Much like most things in the NBA, signing a free agent is almost always a hit-or-miss move for any NBA team. It’s basically investing in a player based on his past performances and/or his future potential without any guarantee on one’s return. It’s an extremely difficult task to perform, and even the best of them get it wrong sometimes. For the Houston Rockets, they too have had their fair share of misses.
Some of them have been more recent, and we will go into a deeper discussion into the same later on. So let’s get started. Here are the Rockets’ five worst free-agent signings in their history.
5. Chris Paul
Chris Paul is easily one of the greatest point guards in Rockets history. Nevertheless, he still makes it on our list today because of the fact that he signed a completely overblown four-year, $159.7 million max deal in 2018, taking over every Rockets news outlet by storm at the time. The future Hall of Famer was still (and still is?) one of the top point guards in the league at that point, so it could be argued that Houston pretty much had no choice but to dig deep into their pockets in order to retain the services of Paul. Nonetheless, they perhaps could have negotiated for a better deal, especially considering how the 10-time All-Star would already be 36 by year four of the contract.
This hefty deal was one of the biggest reasons behind Houston’s salary cap problems. They were somehow able to offload Paul’s massive deal in exchange for Russell Westbrook from the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the deal.
4. Brad Miller
At 6-foot-11 and 244 pounds, Brad Miller was a towering figure in the NBA during his day. He was named an All-Star in back-to-back seasons in 2003 and 2004, making him one of the top centers in the league.
It wasn’t until 2010 however, when the Rockets decided to sign a 34-year-old Miller to a three-year deal that cost them $15 million. What made this a bad move is because of the fact that during the previous reason, Miller’s decline was already evident. The former Purdue standout averaged 8.8 points and 4.9 rebounds — his lowest production rate since his sophomore year — in 82 games with the Bulls. For some reason, Houston thought that he still had enough left in the tank to warrant a deal of that magnitude. They were wrong.
Miller ended up playing just one season with the Rockets, where he averaged 6.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game in 16.9 minutes of play. He was obviously a shadow of his former self. The following offseason, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
3. Stromile Swift
Former second overall pick Stromile Swift played in just nine seasons in the NBA, suiting up for four different teams during that span. One of those teams included the Rockets, who signed Swift to a four-year, $22 million deal in 2005.
The LSU product was unable to live up to the high expectations many had on him during his first five years in the league with the Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies. Nonetheless, this did not prevent the Rockets from splashing the cash on him when he entered free agency, perhaps under the guise that at the very least, the potential still seemed to be there. Once again, they were mistaken.
Similar to the Miller situation, it took only one season for the Rockets to realize their blunder on signing Swift. After putting up 8.9 points and 4.4 rebounds during the 2005-06 campaign, Houston quickly decided to rid themselves of Swift’s deal, sending him back to Memphis on a trade deal. Sadly, that trade included Rudy Gay, who the Rockets had just drafted eighth overall. Houston did get Shane Battier in return, though, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.
2. Carmelo Anthony
The Rockets front office took a huge risk on an out-of-favor Carmelo Anthony in 2018, and how it backfired on them has been well-documented. After just 10 games played, Houston realized that this experiment just was not going to work out. They pulled the plug, trading away Anthony to the Chicago Bulls, who eventually waived the 10-time All-Star without playing a single game.
In the 10 games Melo played in Houston, he averaged 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.1 triples in 29.4 minutes. In hindsight, it’s hard not to think that the team’s decision to cut bait could have been a tad premature. For what it’s worth, Anthony has been a stud with the Portland Trail Blazers, providing reliable scoring while accepting his role behind Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
1. Ryan Anderson
As far as bad deals go, Ryan Anderson‘s four-year, $80 million contract back in 2016 has to take the cake. The former Most Improved Player of the Year was coming off an excellent three-year stint with the New Orleans Pelicans when he hit free agency. He was one of the best stretch fours in the NBA at that time, and the Rockets were willing to go above and beyond to acquire his services.
Anderson, perhaps one of the most overpaid Rocket in recent memory, saw his production drop significantly during his time in Houston. In two seasons, the 6-foot-9 power forward, averaged 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds. He did make a career-high 2.4 triples per game on a 39.5-percent clip during those two years, but simply put, this just wasn’t enough.
In 2018, the Rockets called time on Anderson’s brief spell with the team, trading him to the Phoenix Suns.