Honorable Mention: Overpaying Dillon Brooks and Fred VanVleet in 2023
After being bottom-feeders in the Western Conference for three years, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta was ready to make major changes.
And understandably so, I mean the guy didn't pay $2.2 billion to take a loss on profits.
The Rockets spent big on Ime Udoka, which was also justifiable. The Rockets' next moves in free agency weren't as understandable, especially based on how much dough they shelled out.
The Rockets ultimately gave Fred VanVleet a three-year deal worth $128.5 million- carrying an annual price tag of $42.6 million, which is higher than VanVleet's field goal percentage in 2022-23 (VanVleet shot 39.3 percent from the floor).
Even that isn't that bad, because the deal comes with a team option in the final year, meaning the Rockets only have to commit to two years and $82 million. This would make VanVleet a valuable trade piece towards the tail end of the contract, so even that can be turned into a positive.
Besides, the Rockets had to climb the financial ladder to prevent the Toronto Raptors from keeping him.
Dillon Brooks' deal however...now that's a different story. Udoka sought a desire to improve defensively and Brooks fits that bill.
He's an elite defender. Full stop.
He's not a true 3-and-D archetype though, because his 3-point shot is...ehh..below-average. And offensively, he seems to struggle to understand where he fits.
In spite of that, the Rockets gave Brooks a four-year deal worth $86 million fully-guaranteed and another $4 million in incentives. Getting Brooks is fine, as he's a hard-worker and can be a culture-setter for a young Rockets team, in addition to the afore-mentioned defensive abilities.
But Brooks' deal is a bit of an overpay, as the Rockets weren't at risk of getting outbid by anyone for him.
Then there's the question of whether the move was even necessary, considering that Tari Eason is a younger, less expensive player who is already a better shooter than Brooks. In Eason, the Rockets have a player versatile enough to play either forward position and even operate as a small-ball center, due to his 6'8 frame.
In spite of the drawbacks of VanVleet/Brooks' respective deals, the Rockets deserve a pass on this. For now.
Because we haven't seen it on the court yet. And it could work out masterfully.