Hassan Whiteside will be among the free agents the Rockets make a strong push for when the recruiting period opens later this week, according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com. A source tells Watkins that Houston will make a strong effort to sign either Whiteside, Kevin Durant, Al Horford, or Ryan Anderson.
The Rockets’ interest in Durant, who is the top target for a handful of teams, has long been known, but reports in recent weeks have indicated that the former MVP isn’t expected to seriously consider Houston. So far, Durant has lined up meetings with six teams – the Thunder and five rival suitors – but the Rockets aren’t on that list.
The Rockets’ fondness for Horford and Anderson has also been previously reported, though Atlanta is viewed as the frontrunner to bring back Horford, while Anderson will generate plenty of interest around the league. Of the four Rockets targets mentioned by Watkins, Anderson is perhaps the least likely to land a maximum-salary contract, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility even for him.
As for Whiteside, he’s hoping to make a decision early in free agency, so if he lands elsewhere, the Rockets should at least be able to move on quickly. The Lakers, Mavericks, and Celtics are among the clubs expected to vie with the Heat for the young center.
With Dwight Howard having opted out of his contract, Houston has room for at least one max player, and possibly two. General manager Daryl Morey suggested earlier this month that the Rockets are “ready-made” to add a star to complement James Harden, pointing to the size of the Houston market, the presence of Harden (and several solid role players), and the arrival of coach Mike D’Antoni as reasons why top-tier free agents would be interested in joining the Rockets.
Of course, the Rockets’ free agent search won’t be limited to max-salary players. Watkins mentions in his piece that Jeremy Lin could be among Houston’s targets this offseason, which is an intriguing possibility, given the success the point guard has had under D’Antoni in the past.