So far, the Houston Rockets haven’t made big moves in 2022 free agency. But led by the pick of Jabari Smith Jr. at No. 3 overall in the first round, they appear to have had another strong draft, and that’s enough for many NBA experts to give them a high offseason grade.
Earlier in June, the Rockets traded veteran center Christian Wood to Dallas to open up a starting spot for second-year big Alperen Sengun, who Houston hopes can become a cornerstone player in its rebuild.
As part of these deals (or lack thereof), the Rockets have also continued to prioritize and maximize salary cap flexibility in the 2023 offseason, with up to $75 million in cap space potentially available.
With those types of moves in mind, the Rockets and third-year general manager Rafael Stone are drawing praise in offseason reviews from media members who cover the league. Here’s a sampling of Houston’s offseason and free agency grades.
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ESPN’s Kevin Pelton: B+
ESPN’s Kevin Pelton:
Entering their second full year of a post-James Harden rebuild, the Rockets continued adding to their young core by making three first-round picks. Naturally, no. 3 pick Jabari Smith Jr. is most important to Houston’s future, providing shooting and defensive versatility that should fit well with 2021 first-rounders Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun and Josh Christopher.
I particularly liked taking LSU forward Tari Eason with the 17th pick. Eason was in the top 10 of my stats-based projections. Finally, the Rockets grabbed TyTy Washington Jr. with the final pick of the first round. To make room for the young talent, Houston sent Wood to Dallas for the last of the three first-rounders.
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports: A
Colin Ward-Henninger, CBS Sports:
That’s back-to-back very strong drafts for the Rockets, who added shooting, defense and playmaking with their three first-rounders — led by Smith, who was the consensus No. 1 overall pick until hours before the draft. They traded Wood for the pick that turned into Washington, another highly rated prospect who dropped further than expected. Eason looked great in the Summer League and will add a much-needed defensive presence to the young Rockets.
Bryan Kalbrosky, For The Win: B+
Bryan Kalbrosky, For The Win:
I don’t have many thoughts about Houston’s offseason, which was relatively quiet outside of draft night. I’m happy to see Jae’Sean Tate sign a well-earned extension, and trading Christian Wood made lots of sense.
The Rockets had arguably the best haul in the draft, landing Jabari Smith as well as Tari Eason and TyTy Washington. Yet they still find themselves in a legitimate position to tank for Victor Wembanyama, so I’m going to grade their offseason favorably.
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report: A
Grant Hughes, Bleacher Report:
The Rockets pulled off the trifecta this summer, emerging as winners in all three areas of roster construction.
They drafted well, happily adding Smith and his high-end shooting to a frontcourt that needs it. You could make the case that Houston would have been justified in taking him if it had owned the first pick. You never want to draft to fit this high in the lottery, but the Rockets didn’t have to reach or make any tough decisions. They got the guy they needed. What’s more, Eason’s defense and Washington’s playmaking instincts mean the Rockets could eventually have two more solid potential rotation pieces in addition to Smith.
Houston also succeeded in trading Wood for a first-rounder and four expiring contracts, squeezing value out of a player who didn’t fit into a frontcourt rotation focused on development.
Finally, free agency. Tate’s deal seems too good to be true from a Rockets perspective. The burly forward needs to improve as a shooter, but he’s a committed and hard-nosed defender who can move the ball from the forward position and dominate the offensive glass. He’s been in the 91st and 94th percentile, respectively, in offensive rebound rate during his first two years in the league. A three-year, $22.1 million contract (with a club option on the third season!) is a massive bargain.
Kelly Iko, The Athletic: A-
Kelly Iko, The Athletic:
The Rockets haven’t been players in free agency, but adding three talented rookies in Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason and TyTy Washington Jr. was a near home-run draft for Houston. Locking up versatile forward Jae’Sean Tate long term was smart, team-friendly business. Fortifying head coach Stephen Silas’ staff with Lionel Hollins, Mahmoud Abdelfattah, and Mike Batiste was a strong move as well. This was an offseason the organization needed to achieve to really give its rebuild momentum, and by all accounts, it’s done just that. Had the Rockets been able to add to their big-man depth after the Christian Wood trade (I don’t think Boban Marjanović is the answer), this grade could have been an A. That’s how good their summer has been.
Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire