The Rockets were facing competition for Dillon Brooks on the free agent market, Kelly Iko of The Athletic writes in a mailbag column. Houston raised its offer beyond what was originally projected, eventually signing the defensive-minded swingman to a four-year contract that could pay him up to $90MM if he meets incentives.
The Mavericks were “seriously in the mix” for Brooks, sources tell Iko, and the Bucks were watching him closely in case they weren’t able to re-sign Khris Middleton. Brooks had a meeting with the Lakers, Iko adds, but L.A. didn’t have enough cap space to give him the kind of offer he wanted and wasn’t willing to arrange a complex sign-and-trade like Houston did.
Iko understands that many Rockets fans are surprised by the money they gave to Brooks, who landed a yearly salary close to what Bruce Brown did in free agency and now has a contract similar to Jordan Clarkson, Terry Rozier and Malcolm Brogdon. However, Iko points out that Houston had to overpay to get any significant free agent considering its dismal record over the past three years, and there’s hope that Brooks can transform his approach, especially on offense, while playing for a demanding coach like Ime Udoka.
There’s more from Houston:
- Summer League MVP Cam Whitmore played mostly at small forward, which Iko expects to be his primary position during the upcoming season. Iko has the 20th overall pick listed behind Tari Eason as the backup small forward on his projected depth chart and says it’s hard to predict how much he’ll play as a rookie. Iko states that Whitmore has the talent to create a steady role for himself right away, but the Rockets don’t have to rush him with their revamped roster so he may be sent to the G League to get consistent minutes.
- In a separate story, Iko talked to some of the league’s best defenders throughout the season about what Jabari Smith has to do to become elite in that area of the game. The Rockets were happy to land Smith with the third pick in the 2022 draft because of his defensive potential, combining the size of a center with the quickness to stay in front of smaller players. “Watch a lot of film,” advised Nets forward Royce O’Neale. “Try to study guys as much as you can. This league has a lot of great scorers and different guys like doing different things. Learn and watch other guys. Don’t be afraid to ask guys who are defenders how they guard certain people and little tips like that.”
- Jermaine Samuels appears to be the most likely unsigned member of the Rockets’ Summer League team to get a training camp invitation, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston has two roster slots and a two-way spot open, and Feigen lists Nate Hinton, Matthew Mayer and current two-way player Trevor Hudgins as others who helped themselves in Las Vegas.