Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey may be looking to improve his team ahead of the NBA’s restart in July, during which time the team will compete for a top playoff seed in the Western Conference. To that end, a report on Friday indicated that the Rockets could be considering free agent combo guard Tyler Johnson to help shore up the team’s backcourt depth.
Citing “a person with knowledge of the team’s thinking,” Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported that Johnson is among the several options Morey — and the rest of Houston’s decision-makers — are considering.
Johnson played most recently for the Phoenix Suns, who waived the 6-foot-3-inch, 190-pound guard in February. In 31 games played so far this season, he averaged career lows in a myriad of categories, including points per game (5.7), rebounds per game (1.7), and minutes per game (16.6). He’s also connected on a career-low 28.9 percent of his three-point field goal attempts. The Suns made the decision to release him after failing to move his expiring deal at the trade deadline.
While he saw his role in Phoenix diminish over time after getting traded to the team during the 2018-19 season, the 28-year-old Johnson was once considered one of the league’s better young backcourt players and top sixth men. He was undrafted coming out of Fresno State in 2014, but eventually caught on with the Miami Heat. Over the course of his first three years in the league, he improved to the point where he was playing major minutes in Miami, averaging nearly 14 points per contest off the bench.
He was also making three-point shots at a rate approaching 40 percent.
Johnson played so well, in fact, that the Brooklyn Nets offered him a four-year, $50 million contract during the 2016 offseason. With him being a restricted free agent, the Heat retained the option of matching that offer sheet, which they elected to do. However, Miami eventually opted to move on from Johnson last season, dealing him to Phoenix — along with sharpshooter Wayne Ellington — in exchange for big man Ryan Anderson.
If Johnson can revert to his previous form of play, he could potentially be a solid contributor at the end of the Rockets’ bench. Houston coach Mike D’Antoni’s explosive offensive system and small-ball attack could provide Johnson an opportunity to be an effective scorer in a limited role behind James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Eric Gordon. However, barring Rockets players deciding not to participate in the resumption of the season, the team will have to clear a roster spot in order to acquire an additional player.
Tyson Chandler, Bruno Caboclo, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Thabo Sefolosha are among the players on Houston’s roster who don’t play significant roles in D’Antoni’s rotation — and none are owed guaranteed money beyond this season.
Heading into the league’s targeted July 30 restart, the Rockets are tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for fifth place in the West at 40-24. They are just one game behind the fourth-place Utah Jazz and 2.5 games behind the third-place Denver Nuggets. As shared previously by The Inquisitr, the Rockets could look to revamp their roster if they are unable to progress deep into the playoffs this season.