The Rockets have made a lot of noise this offseason, signing Chris Paul and James Harden to long-term deals. Let’s take a look at how the team did in free agency.
The Houston Rockets 2021 NBA Free Agency Grades For Every Signing is a blog post that grades the Houston Rockets’ signings of every free agent.
The Houston Rockets have had a calm and steady 2021 NBA free agency session, as anticipated.
Despite the fact that many clubs in the Western Conference went into the summer with the goal of strengthening their roster in preparation for a potential playoff push next season, the Rockets took a more cautious approach. The Rockets have made it plain that they are not aiming to compete this season, but rather to construct a strong squad for the future.
Houston has already started this process, with youngster Jalen Green and potential score-first guard Kevin Porter Jr. as the foundation.
Despite this, the Rockets were not entirely silent during the first week of free agency, which featured these significant moves.
4-year contract for $36 million
The Rockets had a slight need for a backup center when Kelly Olynyk left over the summer. And, as expected ahead of free agency, Houston chose to sign veteran center Daniel Theis to a four-year, $36 million contract, despite the fact that it was a sign-and-trade agreement with the Chicago Bulls.
This acquisition may seem to be a puzzler, since Theis may not fit into the Rockets’ strategy to rebuild around their talented young players. More importantly, the former Boston Celtics starting center isn’t a consistent scorer and can’t outmuscle opposing bigs in the low post.
Theis’ success with the Rockets, on the other hand, will be determined by how successful he is in pick-and-roll situations with the club and how well he can disrupt such situations on the defensive end.
In recent seasons, Theis hasn’t been relied upon as much to be a scoring threat in pick-and-roll situations. During the 2019-2020 season, which was his last full season with the Celtics, he was involved in 27.5 percent of pick-and-roll (man) plays. Opposing bigs never had to worry about Theis being an offensive threat in such situations, as shown by his 1.17 points per possession statistic.
Theis, like Jayson Tatum, can be counted on to be the Rockets’ primary screener this season. In effect, the experienced big may tag along with Green and Porter to set hard screens and therefore create space on the floor for the two guards, perhaps leading to high-percentage shooting chances for them.
On the defensive end, Theis’ tireless work rate may give Rockets head coach Stephen Silas with a variety of choices on how to get the most out of him. Theis is not hesitant to take on defensive responsibilities against some of the NBA’s faster guards, and he delights on causing chaos in the low post.
Theis will have a lot of work to do to live up to his $9 million average annual value contract, but he certainly has the ability to accomplish it.
Contact: a three-year, $15 million contract
The signing of Theis has been the Rockets’ lone noteworthy free agency signing, but the club did make one other significant move, re-signing David Nwaba to a three-year, $15 million contract.
Last season, the versatile scorer made the most of his playing time with the Rockets, including an 18-point performance against the Dallas Mavericks.
One might argue that the Rockets should have looked elsewhere for score-first bench players, particularly since the club has a $5.0 million trade exception from the famous James Harden deal. Nonetheless, his influence on defense cannot be ignored, as he is coming off a season in which he had a strong 44.7 defended field goal percentage.
Nwaba’s two-way ability will undoubtedly offer a much-needed spark off the bench for the Rockets this season.
Free agency grade for the Rockets: B
If one were to grade the Rockets’ total offseason actions, it would be fair to give them an A since they added Jalen Green (draft), Usman Garuba (draft), Josh Christopher (draft), and Matthew Hurt to their young core (rookie two-way contract).
A B grade would be a fair evaluation of the Rockets’ free agency moves alone. Given that John Wall ($44.3 million) and Eric Gordon ($18.2 million) are still under contract for the next season, Houston did not have much to work with in free agency. More importantly, the Rockets don’t seem to be in any hurry to create a playoff-contending squad this season.
In essence, the Rockets front staff continues to make positive moves that position the club to be a contender in the Western Conference in the near future. However, Houston is obviously in rebuilding mode for the time being, but the long-term reward may be significant.
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