Rockets must shift their focus to looming free agent in light of Jaylen Brown news

Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game Five
Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics - Game Five / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

As the Houston Rockets seek to enter the NBA's tier of elites, they've prepared themselves for significant change on all fronts. Part of that change calls for franchises to foot the bill and pay the necessary price to improve.

The Rockets have already gotten that ball rolling, as they hired one of the league's best young coaches in Ime Udoka and gave him a four-year deal worth $28.5 million ($7.13 million annually). For an ownership group that has largely been labeled as conservative spenders, this was a major step in the right direction towards showing a fanbase that they're willing to pay the price and make the necessary moves to change the state of the franchise.

And with a league-leading $60 million in cap space, the Rockets are ready to spend big on free agents. In fact, the Rockets had been rumored to be pursuing Jaylen Brown, who formerly played under Udoka.

Rockets must shift their focus to looming free agent in light of Jaylen Brown news

The Rockets' pursuit of Brown all but ended on Wednesday, as he was named to the All-NBA Second-Team, giving the Celtics the opportunity to offer him a five-year supermax extension, which they surely will.

It's easy to understand why the Rockets would have wanted Brown, as he's easily one of the best two-way players in the league and would provide a veteran presence for an incredibly young core.

With Brown likely out of the fold, the Rockets must pivot and find an equal alternative on the market, especially if they no longer want to be bottom-feeders in the Western Conference. One name that should intrigue the Rockets is Khris Middleton, the Milwaukee Bucks forward who has the ability to opt out of the final year of his five-year $177 million contract extension that was agreed to in 2019.

This will be a no-brainer for the Bucks' 3-and-D forward, as he'd forego the $40.4 million he was originally slated to make in 2023-24 in exchange for a new max deal with four more years. Like Brown, the 31-year-old Middleton would bring a steady veteran presence.

But unlike Brown, Middleton would bring championship experience to a Rockets group that wants to return to postseason play. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta would only continue to eliminate doubts about his willingness to make the necessary moves to bring the franchise back to contender status by footing the bill on a max contract for the Texas A&M product.