Best Potential Veteran Minimum Free-Agent Options for Houston Rockets
Now that the big names are off the market, the Houston Rockets should fill out the rest of their roster with cheap veterans.
This offseason hasn't gone quite how the Rockets had hoped. With their sights set on adding an elite superstar like Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony, Houston was forced to settle on small forward Trevor Ariza. Making matters worse, the team bid adieu to quality players such as Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons.
Houston has already done a little digging into the NBA's discount bin. It signed a trio of former Rockets in guard Ish Smith as well as forwards Joey Dorsey and Jeff Adrien. The team also brought back playoff hero Troy Daniels to add some depth and shooting in the backcourt.
With the roster mostly set, there's room for maybe another player or two. After losing so much talent this summer, Houston can't afford to be picky when it comes to which position it should focus on. That being said, a proven small forward to back up Ariza as well as another big man would be a nice start.
To help with the Rockets' bargain shopping, we comprised a list of potential veteran-minimum candidates who should be on Houston's radar. Now, given how some free agents have been overpaid this offseason (cough...cough Jodie Meeks), there's always the possibility that these guys sign for more than anticipated.
Regardless, these are all players who can help Houston immediately and should come at a discount.
F Shawn Marion
Based on talent alone, Shawn Marion is worth more than the veteran minimum. However, with so many teams using up cap space to sign bigger names, the chances of the 36-year-old snagging a lucrative contract appear to be slim.
One of the teams unlikely to reel in Marion is the one he played for last season: the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs lured away Chandler Parsons from Houston with a huge contract, then essentially replaced Marion with veterans such as Richard Jefferson and Rashard Lewis.
Meanwhile, the Rockets could get payback for Parsons' departure by reeling in Marion. The Matrix may not have the same bounce in his springs that he did when he was younger, but he would fill a few needs for the Rockets.
For starters, he's a solid defender, which is something Houston sorely lacked last season (especially on the perimeter). Also, he still puts in work on the boards and can provide some offense as well. Last season, the former UNLV star averaged 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds for Dallas.
Lastly, Marion would give Houston a veteran option behind Ariza. For all of Robert Covington's potential, he hasn't proven himself at the pro level yet. The Rockets are a team that wants to win right away, and they probably prefer someone with experience as opposed to breaking in a youngster.
By signing Marion, the Rockets would improve significantly as well as allow both parties to get some revenge on the Mavericks.
C Jermaine O'Neal
The Houston Rockets traded away Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans and decided to fill their need for a backup center with Dorsey. If you're like me, you're probably not satisfied with that result. At 275 pounds, Dorsey certainly has the girth to be Dwight Howard's caddy, but he's a tad undersized at 6'9".
Furthermore, he hasn't played in the NBA since 2010-11 with the Sacramento Kings. He's spent the past few seasons playing overseas in Spain and Greece.
With the selection of big men dwindling, the Rockets should hedge their bets by adding another frontcourt piece to the roster. One name that makes sense for Houston is veteran center Jermaine O'Neal.
O'Neal will be 36 years old in October, and next season will mark 19 years in the league after being drafted out of high school in 1996. Naturally, there's a lot of wear and tear on his aging body, which makes durability a huge concern.
However, take a look at what's left on the market. Andrew Bynum's knees might keep him out for 2014-15. Emeka Okafor missed all of last season with a neck injury and could miss time this year as well (although, if healthy, Houston should consider him). Nazr Mohammed is barely serviceable at this point.
That leaves O'Neal as the next-best option (assuming he doesn't retire). O'Neal showed he had a little left in the tank for the Golden State Warriors last season. He averaged 7.9 points, 5.5 boards and just under 1.0 block in 44 games.
The Rockets could bring in O'Neal to back up Howard and use Dorsey or Donatas Motiejunas sparingly at center to help keep the old man fresh. In return, Houston would get a proven veteran who can still grab some boards and protect the rim.
G Ramon Sessions
On paper, the Rockets are pretty much set at point guard. They have defensive maven Patrick Beverley as the starter. Second-year man Isaiah Canaan will replace Lin as the backup with Smith being the third guard.
Plus, rookie Nick Johnson figures to be part of the backcourt plans at some point, too. That means there's no room for veteran point guard Ramon Sessions, right? In theory, yes. In reality, no.
Canaan was solid in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 17 points per game and helping the Rockets get to the finals. With an uptick in playing time coming, he could be a breakout star next season. That doesn't mean Houston shouldn't play it safe by bringing in another veteran option.
With all due respect to Smith, he wasn't much of a factor for the Phoenix Suns last year. He payed in 70 games (making one start) and averaged 3.7 points and 2.6 assists in just over 14 minutes of work a night.
Meanwhile, Sessions saw a little bit more time on the floor with the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets. On both teams combined, he logged 26.7 minutes per game. As a result, he contributed 12.3 points and 4.1 assists.
At 26 years old, Smith is two years younger than Sessions. Neither are particularly good outside shooters (Smith is a career 21.7 percent shooter from three, Sessions converts 31.1 percent) or great defenders. However, Sessions has a bit more of a proven track record than Smith.
It may be a moot point, since both will likely take a back seat to Canaan, but if Houston is looking for insurance in case its prized prospect flops, Sessions would be the safer option.
F Al-Farouq Aminu
I've been mentioning Al-Farouq Aminu as someone the Houston Rockets should be interested in for quite some time now. When he played for the New Orleans Pelicans last season, I thought the Rockets should have kicked the tires on trading for him to help fix their leaky perimeter defense.
Now, Aminu is on the open market and hasn't drawn a ton of suitors. That's a bit of a shame. Aminu may be limited offensively, but he has shown flashes of being a solid defender. At 6'9", he has the size to play both forward spots, and his athleticism makes him fun to watch in transition.
He's also coming along as a rebounder, averaging 6.2 boards last season and 7.7 rebounds the year before that. Even better, he'll be just 24 years old in September.
Aminu is like a poor man's version of Marion. Like Marion, Houston wouldn't be relying on Aminu for his offense as much as for his ability to create turnovers and chase down rebounds. Plus, a freakish athlete like Aminu could shine on a fast-paced team like the Rockets.
If the Rockets can't bring in Marion, Aminu would be a solid backup plan. He could alternate between spelling Ariza and Terrence Jones at both forward spots. Houston could also get away with playing Jones, Ariza and Aminu at the same time to give the team a defensive boost.
SG Ray Allen
It seems fitting that a Houston Rockets team that averaged 26.6 three-point attempts per game (most in the NBA) would be a nice place for the sport's all-time three-point marksman, Ray Allen. To land Allen, Houston will have to leap a few hurdles.
First, there's the issue of whether or not Allen even wants to play basketball anymore. ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported back in June that the 39-year-old had retirement on his mind after the Miami Heat's disappointing NBA Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Allen said:
I've had a great career, I'm content with what I've done, ... One thing is for certain, to [make retirement decision] on my terms is the most important thing. Whether that is me retiring, staying here or going somewhere else it will be on my terms. I've made it to this point and I felt great that I have the choice to make it for myself.
If Allen does decide to come back for his 19th season, the Rockets will have to deal with the obstacle of fending off other enticing suitors. With LeBron James back home in Cleveland, the Cavaliers are believed to be in pursuit of Allen, per ESPN's Chris Broussard.
Even the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen called the Rockets "longshots" to land the former UConn star.
While playing with LeBron has its perks, there's an upside for Allen to play in Houston as well. The Rockets' obsession with three-point shooting means Allen will certainly see plenty of work. Plus, he'll get plenty of open looks with James Harden and Howard drawing the brunt of the defensive attention.
It all depends on what Allen wants to do with his future. If he continues playing, there will be a battle for his services (with Cleveland having the upper hand).
If basketball isn't Allen's calling anymore, there's always He Got Game 2.
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