The Rockets acquired some shooting, defense, and playmaking with their three first-round picks in 2022. Their haul was headlined by Jabari Smith, who was the unanimous top selection up until a few hours before the draft. That makes for back-to-back extremely excellent drafts for the Houston Rockets.
They also traded Christian Wood for the pick that resulted in TyTy Washington, a highly regarded talent who also dropped in the draft. The Rockets needed to trade Wood in order to make room for second-year big Alperen Sengun, whom they believe may become a cornerstone component in their rebuild.
Aside from those, however, the Rockets didn't really make any other significant free-agency-related moves save for waiving John Wall.
John Wall and the Houston Rockets have agreed to a buyout, per @ChrisBHaynes
Wall will now become an unrestricted free agent pic.twitter.com/80JFVjueHm
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 28, 2022
With up to $75 million in cap space possibly available in the 2023 offseason, the Rockets have continued to focus and optimize salary cap flexibility. Could they be gunning for bigger moves next year? Maybe bring in a big name to complement their young core? We'll see.
Right now, the Rockets and third-year GM Rafael Stone are receiving praise for how they've handled the offseason. On the flip side, did the Rockets actually get better? Did they really address one of the team's main issues arising from their performance last season?
The move Rockets needed to make in 2022 NBA offseason
Upgrade their defense
Let's get one thing out of the way. The Houston rockets seem to have some emerging explosive offensive talents. Jalen Green is top-of-mind in that regard.
Recall that after the 2022 All-Star break, Green's improved play really helped the Rockets. Thanks to Green's increased efficiency, the Rockets were more competitive even when they were outscored by 5.6 points per 100 possessions. In fact, eight of their 19 losses were decided by five points or less in the last five minutes. They were pretty much in a position to win those games before just falling short in the end.
Looking ahead, since Green and Smith are considered to be the franchise's future pillars, their growth is most important. Alperen Sengun, who should have a greater role with the loss of Wood, as well as Porter, who is due for a contract renewal between now and the start of the season, will also be in the limelight. That's a solid core for the Rockets, especially when one thinks about their offensive capabilities.
The #Rockets traded James Harden then selected Jalen Green and Jabari Smith at the top of the draft in consecutive seasons.
Their rebuild is going great. pic.twitter.com/5zZy093XbP
— Bradeaux (@BradeauxNBA) June 24, 2022
Having said that, there are other aspects of development besides offense. Remember that this squad had the worst defense in the league in the previous season. To be specific, in transition, the Rockets gave up 25.0 points per game. That's one of the worst in the past two decades. Houston fans hope that both Jabari Smith and Tari Eason can help with that, but pinning a team's defensive hopes on a pair of rookies is a little foolish. On the other hand, take note that guys like Herb Jones and Evan Mobley were able to impact their respective teams' defenses in year 1. It's not impossible, just improbable. Still, if Smith and Eason can indeed emerge as solid difference-makers on defense, that would be wonderful for the Rockets
In hindsight, though, had the Rockets wanted, they would have been able to go after some good defenders in free agency. Some examples were the likes of P.J. Tucker, Gary Payton II, or maybe even run it back with Victor Oladipo.