Rockets: 3 early NBA free agency targets in 2023 offseason

The Houston Rockets may be linked to potential free agent James Harden, but their sights should extend far beyond that potential avenue.

In fact, whether the Rockets were in the market for a star or not, there are other needs that they must address in order to play at an optimal level. After all, even the teams that make blockbuster trades are often left scrambling for quality second unit players.

In Houston’s case, a backcourt change and frontcourt re-tooling could work wonders.

Here are three early Rockets free agency targets for the 2023 NBA offseason.

3 early NBA free agency targets for Rockets in 2023 offseason

1. Cameron Johnson

A restricted free agent, Brooklyn Nets forward Cam Johnson is arguably the best free agent target for the Houston Rockets. At the very least, he should be a priority free agent, as his 3-and-D ability will enhance the team’s play on both ends of the court.

At 6-foot-8 and 210 pounds, Johnson is more of a combo forward than a wing but that could play in Houston’s favor. Primarily in lineups where they want athletic big man Jabari Smith Jr. at center, given the physical limitations that hold the skilled Alperen Sengun back in pick-and-roll defense.

Johnson has averaged 15.4 points and 1.1 steals per game this season while shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range. He’s shot 41.6 percent from 3 over the past two seasons, an elite spot-up option that would make defenses pay when they try and shrink the court to stop Jalen Green or Alperen Sengun from attacking.

With starting forward KJ Martin likely to head to a new home this offseason in light of his trade request prior to Houston’s 2022-23 campaign, the Rockets’ could prioritize the small forward position heading into the offseason. Although they may fill the starting slot through the draft, a trade, or the promotion of promising forward Tari Eason, Johnson could always play a highly valuable role for them.

Furthermore, starting in 78 of 257 career games (playoffs included), Johnson might be as willing to accept a second unit role as any 2023 free agent of his caliber.

2. Scotty Pippen Jr.

The Rockets need to seriously consider acquiring an established starting point guard that can get Porter off-ball more to improve his and the team’s overall efficiency. However, if they fail to do that via the draft or the trade market, they need to still prioritize a player who can be relied upon defensively.

TyTy Washington, the 29th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, may be that player. A high energy player with great handles that lovesto get into the lane to make plays, his 6-foot-3 frame is pretty solid for a starting guard. The biggest question though is whether he can shoot well enough from beyond the arc to keep defenses honest and if he can become more focused on passing and less on scoring when he plays beside Porter, Green, and Sengun.

However, another player that’s spent plenty of the time in the G League this season is Los Angeles Lakers two-way signing Scotty Pippen Jr., who’s averaging 21.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 1.6 steals per game for the South Bay Lakers.

A crafty guard himself, Pippen’s basketball IQ and court vision routinely stand out on film. Though only 6-foot-0, his 6-foot-6 wingspan helps him make defensive plays on and off the ball.

Likely to play a team-oriented style of play that sees him taking what the defense gives him as a scorer making plays for teammates in the meantime, Pippen could be an underrated pickup for Houston.

3. Harrison Barnes

In terms of players whose intangibles are just as important as what the numbers show, few will match veteran forward Harrison Barnes. A player who may soon find himself passed over by the Sacramento Kings due to the consistent productivity of rookie forward Keegan Murray and the promise of young wings Davion Mitchell and Kessler Edwards.

Barnes, an intelligent player that shoots 37.8 percent from 3-point range for his career and is shooting 37.0 percent from 3 this season, the first thing to mention about Barnes on the court is that defenses can’t just ignore him.

While he can also get his points moving off-ball and from the occasional post-up, the primary advantage he offers the Rockets is the additional space he offers their interior scorers. The option he gives them as an off-ball outlet, given the playmaking ability of Porter, Green, and Sengun — in particular — also will make for a more effective and efficient offense.

The Golden State Warriors used that to their advantage themselves when he was on their team.

Speaking of the Warriors, as a former champion, Barnes also offers a perspective that no other player on the roster has. Even if he couldn’t speak to them as a member of a Kings franchise that rose from the murky depths of the NBA floor to become a formidable playoff contender, his leadership and his experience as a player is exactly what the Rockets need.

The post Rockets: 3 early NBA free agency targets in 2023 offseason appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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