Houston Rockets free agency option #1: Jarred Vanderbilt
Jarred Vanderbilt was a high school McDonald's All-American coming out of Houston's Victory Prep, ranking ahead of the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Trae Young, who are two of the league's best young players. Vanderbilt played one season at Kentucky, before becoming a second-round pick by the Orlando Magic in the 2018 NBA Draft, who subsequently traded him to the Denver Nuggets.
Vanderbilt would only play 26 games in Denver through roughly two seasons, and was later dealt to the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of the infamous four-team deal that sent Robert Covington to the Houston Rockets, prompting a full-time microball strategy, as the Rockets dealt Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks in the same trade.
All in all, Vanderbilt was glued to the G-League through the bulk of his first two seasons in the NBA, and averaged 14.7 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in his 2019-20 G-League campaign. Vanderbilt's first opportunity at legitimate NBA action came this past season in Minnesota, where he proved he could provide value.
The 6-foot-9 power forward 10.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes in 2020-21. As if this wasn't impressive enough, Vanderbilt's efficiency also stood out, as he made 60.6% of his attempts, in addition to averaging 61.2% true shooting.
At just 22-years-old, Vanderbilt would fit in quite well with the Rockets' youth movement and could become another young, key piece of the Rockets' core. Vanderbilt oozes with athleticism. Vanderbilt is great at cutting to the basket and has a very high motor, which shouldn't exactly be surprising, due to his age.
Vanderbilt has proven himself to be a workhorse who doesn't mind doing the dirty work, and especially on the glass and on the defensive end, where he also adds versatility. In fact, Vanderbilt ranked 9th in defensive plus/minus last season, among players that played at least 1000 minutes.
The Houston native also presents all-around versatility due to his stature, which would allow Rockets coach Stephen Silas to employ him as either a small-ball center or a traditional forward. The challenge is that the Wolves' brass is reportedly really high on him (rightfully so) and have already extended him a qualifying offer.
This means that Vanderbilt is a restricted free agent, and the Wolves would have the right to match any offer he would get on the open market.