The Houston Rockets can still make some noise in the 2022 NBA free agency.
The Rockets have the opportunity to scour the market and hunt for free agent deals right now, though they don’t have the biggest leeway to do so. Keep in mind that free agency can be a minefield for eager front offices and a gold mine for cunning GMs. There is a fine line separating those two sides, though.
Historically, the Rockets have been both. Remember that in one of the best offseason transactions in recent memory, the Rockets acquired Christian Wood for a bargain two offseasons ago. They tried that again when they signed Daniel Theis, but he was only able to complete the first year of a four-year contract with the Rockets.
Now, the Rockets stand to save close to $6 million after the $41 million buyout of John Wall, but they will still need to sign their rookie class, which will probably add another $12 million in compensation. All all, the Rockets will have close to $135 million in salary obligations when they hit the open market. There’s still a bit of wiggle room, but it’s not much.
Now that Wood is no longer with them, however, the Rockets are in the market for a solid big to fill the middle. There are still a few left on the board, but it’ll take some creative personnel movements to make any magic happen.
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Rockets: 2 Moves Houston Must Make
2. Offload Eric Gordon
The first thing Houston needs to do is to offload Eric Gordon. The 33-year-old guard is set to earn $19.5 million this coming season, and if Houston is going to make some major moves, they need that space to be freed up. A sign-and-trade is also possible, but there will still be some intriguing choices.
One recent rumor has both the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers looking at Gordon.
Keep in mind that due to salary comparisons, Talen Horton-Tucker must be involved in any Gordon trade that the Lakers make, without a doubt. That’s definitely not a good match for the Houston Rockets, though. They are already loaded with wing prospects and are currently setting up for significant salary cap flexibility in 2023.
Now, a deal in which Gordon goes to the 76ers or Lakers, Thybulle or Horton-Tucker goes to a third club, and a draft asset from that team goes to the Rockets may be feasible. However, the problem still remains: Can the Rockets, Lakers, or 76ers locate a third club that is prepared to trade a valuable draft asset for a guy like Thybulle or Horton-Tucker?
Last season, Gordon averaged 13.4 points per game while shooting a career-high 47.5 percent from the field.
1. Get a center
If the Rockets do manage to ship out Gordon and free up more salary, getting a quality center should be the top priority.
The prime target, of course, would be DeAndre Ayton. He has a hefty $31,.5 million salary, but it could still work if Gordon is offloaded elsewhere.
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“Should the Rockets pursue Deandre Ayton?”
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If that doesn’t happen, the Rockets can still acquire Ayton via direct trade, but they’ll give up a ton. It would surely be headlined by Gordon. Additionally frontliners Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba, another role player, and a pick should be included. It would take no less than that to get Ayton. Would it be worth the cost? Only one way to find out, but as things stand, the Rockets are pretty thin in the middle.
Keep in mind that Ayton is coming off another solid season. He averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting a career-best 63.4 percent from the field.