. Sounds almost impossible right? More times than not the player goes back to their original team. But if the Rockets want to make a huge splash this offseason and shock Red Nation they could offer a huge contract to one of the restricted free agents and beat out the players original team. It is definitely a long shot. But i think it’s a shot the Rockets could take multiple times this season.
In part 1 i will give you my opinions on 5 frontcourt players the Rockets should attempt to acquire.
Omer Asik: Asik gives you everything you want defensively but has shown he won’t give you much offensively. I for one am usually against having players who are one dimensional, but with the Rockets interior defense the way it is now he might be the exception. Asik is overlooked by most because he plays behind another great defender in Joakim Noah. If he was a starter i think he could be one of the top defensive big men in the league, maybe even make the All-Defensive Team. Last season he averaged only 14 minutes a game putting up 3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1 block and 0.5 steals a game. Might not seem like much in such a limited role. But let’s say he was a starter and averaged double the minutes, then he would have averaged over 10 boards, 2 blocks and a steal a game. I think next season could be a breakout year for him. He may never be a guy who you can dump it down to in the post, but i think he will be an elite defender. This may also be the best chance for the Rockets to make a steal. The Bulls already have Noah and a lot of money going to other players. If the Rockets make a nice offer to Asik Chicago might not be able to match it.
Ryan Anderson: I’m a little iffy about Ryan. He might just be a product of the Stan Van Gundy/Orlando Magic system. Either way there is no denying that he can put the ball in the basket. Last season he won Most Improved Player of the Year. He’s a great shooter but doesn’t give you much defensively which is similar to Luis Scola. This season he averaged 16 points on 39% from three point land and 7.7 rebounds in 32 minutes a game. I think he is best served as a number 3 option at best. With Scola being 32 years old and losing a step last year it looks like it might be time to part ways with him. I’m not sure if Anderson is the right guy to replace Scola, But i’ve seen crazier things happen since GM Daryl Morey arrived in Houston.
Javale McGee: I’m not sure where to start with Javale. He has all the talent in the world, but can’t seem to get it together mentally. He might have finally figured it out after being traded to Denver at the trade deadline last season. Washington was too unstable for him due to the team being so young and not being very good. After arriving in Denver he had to adjust to a more mature and winning mentality. After experiencing the playoffs for the first time in his career last season he might be ready to make that next step. I don’t think he will ever be special on the offensive end but I do think he could learn a few thing from McHale. From an offensive standpoint he relies on putbacks, fastbreak dunks and alley-oops. McHale could give him some pointers with his back to the basket. The sky is the limit for him defensively and on the boards. Defensively he is one of the best shot blockers in the league. Last season he averaged 11 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 25 minutes a game. He should have a breakout season next year. If the Rockets think he has matured and could be the center of the future for the next 5+ seasons i think they should make an offer.
Brook Lopez: Up until last season Lopez was a very durable big man. Sadly he only played in 5 games last season due to a foot injury. When he did play he looked great offensively but terrible on defense and rebounding. In the 5 games he played he only averaged 3.6 rebounds a game. That is pathetic for a 7 foot tall center in the NBA. Offensively i would love to have him on the Rockets. But defensively it would be a nightmare, especially if Scola is still on the team starting right next to him which would become the worst frontcourt defense in basketball. Kris Humphries bailed Lopez out a lot on defense and rebounding the last two seasons. Although Lopez is one of the top centers in the league offensively averaging over 18 points a game the last three seasons. The ball would run through him as it did in New Jersey if he ended up in Houston. Would i take him? Only if the Rockets resign Camby to back him up. Camby and McHale could help him tremdously with defense and rebounding. If the Rockets think he can stay healthy and improve on the defensive end they should force Jay-Z and the Brooklyn Nets to match their offer.
Roy Hibbert: If the Rockets can’t land Dwight Howard this offseason they should put all of their energy into bringing Hibbert in to seal up the paint for years to come. Hibbert had his breakout season last year, making the All-Star team and leading the Pacers to the second round of the playoffs. Hibbert is a rising star in the NBA and i expect the Pacers to match any offer given to Hibbert. With that being said the Rockets have a tremendous amount of cap room and could wildly overpay for Hibbert if they got desperate enough to do so. Last year Hibbert averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2 blocks and 1.7 assists in just 29 minutes a game. At 7’2 Roy can alter any shot and bring down any rebound. He struggles a bit with the pick and roll due to his lack of speed but more than makes up for it with his shot blocking skills. McHale could turn his post game into one of the best in the league in my opinion. I think Hibbert could average 16-20 points a game if he puts in the work to improve his post game with coach McHale. And if Hibbert does come to Houston i expect Hakeem Olajuwon to be in the gym with him teaching everything he knows. Out of all the restricted free agents i think the Rockets should focus on Hibbert the most. Will he ever be an elite center like Dwight Howard? Probably not. But i’m confident he could be an every year All-Star center and battle with the best big men in the league. Come on, Morey. Make your move!