Jakob Poeltl in mix for Rockets (June 30)

In late April, new Rockets coach Ime Udoka mentioned that he would add “different types of large” at his introductory press conference. While third-year center Alperen Sengun offers strong value and versatility on offense, he has been somewhat limited on defense.

Flush with financial leeway under the NBA’s 2023-24 salary cap, that may explain Houston’s flirtation with veteran Milwaukee center Brook Lopez in recent weeks. But many of the latest reports suggest that Lopez could eventually return to the Bucks

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If that happens, who might be a backup plan for Rockets general manager Rafael Stone when the 2023 free agency negotiation window officially opens Friday at 5 p.m. Central?

For Michael Scotto by HoopsHype, Toronto’s Jakob Poeltl could be a possibility. The 27-year-old, 7-foot-1 center, known for his defense, averaged 12.5 points (62.9% FG), 9.1 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 26.5 minutes with the Raptors and San Antonio Spurs last season. Scotto reports that Poeltl is expected to receive a deal in the neighborhood of $20 million annually, which is at the low end of the rumored Lopez bid.

With the start of free agency less than 24 hours away, other known Houston targets include Raptors guard Fred VanVleet; Memphis fly Dillon Brooks; and maybe Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma.

As of late Thursday, this is where things appear to stand.

Jakob Poeltl is expected to receive strong interest from the Raptors, Spurs and Rockets in free agency, league sources told HoopsHype. There is a belief around the league that Poeltl can command about $20 million annually and could end free agency with a three-year, $60 million deal, according to NBA executives who spoke with HoopsHype.

(Michael Scotto, HoopsHype)

Fred VanVleet, 29, is poised to attract significant interest from the Houston Rockets. With Houston prioritizing short-term deals over increased salaries, there has been strong belief that VanVleet could earn a two-year, $80-plus million deal, as Marc Stein recently noted. The Raptors would prefer to work out a three-year deal with VanVleet closer to $90-100 million, league sources told HoopsHype.

(Michael Scotto, HoopsHype)

Donte DiVincenzo could land a new contract worth somewhere around the non-taxpayer mid-level exception and is attracting significant interest around the league from several teams, including the New York Knicks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and the Chicago Bulls, league sources told HoopsHype.

DiVincenzo averaged career highs in three-point percentage (.397), assists (3.5), steals (1.3) and games played (72) with the Golden State Warriors last season.

(Michael Scotto, HoopsHype)

For Houston, Brook Lopez has been a prime target on a short-term deal for an increased salary, but his preference has always been to remain with Milwaukee if the offers were comparable in the high-teens to $20 million in average annual salary.

(Michael Scotto, HoopsHype)

It’s also worth noting that VanVleet and Poeltl worked together effectively as a pick-and-roll tandem in Toronto. With both players linked to the Raptors and Rockets, playing together could appeal to them going forward. Winning is also expected to be a major factor in Poeltl’s decision.

(Michael Scotto, HoopsHype)

Pascal Siakam also attracted trade interest from several teams, including the Hawks, Hornets, Mavericks, Rockets, Pelicans and Kings, according to a report from Michael Grange of SportsNet. League sources who spoke to HoopsHype said several teams trying to trade for Siakam were deterred from giving up a treasure trove of assets for the two-time All-Star in the final year of his contract when he was unwilling to discuss an extension elsewhereas Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes mentioned.

(Michael Scotto, HoopsHype)

Over the past few months, Rockets executives have made it clear to people around the league that they weren’t sold on the idea of ​​a Harden return. They have also indicated to agents that they have no intention of offering contracts that extend beyond two seasons.

(Yaron Weitzman, Fox Sports)

Harden, 33, could have negotiated a new deal with the Sixers when he became a free agent, but he and president of basketball operations Daryl Morey decided they would begin working on a way to move Harden less than two years after his arrival in a February 2022 trade.

Harden had interest in a reunion with the Rockets — who are floating with $64 million in salary cap space — but their guard’s focus has increasingly been on pursuing Toronto Raptors free agent Fred VanVleet, sources said.

(Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN)

There is growing momentum that the Rockets will have the advantage of signing unrestricted free agent Kyle Kuzma, league sources tell B/R

The Sacramento Kings have also shown interest in Kuzma. They are one of the few teams with the type of cap space to offer the veteran forward the salary he is seeking.

The Rockets are poised to turn the corner on their rebuild by adding proven players capable of leading them back to the playoffs next season.

(Chris Haynes, Bleacher Report)

Star point guard Kyrie Irving is expected to meet with the Phoenix Suns along with the Dallas Mavericks and possibly other teams when NBA free agency begins June 30, league sources tell TNT/Bleacher Report. The Houston Rockets could also seek a meeting, according to sources.

The meetings are expected to take place in Los Angeles, sources say.

(Chris Haynes, Bleacher Report)

A source close to VanVleet pleaded ignorance when I asked about the two years and $80 million — teams aren’t allowed to formally make offers until 5 p.m. Central on Friday. Not surprisingly, the concept was met with enthusiasm.

(Michael Grange, Canada’s Sportsnet)

Clarkson was previously rumored to be on Houston’s roster, albeit presumably as a backup plan behind targets like VanVleet.

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