Rockets have the most money to spend, but on whom?

Draft night went exactly as the Rockets hoped. Free agency will bring another challenge, but with hopes of driving the next phase of the rebuild.

For an encore, the Rockets intend to go on a spending spree.

Free agent deals could begin at 5 p.m. on Friday, with the Rockets having more than $60 million to spend, depending on decisions on non-guaranteed contracts. There is an understanding of what they want to add to a roster full of young talent looking to escape its losing seasons.

The NBA adage of draft talent, sign free agents for need will apply, but only to a degree.

They are not, according to a person familiar with the team’s plans, looking for specific positions or skills so much as veterans who make “winning plays.” The goal is to find additions that fit into the core of the rebuild — Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason — and play with two-way intelligence that comes with experience.

Equipped with so much buying power, the most in the NBA, and a coach, Ime Udoka, who is popular among NBA players, the Rockets have not prioritized specific targets as much as a pool of players to pursue.

According to a person with knowledge of their thinking, they have interest in Bucks’ Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, Nuggets’ Bruce Brown, Jazz’s Jordan Clarkson, Lakers’ Rui Hachimura and Austin Reeves, Nets’ Cam Johnson, Warriors’ Donte DiVincenzo, Grizzlies’ Dillon Brooks, the Raptors’ Jakob Poeltl and the Mavericks’ Dwight Powell. Media reports have linked them to James Harden and Fred VanVleet.

Johnson and Reeves are restricted free agents, and part of any pursuit may begin with determining the likelihood that their teams will match contracts with the Lakers, who are particularly determined to bring back their second year. Harden has long been tied to the Rockets, but would take up the bulk of that cap space. VanVleet could seek a spot with a team closer to contending.

The Rockets will likely try to sign three or even four free agents, a couple to bigger contracts and one or two to help fill them. The trick, besides getting deals, will be getting the puzzle pieces to fit.

A look at the Rockets’ options:

The headliners

James Harden, G, 76ers

Harden can be considered the top prize of free agency for the second straight season. He gave the 76ers a significant discount last summer to allow them to sign former Rockets teammate Danuel House Jr. and PJ Tucker in pursuit of a title, or at least a return to the Finals, where he hasn’t been since leaving the Thunder. That hope ended in a second-round loss with another Game 7. However, the Sixers seem as determined as ever to bring him back. Assuming he opts out of his contract, he’s unlikely to be a relative bargain again.

Something to consider: At least initially, Harden’s interest in coming “home” was about considerations other than basketball. It hasn’t made much sense from a basketball standpoint for a 34-year-old who could be part of a contender to jump to a team that won 22 games last season and is still rebuilding. Even for the Rockets, there had to be questions about whether they can be good enough while he’s still there, especially if it takes a four-year contract to get him.

Draymond Green. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Draymond Green, F/C, Warriors

Green will opt out of his contract, and it makes sense for him to see what’s out there. But he is still more valuable to the Warriors and their way of playing than to any other team. New GM Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s job is to keep the Warriors’ championship window open as long as possible. They are still much better on both ends with Green on the floor.

Something to consider: Steve Kerr and Dunleavy have been so open and clear about ‘s Green’s importance to the Warriors. it would be a shock if they let him go. The deal for Chris Paul was another indication that the Warriors’ priority is chasing another championship, especially in the final season of Klay Thompson’s and Paul’s contracts.

Chris Middleton, G/F, Bucks

Middleton opted out of a contract that would have paid him $40.4 million next season. He might not make as much next season, but there’s a good chance he opted for free agency with confidence he could get a significant contract that makes it worth giving up some of next season’s moves. Wrist and knee injuries cost him the majority of last season, and he had knee surgery in the offseason.

Something to consider: Middleton would be a nice addition to any team that could use in free agency. If healthy, he is able to play the ball away and defend in ways that the Rockets lacked. But there is an expectation that he will be back with the Bucks. However, it could still make things interesting for the Rockets if the investment in Middleton makes Brook Lopez more likely to move on.

Fred VanVleet, G, Raptors

VanVleet has been a significant part of the Raptors’ success. They could be ready to rebuild, but it would be hard to lose him and get nothing in return. He likely won’t receive the five years and $233 million the Raptors can pay him, and maybe not the $173 million over four years he can get if he moves. But at 29, VanVleet could be looking for the best long-term contract he’ll likely get in his career and offer solid play on both ends.

Something to consider: He might seem like a good fit for the Rockets, but it’s doubtful they want to lock in a point guard who isn’t a run-the-offense type for the next four years after drafting such completely different guards In the past. few seasons. After winning a championship, VanVleet might seek a spot with a contender.

Austin Reaves.

Austin Reaves.

Santiago Mejia/The Chronicle

Austin Reaves, G/F, Lakers

A breakout success, Reaves excelled against better competition in the postseason, fits LeBron James well and offers a coveted mix of ability to work off the ball as a catch-and-shoot threat and to get his own shot on the ball.

Something to consider: A restricted free agent, Reaves is unlikely to go anywhere. The Lakers are restricted from offering a contract comparable to the mid-level exception for non-taxpayers. However, they can match a contract offered by another team that will be much richer in the third and fourth seasons.

Rocket types

Brook Lopez, C, Bucks

Lopez will be 35 years old, but is coming off perhaps his best season. He made a career-best 37.4 percent of his 3s and finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting.

Something to consider: In some matchups, Lopez’s shooting would allow him to play with Sengun. In most cases, he could allow the Rockets to add spacing to their uber athletic backcourt with rim protection and pick the best matchups for Sengun.

Jordan Clarkson.  (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Jordan Clarkson. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Justin Ford/Getty Images

Jordan Clarkson, G, Jazz

Clarkson is coming off a career year averaging 20.8 points per game in his 11th NBA season. Opting out of a contract that would have paid him $14.26 million could indicate that it would cost at least that much to sign him, but he could also be looking for a longer-term deal.

Something to consider: Clarkson, a former sixth man of the year, could be looking for a place with a contender. His willingness to fill any role asked of him would make him valuable with the Rockets’ young backcourt, but also attractive to far more advanced teams and to the Jazz.

Bruce Brown, G, Nuggets

Brown was a great signing for the champion Nuggets last season as the epitome of a player who does whatever it takes to help win. His 3-point touch improved while with the Nets, and the move to the Nuggets allowed him to show that he can play in the backcourt.

Something to consider: Brown opted out of his contract that would have paid him $6.8 million next season. The Nuggets want him back but are limited in what they can offer him, around $7.7 million next season. But they could then be able to offer a bigger four-year contract next summer, starting at $13.7 million.

Rui Hachimura.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Rui Hachimura. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Harry How/Getty Images

Rui Hachimura, F, Lakers

Hachimura made 48.7 percent of his 3s in the postseason and averaged 15.3 points in the series against the Nuggets, demonstrating his ability to fit in well between LeBron James and Anthony Davis. His defensive versatility would work well with many teams. His playing time dropped throughout the regular season after he was acquired by the Wizards, but he was a consistent contributor in the postseason.

Something to consider: The Lakers seem almost as determined to keep Hachimura as they are to lock up Reaves. Like Reaves, he is a restricted free agent.

Donte DiVincenzo, G, Warriors

DiVincenzo had a solid season as an energetic and tough two-way player, averaging 9.4 points in 26.3 minutes per game. He averaged 4.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 24.3 minutes per game. game in his career with the Bucks, Kings and Warriors, showing versatility to fill roles. He was missed in Milwaukee after the championship season.

Something to consider: DiVincenzo is expected to opt out of his contract and the $4.75 million on next season’s deal. The Warriors can offer a four-year, $23.2 million contract, but he will likely make significantly more, likely starting at the mid-level exception of $12.2 million.

Dillon Brooks.  (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Dillon Brooks. (Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images)

Justin Ford/Getty Images

Dillon Brooks, F, Grizzlies

Among the best perimeter defensive players in the NBA, Brooks’ postseason boasts and the distraction they caused appear to have ended his tenure in Memphis. It didn’t help that his 3-point shooting suffered noticeably, though he didn’t seem to notice. He was an effective shooter in the first three seasons of his career, and there is no doubting his toughness and defense.

Something to consider: Brooks’ extreme versatility defensively would fit well with new coach Ime Udoka’s preferences. He was drafted by the Rockets in a deal with the Grizzlies, but has probably gotten over it.

Cam Johnson, F, Nets

Johnson could be the 3-and-D guy the Rockets have needed after being among the league’s worst teams at shooting and defending 3s. He’s better defensively playing the four while Mikal Bridges takes the toughest perimeter assignments, but the Rockets would need him to play as a three.

Something to consider: He was part of the Nets’ move in the Kevin Durant deal and is a restricted free agent. It’s unclear how big of a contract it would take to keep the Nets from matching.

Jakob Poeltl.  (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Jakob Poeltl. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Jakob Poeltl, C, Raptors

The Raptors appeared to want to keep Poeltl long-term when they re-signed him from the Spurs, but change appears to be coming in Toronto, potentially putting him back in contention. He averaged 12.5 points and 9.1 rebounds in 26.5 minutes last season, is a good pick-and-roll center and is a disciplined defender on the rim.

Something to consider: If the Raptors keep VanVleet, it may be difficult to sign Poeltl without going into the luxury tax or other cap-free moves. At 7-1, 245, his size and defense would make him valuable to teams looking for centers to defend recent MVPs.

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