After a long engagement period, the Rockets finally landed their first choice in the free agent market. Brent Barry, a 36 year-old guard/forward from the San Antonio Spurs, agreed to terms on a two-year contract worth $3.9 Million. Darryl Morey has courted Barry since he was briefly available in February when he was traded to the Sonics, then released. Barry opted to return to San Antonio to finish the season, but Morey didn't give up. On Thursday, Barry finally said "I do."
This was a smart move financially. Morey was able to get the deal done using only their "biannual exception" to sign Barry, keeping their full mid-level exception to match any offer up to that amount that restricted free agent Carl Landry receives (starting at $5.585 million for the 2008-09 season).
It was equally smart basketball-wise. Brent has been consistently productive throughout his career, playing in 84 playoff games and contributing to two world championships. He is Rick Adelman's type of player, hard-nosed and smart. I have heard negative comments that his averages have dropped off in the four years he was with the Spurs, but the truth is that he became a backup with the championship-quality Spurs and his minutes went way down. His per-minute avergages remained consistent with his early years in the league.
It seems likely that Barry will replace Steve Novak on the roster. Novak is a great 3-point shooter, but has been unable to match up defensively with NBA power forwards and is too slow to play small forward. Barry shoots over 40% from beyond the arc (even better in the playoffs) and is a good defensive player with excellent instincts. The other good news on this front is that every team in the league is looking for scoring, so Novak may be tradable, at least for a future draft choice.
The other possibility is that Barry will edge out Luther Head. You've got to love Luther's guts and determination, but he's a little short to defend the larger shooting guards and makes too many bad choices distributing the ball to play the point. Luther is in a similar position to Novak in that he also has trade value. A late first-rounder or high second for either of them would be a feather in the Rockets' cap down the road.
Of course, it is also possible that Head and Novak may both stay, but room has to be made for the two new draft choices too, assuming they can make the team. Certainly Mike Harris and Loren Woods are on the bubble. If the Rockets are not able to resign Dikembe Mutombo nor able to acquire a quality backup center, Woods may have a shot at staying around for a full season.
One last thing: There has been some discussion to the effect that Shane Battier may be on the trading block. Let's keep this simple. Dont' do it! Battier can make a good team great.