It’s no secret: The Houston Rockets are done with the early stages of rebuilding and want to start winning games and be part of the postseason again starting next season. Also not a secret, their top target in free agency is James Harden.
However, that is not the only name on the list in Houston, reports Kelly Iko of The Athletic.
Outside of Harden, other high-ranking targets for Houston include Brook Lopez, Dillon Brooks and restricted free agents Cam Johnson and Austin Reaves, league sources said. They also said acquiring a veteran point guard is Houston’s primary objective, meaning even if a move for Harden didn’t materialize, names like Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Donte DiVincenzo and even former Rockets player Chris Paul could be considered should they become available.
Lopez almost certainly is back in Milwaukee, the Bucks are stuck having to go way over the cap to keep one of the best defensive centers in the game — if they want to chase rings they need him (but it will hit hard when tax bills come due). The Lakers have made it clear to anyone who will listen that they will match any offer for Reaves after he was their third-best player this postseason. Cam Johnson also helped his stock in the playoffs — 18.5 points a game shooting 42.9% from 3 — and the Nets are expected to match an offer for him (four years, $80-90 million).
Dillon Brooks is available, is young, and would bring defensive intensity to the Rockets if management thinks he would be a fit, both in terms of personality and role. DiVincenzo is expected to opt out of the $4.7 million he is owed and the Bucks (about to pay Lopez on top of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday) may not be willing to match a strong offer. Chris Paul’s future in Phoenix is murky, but the Suns would want veteran, trusted role players back in a trade.
The other big trade chip the Rockets have is the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft. Amen Thompson — a very athletic, high ceiling but raw and in need of development wing — is expected to go in that slot. He could fit in Houston, but if another team falls in love with Thompson the Rockets could trade the pick, maybe packaged with a player, to get the kind of win-now veteran they seek.
Whatever happens, it will be a hot and wild summer in Houston.