The Houston Rockets were one of the most active teams in free agency, as they went into the offseason with a plan of bolstering the roster in hopes of successfully transitioning to phase 2 of their rebuild, which they hope will lead to postseason play.
The Rockets were armed with the most cap space in the NBA and wanted formidable defenders, a big man, a floor general, and veterans with championship experience.
Enter Fred VanVleet, Dillon Brooks, Jock Landale, Jeff Green, and Aaron Holiday. But in spite of the Rockets' roster overhaul, they generated slander from prominent analyst Sam Vecenie for a move they didn't make.
On Vecenie's Game Theory podcast, he questioned the Rockets' brass for not pursuing Dominick Barlow, the 6-9 forward who played for the San Antonio Spurs in 2022-23.
"The Houston Rockets, because of the way that they constructed all of their deals this offseason, they maintained that $7.7 million room exception. If I was the Houston Rockets, I would've offered Dom Barlow like a three-year $12 million contract.
$4 million guaranteed basically per year. Maybe do the first two years guaranteed, create some weird funky thing like the Jazz did with Paul Reed, in terms of making it inaccessible for the Spurs to be able to match, and just given him real money.
If you're Houston, all you're doing is pissing off a local rival, which is fantastic- you're probably happy about doing that. And you're a team that's younger and is probably trying to take as many flyers on guys like Dom Barlow as you can.
On top of that, after the first two years, if you only do two years guaranteed, you can decline the third-year team option and maintain him as a restricted free agent if he really breaks out and you'd continue to have his rights.
It is baffling to me that nobody went out and tried to give Dom Barlow real money. Everything we've seen from him says that he's an NBA player and somebody should've given him a real shot at it."
Analyst blasts Rockets for baffling missed free agency opportunity
Vecenie also mentioned that the Spurs likely would've matched any offer sheet, but it would've forced them to cut someone like Cam Payne, Khem Birch, Cedi Osman, Reggie Bullock, or Doug McDermott, which wouldn't have been easy. He also mentioned that such a move would've done Barlow's agent a solid, which has long-term benefits.
Vecenie essentially suggested that the Rockets should've done what we suggested with Austin Reaves; throw out an offer sheet and force his respective team, a Western Conference foe, to match. Although in the case of Reaves, it would've tied up the Rockets' cap room and prevented them from inking other players while they waited on the Los Angeles Lakers to do the inevitable and match the offer.
As for Barlow, he showed out in the G-League last season, posting averages of 16.1 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks, while shooting 55.3 percent from the field. Barlow showed out in the Summer League, posting averages of 17 points, 8.3 rebounds, a gaudy 62.5 percent from the field, and a block per contest.
Maybe Barlow could wind up being the one that got away. But it's more likely that the Rockets won't think twice about passing on the undrafted prospect.