The Houston Rockets are about to enter NBA free agency with plenty of money to spend and a shopping list to work with as they are being linked to roughly a dozen players.
“Equipped with so much spending power, the most in the NBA, and a coach, Ime Udoka, that is popular among NBA players, the Rockets have not prioritized specific targets as much as a pool of players to pursue,” wrote Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
“According to a person with knowledge of their thinking, they have interest in the [Milwaukee] Bucks’ Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, the [Denver] Nuggets’ Bruce Brown, the [Utah] Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson, the [Los Angeles] Lakers’ Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves, the [Brooklyn] Nets’ Cam Johnson, the [Golden State] Warriors’ Donte DiVincenzo, the [Memphis] Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks, the [Toronto] Raptors’ Jakob Poeltl and the [Dallas] Mavericks’ Dwight Powell. Media reports have tied them to James Harden and Fred VanVleet.”
Houston reportedly has more than $60 million to spend and could use most of it on one big-ticket player or spread it around to add several quality pieces.
Harden has been frequently linked to the Rockets in recent months. However, the 33-year-old reportedly is torn between going back to Houston or staying with the Philadelphia 76ers, and the likelihood of an agreement is “increasingly uncertain.”
Former NBA champions VanVleet and Middleton also stand out as likely expensive options. VanVleet seemingly has not ruled out re-signing with Toronto, where he won the 2019 championship, and Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst has said the team hopes to keep Middleton, who helped it win the 2021 title.
The Lakers reportedly are prepared to match any offer sheets for Reaves and Hachimura, who will be restricted free agents. Those two increased their market values with strong performances late in the season and into the playoffs.
The other players listed also bring value to the table and are key names to watch this offseason.
The Rockets hired Udoka in April, and he could become a valuable part of the recruiting process. In one season with the Boston Celtics, he coached them to the NBA Finals before he was later suspended and dismissed for an improper workplace relationship.
Houston already has added quality players via the 2023 NBA Draft, selecting Amen Thompson with the No. 4 pick and Cam Whitmore with the No. 20 selection. Whitmore could be particularly intriguing because the Villanova University product was thought to be worthy of a lottery pick as the draft approached but then fell on draft night.
The Rockets have not made the playoffs since the 2019-20 season, and their 22-60 record this season was their best since then. Any players they are able to sign this offseason may help as they look to return to contention.