Teams in big markets have it much better than those in smaller cities to attract talent in free agency. Or so we’ve been told over the years. Is that accurate? We explore that in a series of articles ranking the top free agent acquisitions of NBA teams in the last 25 years.
Today: Houston Rockets.
10. Josh Smith (December 2014)
Stats: 10.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.0 bpg
Unexpectedly waived by the Detroit Pistons, the Rockets landed a gem for little money in Josh Smith last season. The once high-flying forward helped the team a lot during their deep playoff run. Josh Smith in Houston, Part 2 didn’t go nearly as well.
9. Maurice Taylor (August 2000)
Stats: 10.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg in 249 games
Took his sweet mid-range shot from Los Angeles to Houston, where he made the playoffs just once even though the Rockets finished with a winning record three of his four years there.
8. Omer Asik (July 2012)
Stats: 8.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 1.0 bpg in 130 games
Analytics said he was one of the premier post defenders in the NBA, so the Rockets gave him a rich contract even though he had averaged just 3 ppg in Chicago. The Turkish big man had a nice run in Houston till the Rockets acquired Dwight Howard and it became obvious they could not play together.
7. Jimmy Jackson (September 2003)
Stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 apg in 104 games
The do-it-all journeyman swingman averaged double digits in scoring for eight different NBA teams and Houston was one of them. As was typically the case with Jackson, he wound up get traded – this time to the Hornets, where he refused to report.
6. Chuck Hayes (October 2005)
Stats: 4.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 51.8 FG% in 426 games
Undrafted out of Kentucky and cut by the Rockets in training camp, Hayes returned to Houston on a 10-day contract and wouldn’t leave till five years later. Lacked size and talent, but made up for it with a lot of effort when it came to rebounding and playing D.
5. Jeremy Lin (July 2012)
Stats: 13.0 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.3 spg in 153 games
Linsanity earned the Harvard product a $25 million deal with the Rockets, the squad that had waived him in camp only seven months earlier. The fact that he did not display Linsanity-type basketball disappointed some, but he was actually a solid contributor in Houston.
4. Patrick Beverley (January 2013)
Stats: 9.2 ppg, 3.1 apg, 1.2 spg in 224 games
His was a rare mid-season pickup from Europe. A star for Russia’s Spartak St. Petersburg, Beverley left for Houston in January, immediately earned minutes thanks to his take-no-prisoners defense and eventually became the full-time starter at point guard.
3. Kevin Willis (August 1996)
Stats: 11.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 49.0 FG% in 208 games
The chiseled Willis spent in Houston a small portion of an NBA career that spanned two decades. Played next to Hakeem Olajuwon from 1996 to 1998, then with the new-era Rockets of Steve Francis in 2001-02. With him on the team, you could count on a physical presence down low.
2. Trevor Ariza (July 2009)
Stats: 13.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 1.9 spg in 235 games
After winning the 2009 NBA title, the Lakers decided they liked Ron Artest better than Trevor Ariza, who ended up in Houston, where he played in an effective 3-and-D role in 2009-10 and then again since 2014.
1. Dwight Howard (July 2013)
Stats: 16.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 1.6 bpg in 183 games
The acquisition of Dwight Howard from the Lakers was one of the biggest free agency hits of the last decade. While Howard had some success in Houston, he was not anywhere near the player who dominated the paint in Orlando a few years back. It all ended on a sour note with Howard getting few touches and the Rockets being demolished by the Curry-less Warriors.