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HomeBasketballNBA2023 NBA Free Agency: down bad in Houston

2023 NBA Free Agency: down bad in Houston

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The NBA mandates that all teams spend at least 90 percent of the yearly salary cap. If a team finishes the regular season below what’s known as the salary floor for a particular league year, the franchise is required to pay the difference to its players.

Some teams so far this offseason have taken that to the extreme.

Yesterday we touched on Jerami Grant getting a five-year, $160 million deal to stay with the Portland Trailblazer and what a head scratcher that was. The Grant contract isn’t the only one that raised some eyebrows, though.

“I’ll take any ************* money if he’s giving it away.”
Those are the words of Namond Brice and Clay Davis.

They could have also been uttered by Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks.

VanVleet has signed a three-year, $128.5 million deal with the Houston Rockets. Brooks early in free agency agreed to a four-year, $80 million contract with Houston. This isn’t about VanVleet and Brooks taking the money. VanVleet as an undrafted player would have been a fool not to take his first huge payday. Brooks was thought to be on his way to the other side of the world, so the deal is a God send for Brooks.

I don’t know what the Rockets are doing, though.

Houston has a wealth of young players on its roster, including 2021 No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green, 2022 No. 3 selection Jabari Smith Jr. and 2023 No. 4 choice Amen Thompson. Prior to the start of free agency, Houston’s average age was under 25 years old. VanVleet and Brooks, along with new Rocket Jeff Green, will be the adults in the room. But what is that going to get Houston?

The Rockets should have more direction under new coach Ime Udoka. Houston last season gave up more than 118 points a game, good for third-worst in the league. Udoka stresses defense, so the Rockets should be better on that end.

Houston last season also had the third-worst offense in the league. I’m not exactly sure how much VanVleet and Brooks help on that end.

VanVleet last season averaged 19.3 points per game. He hit that number on 16 shots per game and shot under 40 percent from the field. VanVleet, an All-Star in 2022, shot less than 35 percent from 3 on almost nine 3s a game. Brooks didn’t fair much better from the field last season. The then-Memphis Grizzly shot .396 percent from the field on almost 14 shots per game. Brooks hit only .326 percent of his 3s.

So what were these moves other than ways to ensure Houston hit the salary floor? Sure, VanVleet is a nice player who’s played in some big games, and Brooks can be one of the better defenders in the league when he locks in. VanVleet and Brooks are certain to start for the Rockets. What does that do to Thompson’s minutes and his time on the ball? Is Brooks going to be adult enough to keep his head in every game?

The deals are short. Brooks hasn’t signed yet. All three of VanVleet’s years are fully guaranteed. There’s no player or team option in that third year that will see VanVleet make about $45 million.

The Rockets had to spend the money. Somebody was going to take it.

I’m a Udoka believer (as a coach!) but I don’t see this Houston team making any noise out West. The Rockets are the worst team in the five-squad Southwest Division. Houston next season will likely finish with the worst record in the West and be a bottom five team in the NBA.

The checks will clear, though!

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