Heading into the summer, the Houston Rockets figured to be one of the most active teams in free agency. The Rockets had the most cap space in the league and they were ready to spend it all.
New coach Ime Udoka made it clear that he didn't expect to miss the playoffs, adding that he'd never missed out on postseason play in his career. Udoka and the Rockets sought defensive-focused players with championship experience and/or players who had been a part of deep title runs.
Brook Lopez, Fred VanVleet, and Dillon Brooks were mentioned as the three players being heavily courted by Rockets GM Rafael Stone and the Rockets ultimately inked two of the three.
One name that was mentioned as a potential secondary option was Austin Reaves, who was coming off of a stellar 2022-23 campaign, averaging 13 points, 3.4 assists, 3 rebounds, 52.9 percent from the floor, 39.8 percent from three, 86.4 percent from the charity stripe, and 68.7 percent true shooting.
The Lakers made it known that they were going to ultimately match any deal for Reaves, scaring away suitors such as the Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. In spite of that, the Rockets have been on the receiving end of criticism for not signing Reaves to an offer sheet.
Case in point, USA Today's Bryan Kalbrosky, who said the following:
"The Lakers were considered “a lock” to match any deal Reaves received in free agency, so the Rockets and Spurs ultimately decided not to even bother with an offer sheet.
While that is used as an excuse for why these teams never offered anything to Reaves, it isn’t a good one. Because even if they knew Los Angeles would’ve matched, that would have spiked the price the Lakers had to pay for Reaves over the next several years.
A more expensive Reaves pushes Los Angeles ownership further into the luxury tax and the second apron, which could create other punitive measures that would make it more difficult for the Lakers to assemble a title contender during the window that they still have LeBron James.
Instead, the Lakers will have an incredibly value player in Reaves playing on one of the most valuable contracts in the NBA. Reaves, meanwhile, is finding ways to remind us why he is such a valuable addition to a roster every single time Team USA steps on the court."
Dispelling myths about Austin Reaves' deal that never happened with Rockets.
First off, Reaves' play for Team USA has nothing to do with a decision that had to have been made several months ago, before Team USA even took the court.
And I'll admit, spiking the price sounds appealing, especially if the goal is to be petty towards the Lakers. After all, the Rockets are hoping to reach the postseason and they'll need several teams that reached the postseason to regress.
But what Kalbrosky fails to mention here is that the Rockets' cap space would've been tied up for the first week of free agency. Sure, teams get two days to decide whether they want to match an offer sheet, but that two-day window happens after the moratorium ends, and the moratorium window spans for six days.
This means that the Rockets wouldn't have been able to land Dillon Brooks, as they would've been unable to agree to terms financially since they would've had presumably $100 million tied up to Reaves. Ditto for Brook Lopez, whom they prioritized over Reaves, and justifiably.
At the end of the day, this is a matter of Monday morning quarterbacking, due to the fact that the Lakers got Reaves on a bargain of a deal ($54 million over four years).
But two things can be true- the Lakers have Reaves at a major discount and the Rockets justifiably stuck to their Plan A, which didn't involve Reaves.