With the NBA playoffs in full swing, it’s hard to pay attention to free agency this summer. This is especially true for fans of a team like the Houston Rockets.
After all, the team is short of cap. They are also in a rebuilding phase where signing a marquee free agent would be a questionable move.
Not that anyone probably wants to join the team anyway.
Rockets fans are focused on the draft, and rightly so. This is the best path to talent acquisition the team has in its current position. Still, the Rockets are not disqualified from participating in free agency. There are options. One of these players might be interested in entering the ground floor of a rebuild. The Rockets won’t be dead forever.
Here are four players who could help them rise sooner rather than later.
Sometimes it’s best to save the best for last. On the off chance that Rafael Stone is an avid Dream Shake reader, I’ve decided to lead with the name the Rockets should pursue the hardest.
I can already read quoting Tweets before your angry fingers start phrasing them. I know, I know: we don’t need a leader.
Expound on your feelings about the Kevin Porter Jr. experience for a moment. Every team needs a backup playmaker. Jones might just be the best in the business.
Do you consider the assist-to-revenue ratio a key indicator of a playmaker’s value? Jones’ 6.4 mark led the entire NBA in 2021-22. If God doesn’t make mistakes, consider Jones a modern-day point god.
Otherwise, he shot 39% from three points. All Jones does is get the ball where it needs to go and then get busy running around the screens to open up threes. It is a low-use, high-efficiency floor manager.
At 26, he’s also young enough to deserve the Rockets’ attention. If Porter Jr. is the point guard of the future, Jones can run the second unit for years. On the other hand, if it becomes clear that Porter Jr. is better suited for a different role, the Rockets would have his replacement in hand if they sign Jones.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to prepare for the inevitable onslaught of vitriol that the mere suggestion of another man playing a minute at point guard in Houston will inevitably bring.
Derrick Jones Jr.
Derrick Jones Jr. won the 2020 Dunk Contest. Since then, he has slowly faded from the mainstream consciousness of the NBA watching community. Slowly, he became a solid and functional utility player.
He’s not going to impress you with jaw-dropping stats. Jones Jr. averaged 5.6 points per game in 2021-22. The 32.8% he shot from long range is also far from impressive.
Already sold ?
Jones Jr.’s desirability for the Rockets hinges on their draft. If they select even one of the many wingers/attackers available, it becomes redundant. On the other hand, if Stone goes with, say, a big man and a guard, this team is still light on athletic and defensive end.
Jones Jr. qualifies. His 0.5 Defensive Box Plus/Minus (DBPM) from last year suggests a versatile defender who can keep a four in a pinch.
In fact, Jones Jr. went four full-time with the Chicago Bulls last year. In light of that, the three-point percentage of 32.8% becomes at least acceptable. It was also a career high, and at 25, there’s reason to believe Jones Jr. will remain on an upward trajectory.
It might end up looking like a bargain if that’s the case.
It’s a little easier to consider immediate roles on the Rockets for any of the players we’ve listed so far.
Guess Culver may have a hard time keeping up with the Joneses.
If the Rockets signed Culver, it would be like a recovery draft. It would be his third team in four seasons of NBA basketball. It’s not really encouraging.
That also makes sense. Culver struggled to prove himself in the big leagues. His 28.3% career long distance is abysmal. He posted his first (barely) positive DBPM last year at 0.3 but at 9.1 minutes per game, it’s hard to give that stat much credit.
Culver entered the league billed as a three-and-D with secondary playmaking and shot-making abilities. So far, he looks like a no-3-and-no-D who hasn’t been able to earn a big enough role to show offensive chops.
This begs the question: why would the Rockets sign him? Well, it should be cheap. Any contract north of a $7 million annual salary should be too much for Stone. Unless, of course, it’s a one-year deal.
Who knows? He can prove it. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2019 draft. If he has a late bloomer, it would be nice to see him bloom Rockets red.
Yes, another leader. Unlike Jones, Rondo would join the Rockets as an obvious non-threat to usurp Kevin Porter Jr.
There will be no statistics in this article. I don’t even care how Rondo performed last season. It’s strictly about getting a young team to become a veteran mentor.
By all accounts, Rondo is exceptional. It is not difficult to find several accounts of young players who attribute their development to him. He’s seen it all in this league. He was a ground general for a champion team before he turned 25. He was kicked out of the Dallas Mavericks in the middle of a playoff series. It was a wild ride.
He’s also a basketball genius. If any player in the league can teach Porter Jr. how to do advanced readings, it should be Rondo. Plus, it must be good 10 minutes a night, right?
I hope so. Every player on this team would benefit from playing alongside him. If he’s interested in a mentor role, the Rockets can provide him with a perfect place to fill it.