2013 Free Agents Houston Rockets Can't Afford to Overlook
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After qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2009, it's imperative for the Houston Rockets to improve their roster in free agency by not overlooking players that fit their system.
Although the Rockets entered the postseason as the eighth seed, they posted the league's ninth best point differential over the course of the regular season. Looking at margin of victory is an effective way to determine the overall effectiveness of a team and can be used to forecast future success.
While Houston exceeded expectations after the acquisition of James Harden prior to the 2012-13 season, they still need to tinker with the roster. Harden made the Rockets relevant, as the former sixth man proved to be one of the league's elite offensive stars.
Based upon the Rockets' fast-paced style, their defense is always going to look worse than it really is statistically due to the extra possessions that they create. That being said, Houston is going to have to improve defensively in order to develop into a legitimate threat in the postseason.
Free agency is the perfect time to add a couple of defensive difference-makers, but it isn't quite that easy.
Houston finished the regular season tied for most three-point attempts, as they hoisted up an average of 28.9 triples per contest. That precedent won't change in the near future, so GM Daryl Morey must restock the roster with talented long-range shooters.
The Rockets could emerge from free agency as a legitimate title threat if they convince the right players that Houston is the place for them.
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Let's start with the obvious, as the city of Houston might hold a victory parade if Dwight Howard signs with the Rockets.
To GM Daryl Morey's credit, the Rockets have been extremely aggressive in recruiting Howard. Once NBA teams were allowed to meet with free agents, the Rockets secured the first meeting with the talented center.
While having the first sit-down doesn't guarantee anything, there are signs that Howard could be taking his talents to Houston.
According to ThePostGame.com, all-time great Houston center Hakeem Olajuwon is feeling confident that Howard will sign with the Rockets, saying:
It's an 85 percent chance he ends up in Houston. You never know, but after that meeting we had, I feel very comfortable that we have the best chance to get him. We’re going to come to you. You have James Harden there. You have the backcourt. You’re going to get the ball. The coach is there knowing we need your presence in the middle. So we were speaking his language. It’s what he wanted. So he was so excited.
Based upon those statements from Olajuwon, it's obvious that the Rockets had a clear game plan when trying to convince the indecisive Howard.
Howard was most successful when surrounded by a bevy of three-point shooters as a member of the Orlando Magic. Based upon his suitors, the Rockets fit that profile the best by far.
From a philosophical perspective, the Rockets value three-pointers and shots around the rim above all else. The addition of Howard will open up shots for long-range attempts on the perimeter while improving the team's interior presence simultaneously.
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The Houston Rockets' roster is currently in a state of flux, as GM Daryl Morey is attempting to craft the best possible roster. Based upon results of the 2012-13 season, the Rockets can never have enough competent three-point shooters.
Wing players Francisco Garcia and Carlos Delfino are going to test the free agent market, which means the Rockets could lose two effective long-range marksmen.
Garcia and Delfino combined to average 42.9 minutes per game and 3.9 three-pointers per game during the regular season, stabilizing the wing positions when Harden and/or Chandler Parsons were on the bench.
While it's possible that Garcia and/or Delfino could return to the team, GM Daryl Morey should entertain other options. One such player is Anthony Morrow; the Georgia Tech product is a career 42.4 percent shooter from behind the arc.
From a defensive standpoint, Morrow is serviceable even if he isn't dominant athletically. The Rockets do not need him to develop into an elite defensive player, as any attempt to sign him would be for his shooting prowess.
Morrow has only appeared in 41 games over the last two seasons, which means the market interested in his services should be limited. Based upon that, the Rockets should be able to bring Morrow aboard at a team-friendly price.
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Paul Millsap flew under the radar as the starting power forward for the Utah Jazz, but that could change if the Houston Rockets sign him.
Millsap is most effective around the rim, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of his converted field goals during the regular season came from inside of eight feet. The Louisiana Tech product was determined to get good looks, which certainly makes him more attractive to GM Daryl Morey.
The main criticism of Millsap centers around his size, as he is just 6'8" and 245 pounds. Although Millsap is smaller than the majority of opposing power forwards, his strength and rebounding prowess helps him to compensate.
Millsap being undersized would a disadvantage on defense, but the presence of Omer Asik to protect the rim would help to mitigate the damage. If the Rockets land Dwight Howard and decide to trade Asik, then Millsap's defensive liabilities will become even less of a concern if the finances work out.
Throughout his time in the league, Millsap has proven to be an effective pick-and-roll player. In Houston, he would have the luxury of playing alongside James Harden, who would easily be the best shooting guard Millsap has ever played with.
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Corey Brewer played for the Denver Nuggets the last two seasons, so it's safe to say that he feels comfortable playing in a high-pace offense. The Houston Rockets' offensive attack is meant to create more possessions, although it focuses more on the threes than Denver's offense.
Brewer is just a 29.6 percent career shooter from behind the arc, which is concerning considering that he would likely be expected to hoist up at least a couple threes on a nightly basis. It's Brewer's defensive prowess and ability to finish in transition that make him worthy of attention.
GM Daryl Morey will have to weigh whether or not Brewer's deficiencies as a shooter can be overcome by his other talents. If Brewer's inability to knock down shots is deemed as too much of a negative offensively, then the Rockets would likely try to re-sign Carlos Delfino.
The decision to sign the Florida product won't be done in a vacuum either, as other transactions around the league will certainly influence what the Rockets' frontcourt looks like next season.
That being said, the Rockets' pursuit of their main target will not affect their decision on Brewer. According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets interest in Brewer exists outside of their desire to sign Dwight Howard.
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Jose Calderon finished the regular season as the floor general for the Detroit Pistons and filled the role quite well. In his 28 games with the team, Calderon averaged 6.6 assists per game, an impressive total considering the limited amount of time he had to mesh with his teammates.
While GM Daryl Morey has said that he does not plan on trading Jeremy Lin, that could change, especially if the Houston Rockets land Dwight Howard. During the postseason, Lin struggled mightily as he averaged just four points per game in 22 minutes of action.
The Rockets have already made the jump from being a non-playoff team, so the focus should shift to composing a roster full of players who will perform well in the postseason. In order to do that, Houston must craft its rotation with players that fit their high-pace system.
From that perspective, attempting to sign Calderon make sense. Even though he is a poor defender, Calderon's playmaking ability would atone for his defensive lapses.
With the Spanish point guard leading the charge, the Rockets offense would arguably become even more efficient. During the regular season, Lin averaged 2.9 turnovers per game versus 6.1 assists while playing with a relatively consistent roster.
Calderon played for two teams and averaged just 1.7 turnovers per contest while dishing out seven assists, which speaks to his ability to quickly transition to new situations.