When free agency begins July 1st at 12:01 EST, teams are going to be lining up to scoop up the best free agents as quickly as possible. Teams like Miami and Chicago are expected to add two top-flight free agents but experts might want to add another surprise team into the mix to be targeting two top free agents: Houston.
According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle , a person familiar with the Rockets' thinking said that Houston will target Joe Johnson in a sign and trade in order to lure Chris Bosh to come to Houston—a move that can only be described as gutsy.
While the basis for a Bosh deal seemed pretty straight forward with the expiring contracts of Jared Jeffries and/or Shane Battier headed to Toronto along with young talent such as Jordan Hill or Chase Budinger, to make the money match in a deal for Joe Johnson would likely cost the Rockets Kevin Martin.
If the Rockets' had the chance to land both Johnson and Bosh, would they roll the dice and throw Martin into a deal for Joe Johnson? Despite Martin's youth and better efficiency, Houston would at least have to take a very hard look at the deal.
While Martin does score better than Johnson, it is fairly clear that Johnson is the better player. As playmakers go from the shooting guard position, there are few better than Johnson, who would be a perfect fit next Aaron Brooks, a tremendous scorer but not a point guard in the traditional sense. With Johnson acting as a quasi-point guard on the offensive end, Brooks' biggest deficiencies would not be as exposed and the Rockets would have a more balanced backcourt.
Additionally, while he is not as quick as Martin is, Johnson is a far better defender who would help resurrect a defense that struggled immensely following the loss of Yao Ming and the addition of Kevin Martin into the lineup last year. He has great size for a wing, and with Yao and potentially Bosh in the fold, would not have to be the team's best player, a role in which he struggled with the Hawks.
But how much would it cost the Rockets?
If he is willing to sign in the realm of a five-year, $70 million deal, the Rockets would have to feel pretty good about themselves adding a potential All-Star for fewer than $15 million a year. But if he wants the max, a deal likely costing the Rockets between $18-20 million a year, the risk might simply be too much for a team that values flexibility so much.
Still, if that big investment nets them Chris Bosh, it may simply be the cost of doing business in the league. While the deals might hurt them at the tail end when Bosh and Johnson would be making in excess of $20 million each, a 3-5 year championship run is well worth the risk as the financial incentive to go deep in the playoffs and winning championships is huge in the NBA.
A lineup of Brooks, Johnson, Trevor Ariza, Chris Bosh and Yao Ming would be good enough to compete for a championship and if they can add another big man in free agency, they will have the depth needed to compete with anyone.
While "In Morey We Trust" might be a bit of a stretch, he does have a knack for making good moves and hopefully this off-season will be no different. If Morey stands pat and does not make any major moves as is feared, the team will likely be a decent playoff team, but if he wants to challenge for a championship he knows he must make major changes. Landing Bosh and Johnson certainly would be a step in the right direction.