Free Agency Opens for the Rockets Friday: Four Thoughts

Where Amen Thompson (second from right) and Cam Whitmore (second from left) will fit into Ime Udoka's (left) plans will become clearer after free agency.
Where Amen Thompson (second from right) and Cam Whitmore (second from left) will fit into Ime Udoka's (left) plans will become clearer after free agency. Screenshot
The Rockets enter free agency on Friday with over $60 million in cap space to spend on veterans they want and need to balance out an incredibly young roster. Coach Ime Udoka means to put his stamp on this young team and GM Rafael Stone will try to figure out the best way to wisely spend money to make that happen.

It's the first free agency period in quite some time that the Rockets have had a ton of money to spend and there is a decent free agent class out there to choose from. Who they can attract will be a question, but money can help make up for the losses some of these guys will face coming to Houston.

Defense will be front of mind.

Udoka's calling card is tough defense and preparation. It makes sense then that players like Brook Lopez and Dillon Brooks are allegedly high on Udoka's wish list. Lopez is a big man the team desperately needs who can provide both an inside presence with weak side shot blocking and a fairly decent three-point game. Brooks distinguished himself in Memphis as a guy with incredibly tenacious perimeter defense and a big mouth, but the Rockets could use a little swagger and every bit of Brooks' defensive intensity.

Trades may also factor into the equation.

If the Rockets do indeed sign two to three players, expect some counter moves via trades. Players like KJ Martin and Jae'Sean Tate have been mentioned in rumors and for good reason. They would help clean up some of the logjams they have at a couple of positions and make sense given the fit on the team going forward. Both Udoka and Stone want competition for playing time for everyone on the team, including their young stars. They want to fill the roster with quality players. That will mean making some moves to free up space.

Expect big and short contracts.

While there is no doubt the Rockets are willing to spend every dime of their available cash, don't expect long term deals. One report had the Rockets offering Toronto guard Fred VanVleet $80 million over just two seasons. Stone wants no part of saddling the team with long contracts when young players like Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith and others will come up for extensions in the next few years. So, big numbers will be on the table, but only in terms of dollars, not years.

Don't expect James Harden to return.

There has been speculation and debate about a reunion between the Rockets and the Beard all offseason, but don't count on it. Harden does have a real fondness for Houston, but the team isn't likely to spend the kind of money he will want to make it his home court one more time. It sounds fun and nostalgic, and his skills at point would be fun to watch, but it is a bad fit for a team in transition.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke