Although there have been several reports in recent weeks and months linking free agent guard James Harden to Houston, there have also been rumblings that the Rockets aren’t interested in giving the former MVP a maximum-salary contract, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype said on the HoopsHype podcast.
Scotto’s guest on the podcast, Kelly Iko of The Athletic, agrees with that statement, noting that Houston would like to add three or four veterans this offseason and doesn’t want to be using $45MM of its $60MM in cap room on a single player.
According to Iko, people within the Rockets’ organization – including players – and people close to Harden are fairly split on whether or not the 10-time All-Star will return to Houston, with some confident about the odds of a reunion and others skeptical. Skepticism is the dominant view among rival executives who have spoken to Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com — many of those execs expressed confusion about the fit, though some did suggest that a short-term deal might make some sense.
If the Rockets don’t land Harden and look elsewhere on the free agent market for a point guard, Iko views Fred VanVleet as a more likely target than Kyrie Irving. Both Iko and Scotto have also heard that Austin Reaves is a player Houston likes, though Reaves will be a restricted free agent and the Lakers are considered likely to match any offer sheets he signs.
Here’s more on the Rockets:
- Iko views Brook Lopez as a bit of a “pipe dream” for Houston, since the veteran center seems likely to remain with the Bucks. Iko names Clint Capela, Kristaps Porzingis, Myles Turner, Josh Hart, Dillon Brooks, as Kelly Oubre as possible targets for the Rockets in free agency or via trades, though he again acknowledges that some of those options are more viable than others. Hart, for instance, is considered a strong bet to remain with the Knicks, as Scotto points out.
- New head coach Ime Udoka will have “a huge say in who he coaches,” according to Iko, which could be an important factor as the Rockets consider which players to pursue most aggressively this offseason.
- Iko believes Overtime Elite guard Amen Thompson will be the top prospect on Houston’s board if there are no surprises in the top three picks in the draft. Iko has heard the Rockets believe the gap between Thompson and Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson isn’t as big as the consensus suggests.
- Coming off a strong season, Kenyon Martin Jr. would “prefer to get paid now,” either as a restricted free agent or on an extension, says Iko. However, it remains to be seen whether Martin is in the Rockets’ long-term plans or if he might end up back on the trade block in the coming weeks. It’s possible Houston could postpone its decision on Martin, simply exercising his minimum-salary team option and determining during the season whether to try to extend or trade him.
- According to Iko, Tiago Splitter, who worked with Udoka in Brooklyn and played with him in San Antonio, may be a candidate to join the Rockets’ coaching staff — especially if the team’s pursuit of Aaron Miles doesn’t pan out.