The current version of this article contains a minor change as of May 30, 2013.
Back on December 23, I made my first formal attempt at explaining the intricacies of the NBA player contract of Chandler Parsons. As a mere fan (and not an actual NBA insider or team executive), I based that piece on educated conclusions using the information available to me at the time. Unfortunately, only after putting out my prior article was I made aware of additional information that greatly impacts the overall analysis of Parsons’s contract. Hence, the following is a (more informed) analysis of one of the more interesting player contracts in the NBA today.
Parsons Not Subject to Rookie Scale Salary Rules
The NBA has specific rules governing first round draft picks and the contracts they can sign, commonly referred to as rookie scale contracts. Such contracts are four-year deals, fully guaranteed for the first two years, with team options for each of the third and fourth years (each of which must be exercised almost an entire season in advance) and a right of first refusal after that.
However, Parsons was not a first round pick. He was selected in the second round (the 38th overall selection) of the 2011 NBA Draft. Therefore, he is not subject to such rules. Second round picks can be signed to contracts much like any other player. Unlike first rounders, second rounders do not have any scale salary by which a team may exceed the salary cap to sign them. Most second rounders receive either a one- or a two-year deal at the league minimum salary. Such contracts are oftentimes non- or only partially guaranteed. The only ways in which a team may sign a second round pick to anything more are for that team to have either cap room or a salary cap exception (such as the Mid-Level Exception) at its disposal.
The Contract Structure
In December 2011, the Rockets signed Parsons to a four-year, $3,629,500 contract (using a sliver of remaining salary cap room they had at the time). Like the contracts previously given to Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger, Parsons agreed to bind himself to the team for four years in exchange for an increased salary in the first year ($850,000 instead of the league minimum of $473,604) and second year ($888,250 instead of the league minimum $762,195), both of which are fully guaranteed.
However, Parsons seems to have had a better agent than either Taylor or Budinger.
Whereas Taylor and Budinger agreed to give the Rockets fully non-guaranteed Years 3 and 4 (together with a team option on Year 4), Parsons and his agent negotiated for additional financial security. By Parsons having not been waived by the Rockets before January 1, 2013, Parsons’s salary for the 2013-14 season ($926,500) became partially guaranteed for $600,000; and if Parsons is not waived by June 30, 2013, his 2013-14 salary becomes fully guaranteed. Furthermore, if the Rockets do not waive Parsons by January 1, 2014, his salary for the 2014-15 season ($964,750) becomes partially guaranteed for $624,771 (the same percentage partial guarantee as in Year 3); and if Parsons is not waived by June 30, 2014, his 2014-15 salary becomes fully guaranteed.
The key bit of new information relating to the Parsons contract?
It also has a team option on Year 4.
This means that, despite having already guaranteed Parsons $624,771 for the 2014-15 season, the Rockets have the right to decline their team option, essentially “eat” that money, and make Parsons a restricted free agent. If the Rockets instead exercise that team option, then when his contract expires in 2015, Parsons will be an unrestricted free agent.
What Happens Next?
1. Parsons is “stuck” on this contract until at least 2014.
The Parsons Contract was negotiated at a time when it was not certain whether he would become a legit NBA player. At that time, this deal was quite a coup for both Parsons and his representatives. Now, however, with Parsons playing at a very high level, the contract may seem like a long-term (financial) prison sentence.
First off, there is little incentive for the Rockets to let Parsons out of his dirt-cheap deal. They have him locked up on a very favorable deal for this year and two more after that. For a team trying to manage its cap situation in order to add a second (or even third) star player, giving Parsons a raise before his contract is up in 2015 might jeopardize those plans.
And even if the Rockets wanted to give Parsons a raise before 2015, there really is no feasible way to do that without risking his departure to another team (with the possible exception of a renegotiation-and-extension, discussed below).
Since only Year 4 of Parsons’s deal is a team option (as per CBA rules, contracts can only contain one option year), there is no way to make Parsons a free agent before 2014 without waiving him. Unfortunately for the Rockets, Parsons is such a good player that there is no way he would clear waivers — other teams would be climbing over each other to get a chance to claim him off waivers. So, unless the Rockets want to give Chandler away to another team without receiving anything in exchange, they need to simply hold onto him on his current deal. At least through next season.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey even brings up — perhaps against his better judgment — that Parsons approached the team about restructuring his contract. See Zach Lowe’s interview with Morey here, and skip to the 16:40 mark.
2. An extension of Parsons’s contract is not a viable alternative.
Because Parsons is a veteran on a four-year deal (other than a first round draft pick on a rookie scale contract), he is technically eligible for an extension from the Rockets in 2014. Many fans have suggested that the Rockets give Parsons an extension in order to give him a substantial raise and keep him under contract beyond 2015. However, the rules governing contract extensions do not make this a financially feasible option for Parsons.
Under the CBA, a player may not receive an extension giving him a raise in excess of 107.5% of his salary in the last season of the contract being extended. For Parsons, an extension would cap his 2015-16 salary at $1,037,106. I’m guessing that Parsons (and his agent) feels that he can do better than that on the open market.
So, go ahead and cross the contract extension route off the list of possibilities, unless . . .
3. A contract renegotiation remains a possibility but is not in the team’s best interests.
While a contract extension is not economically feasible for Parsons, there remains the possibility of a contract renegotiation with a simultaneous extension. Only teams that are under the salary cap can renegotiate player contracts. For instance, the Oklahoma City Thunder implemented this “renegotiate-and-extend” approach with Nick Collison in 2010 (you can read more about that deal here). While the 2011 CBA changed the rules about these deals to limit the decrease in salary a player could accept in the first year of his extension to 40% (making Collison’s particular contract impossible to do now), the Rockets could still position themselves to keep Parsons locked up via a simultaneous renegotiation and extension.
However, this approach would seriously hamper the Rockets’ overall rebuilding strategy.
First of all, the Rockets would need to be under the cap during the 2014-15 season for this to even be possible. That would mean that the team likely failed in its attempts to acquire a second star player between now and then. It also means that the team did not even use its cap room during the summer of 2014 or at the February 2014 trade deadline to otherwise improve the team beyond 2014. Unless Parsons has developed into a bona fide perenniel All-Star caliber player by that time, there is little incentive to jeopardize the team’s cap situation — and its continued pursuit of that second star player — for the sake of locking up a good (but not great) player.
Also, even with a Collison-like contract in place, Parsons would have a relatively substantial cap figure locked in on the Rockets’ roster entering the summer of 2015, when the contracts of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik are set to come off the books and the Rockets possibly positioned to add another significant piece to the puzzle.
4. Letting Parsons hit restricted free agency is risky but may be how team does right by him.
The renegotiation-and-extension route assumes that the Rockets do, in fact, pick up their team option on Parsons. However, if the Rockets (1) didn’t have the requisite cap room available to accomplish a renegotiate-and-extend deal, (2) felt that they could potentially lock up Parsons longer-term at a more reasonable cost through restricted free agency than if he hits unrestricted free agency in 2015 and/or (3) feared that Parsons would hold a grudge against the team if it kept him on his dirt-cheap deal for a fourth season, then they might opt to decline Parsons’s team option and allow him to hit restricted free agency in 2014.
Because Parsons would have been under the same contract with the Rockets for three seasons (2011-2014), the Rockets would have full Bird rights on Parsons and could exceed the salary cap to re-sign him to a five-year deal at any amount (up to a “James Harden-level” max contract). Presumably, this option would only be explored if the team had already used up most of its cap space to add a second star player or other significant pieces.
Making Parsons a restricted free agent would likely be a huge show of good faith on the Rockets’ part, but it would not be without great risk. Many of us remember what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2004. The Cavs decided to do Carlos Boozer a solid and decline their cheap team option in order to make Boozer a restricted free agent, looking to lock him up long-term. Unfortunately, once Boozer became a free agent, the Utah Jazz swooped in with a huge contract offer. Boozer bolted Cleveland for greener pastures, and the Cavs were left holding the bag.
Also, from a pure numbers standpoint, it is unlikely that the Rockets could save enough money over the course of a new deal with Parsons signed in 2014 — either with Houston or in an offer sheet with another team — versus one he signs as an unrestricted free agent in 2015 to justify foregoing the opportunity to keep Parsons at his currently-scheduled $964,750 salary for 2014-15. Remember, if the Rockets decline their team option, Parsons would still pocket $624,771 from Houston (which would count against the cap) on top of whatever he could get in free agency.
However, if the Rockets are confident that Parsons would work with them on a reasonable long-term deal without bolting as a free agent, their show of good faith may be reciprocated, to everyone’s advantage.
5. Letting Parsons hit free agency in 2015 may best help the Rockets’ cap situation.
Notwithstanding the potential benefits above of taking care of Parsons in 2014, the fact that the Rockets (even with the addition of another significant piece in the next three years) might possibly have substantial salary cap room in 2015 means that there may be much to be gained by exercising that team option, keeping Parsons on his contract for a fourth season, and letting him hit unrestricted free agency in 2015.
Because of Parsons’s miniscule 2014-15 salary, his cap hold on the Rockets’ books when he hits free agency until he is signed (either by the Rockets or another team) will be a paltry $1,833,025.
This means that the Rockets could use all of its available cap room in 2015 — except for that $1,833,025 cap hold amount — to pursue a major free agent (such as Kevin Love, who can opt out of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves that summer), then later exceed the salary cap to re-sign Parsons to any amount using his Bird rights.
Admittedly, this approach will involve asking Parsons and his representatives to trust in the organization to do right by Parsons once the dust settles on the team’s other summer plans. This may be a tough task, given that the team will have already foregone the chance to do right by Parsons in 2014 by picking up its option on the fourth season. Parsons’s agent will certainly market his client around the league to gauge his “fair value” as a free agent, so numbers would likely be discussed while other plans play out.
Barring a trade, the Houston Rockets and Chandler Parsons are stuck with each other under his current contract until at least 2014. An apparent victory for the player at the time of its original execution, the contract is now one of the most team-friendly in the entire league. The Rockets have Parsons locked up until 2015 for a mere pittance. They also have the option to either make Parsons a restricted free agent in 2014 or keep him around for a fourth cheap year and let him hit unrestricted free agency in 2015. Parsons’s low salary (and his cap hold in the summer of 2015) will position the Rockets nicely to continue to add significant pieces over the next several years.
On the KPJ trade and future of the Rockets
The Houston Rockets are back to being a professional NBA team once again.
The Rockets finally ended the Kevin Porter Jr. era on Tuesday, coughing up two second-round picks in order to unload his contract to the Oklahoma City Thunder, getting back the contract of Victor Oladipo and third-year forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. The move puts an end to a long investment and very rocky tenure with KPJ.
David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Porter Jr. Experiment, the price paid to move him, Houston’s potential trade options moving forward, the new culture and the current state of the Rockets young core.
Heavy investment in Kevin Porter Jr raises serious questions about Rockets front office
Soon-to-be-ex Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr was arrested last week for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, resulting in a fractured neck vertebra and a deep gash above her right eye after an attack at a hotel in New York. He allegedly woke her up by punching her repeatedly, strangled her and did not stop hitting her until she ran out of the hotel room screaming for help and covered in blood.
“This is a serious domestic violence case,” said assistant Manhattan district attorney Mirah Curzer.
First and foremost, I wish the victim healing. I don’t know what to say about the nightmare she went through. She and her family will forever be impacted. As for KPJ, if this is true, he doesn’t belong on the Rockets or in the NBA at all. He belongs in jail.
Secondly, this can’t be overlooked and just swept under the rug: Why did the Houston Rockets bank on and invest so heavily in this guy?
Kevin Porter Jr. being accused of crimes of this severity should not be shocking – at all. Before he even came to the Rockets, he had a long list of serious problems. He was suspended multiple times in high school. In 2019, he had a “conduct issue” significant enough that USC suspended the 5-star recruit indefinitely. He fell to the end of the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft because of his behavior liability. He was accused of punching a woman in the face in Cleveland. He also had a gun and marijuana charge later dismissed after getting into a car crash. He went into a tirade and got into a nasty confrontation with both the Cleveland coach and GM, resulting in the Cavs severing ties immediately and dumping him to the Rockets for nothing.
You could make the argument that initially giving Porter Jr. a second chance in Houston was praiseworthy, but the Rockets experienced KPJ’s anger management and immaturity issues firsthand on several occasions.
Former Rocket Austin Rivers said this week that this isn’t the first, second or even seventh issue with Porter Jr. and that Rockets “higher-ups” confided in him that they had no idea how to handle him.
“I remember talking to guys in the Houston Rockets organization, higher-ups, [and] they were having issues then,” said Rivers. “They were like, ‘We don’t know what to do with him.’ And that’s when he just got there from Cleveland!”
Porter Jr. was routinely a nightmare for Rockets coaches to deal with. On several occasions, he confronted and cussed out members of the coaching staff, saying they didn’t have the “credentials”, per source, a reference to the fact that him playing heavy minutes at point guard was a decision they did not control.
Once at a night out, Porter Jr. had a disagreement with a DJ over music choice and he snapped, smashing the DJ’s laptop to the floor. He needed to be restrained and removed. Rockets personnel and several of Porter’s teammates witnessed the incident.
Curzer also dropped a bombshell at the arraignment in saying that Porter Jr. has a history of abusing his girlfriend, who he had only been dating since early last year, his second season with the Rockets. Curzer specifically cited an incident in which KPJ allegedly rammed his car into hers.
There were dozens of maturity issues visible on the court to anyone paying attention. He refused to check out of games. He got into an argument on the bench with assistant Lionel Hollins. On numerous occasions, he would visibly shut down when he wasn’t passed the ball. I invite you to watch this video from a game against Memphis on March 20, 2022. Just listen to the Grizzlies broadcasters, particularly starting at the 1:40 mark, talk about what they are witnessing here:
Privately, people around the league would say they were baffled by the Rockets continued fascination with Porter Jr. Nobody could understand it.
That fascination starts with Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, who by every account over the last two years was the driving force behind the investment in Porter Jr. It has been no secret. Trading for him in January 2021 was seen by some with the team as his “Harden acquisition”, code for a signature move that makes an executive’s career, much in the way landing James Harden did for Daryl Morey in 2012.
For example, former Rockets head coach Stephen Silas never considered Porter Jr. to be a point guard, per sources — playing him there was a Stone mandate because the GM believed that is where his future lied.
John Wall also told us as much publicly when he explained the phone call he got from Silas about coming off the bench. He said Silas told him “This is what the GM wants,” adding again that Silas said, “Man, you don’t deserve that. You should be the starter. This is just what they want to do.” Wall was upset because he believed KPJ should have to earn the spot.
“I have a hard time finding anybody outside of the Rockets front office that believes that Kevin Porter Jr. is a starting point guard in the NBA,” said ESPN reporter Tim MacMahon in December.
There were plenty of warning signs about KPJ to the public too.
After Porter Jr. got into a heated argument in which KPJ “physically shoved” Rockets assistant coach John Lucas and quit on the team in the middle of a game against Denver in January of 2022, leaving the arena at halftime, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix famously wrote that the Rockets should “Cut Porter Jr. Waive him. Release him. Whatever. Eat what’s left of the $1.8 million he’s owed this season and the $3.2 million he’s got next and move on.” It became a source of mockery for Porter Jr’s fans, a line they would bring up after each game he hit a few threes or handed out some assists.
In February of this year, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, one of the most connected reporters in the league, flat out warned us that he was hearing awful things about the Rockets culture and locker room. He was blunt in what the Rockets needed to do — waive Kevin Porter Jr. outright and bring in a new coach and GM.
“Just cut him. That’s it,” said Givony of Porter Jr. “And you’re sending a signal to the league that we’re going to do things differently from here on out.”
“When you talk to people around the NBA about Houston, you just don’t hear good things about their culture, about that locker room. You talk to people that are on that team, and they are like, ‘We are a mess’,” said Givony. “Do people want to work with this organization? But you can change that fairly quickly if you come in, get rid of the bad apples and you change the coaching staff, and all of a sudden, you’re Houston. It’s the third-biggest city in America. There’s a history here of you actually being good.”
Porter came to the Rockets for “free” (in exchange for a top-55 protected second-round pick, which was designed not to convey), but he proved far from it as the Rockets continued to pour investment into him. Over the last 2-3 seasons, no Rockets player got more developmental capital than Porter Jr. – not Jalen Green, not Alperen Sengun, not Jabari Smith Jr. The Fertittas paid John Wall $85+ million over two years to sit at home so the team could groom Porter Jr. to be their future point guard.
Then they doubled down. With restricted free agency on the horizon and a seemingly non-existent market for KPJ’s services, the Rockets gave Porter Jr. an extension a year sooner – a contract that was presented as a four-year, $82.5 million deal. The deal was more team-friendly than that, putting team options in it after years 1 and 3. Going from the potential disaster that was initially reported to a deal they could escape after one season felt like a “win”, but the biggest question was why they wanted him long-term at all. The unprecedented nature of a contract that size with that kind of club control clearly showed the Rockets knew there was unique and significant risk here.
After KPJ signed the extension, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko summarized the Rockets view of Porter Jr. – “As has been [their] stance for months, the Rockets have maintained the notion that Porter is a priority and is considered a huge part of their core, along with Green and Jabari Smith Jr.”
The Rockets actions to kick off the 2022-23 season showed exactly that – that he was a priority. They benched Sengun to start the season, in large part to give KPJ a “lob threat” and defender in the starting lineup. They gave him the superstar “Harden Locker”. They introduced him last in the starting lineups. They treated him as the star and empowered him to be the self-proclaimed “Head Honcho” of Clutch City.
But the extension proved unwise and foolish. Porter Jr. never even made it to the first year of it. With over $80 million on the line, he snapped again. The Rockets signed him to one of the team-friendliest deals ever and still managed to both overcommit and overpay as Stone now scrambles to attach real assets to it to get another team to take it off his books.
Is it fair to question the judgment of the Rockets front office? Absolutely and without question. Whether you look at their ability to value character, evaluate risk, scout basketball, build culture, manage assets or allocate development resources, they failed at every level here. Why didn’t they act sooner? Why did they double down? Why didn’t they hold him accountable? Why did everybody in the league see it but them?
“We value the player and the person that [Kevin Porter Jr.] is becoming and are eager to invest in him and his journey,” said Stone after rewarding him with the extension less than a year ago.
The question you have to ask yourself now is, with all they knew and witnessed about Porter Jr. both on and off the court — why were they eager at all?
Three predictions for an important Rockets offseason
The 2023 offseason is critical for the Houston Rockets and here’s what we think will happen
We have almost arrived to the oasis.
For over two years, the “2023 Offseason” has been circled on the calendar as the turning point, the time when the Houston Rockets will switch gears and make winning a priority. With potentially $60 million in cap room and a top draft pick coming, this is the moment of truth that Rafael Stone and the Rockets front office pitched to the Fertittas when the rebuild began.
Does that mean the Rockets are going to magically start winning next season? Not necessarily. But it does mean we won’t see Daishen Nix run the point for 36 minutes in the name of player development. They want to win.
It’s very tough to know what will happen this offseason, given the unknown variables. The Rockets could land a top-two pick, which would bring them Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson, radically boosting their future. James Harden could opt to return, which also significantly boosts their near-term prospects.
But regardless of whether or not luck presents a “lifeboat” (Harden, Wemby, Scoot), here are some things I believe will happen.
Also, if you have been joining us in RocketsWatch all season, first of all, thank you! We greatly appreciate all the fan support this season. But if you’ve stuck around through a tough season, you know that none of this will come as a surprise. I have been talking about these predictions since January.
1. Rockets, Stephen Silas Will Part Ways
Stephen Silas is going to be let go this offseason.
The original plan was for Silas to coach this season and start the next, getting a shot once the Rockets were making winning their top priority. But the bar was low this season and he still fell short. There were several times where the team needed a stronger hand and it wasn’t there. The roster wasn’t built to win, but there is no argument to be made that coaching did anything to enhance the situation.
It’s important to point out that Silas got a raw deal, coming to Houston under different circumstances expecting to coach a veteran team. But this is the hand that was dealt and the Rockets have to play it. Silas may be a fine coach, but he’s not the right coach for this team and that’s all that matters at this stage.
Ownership was ready to move on by midseason, but a variety of factors have led to him finishing the year. But this is going to be it. They sorely need fresh eyes and a different voice.
Confidence Level: 100%
2. The Kevin Porter Jr. Starting Point Guard Experiment Will End
The Rockets got Kevin Porter Jr. for free from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2021, but he’s been anything but since.
Houston paid nearly $100 million to John Wall to stay at home so they could groom KPJ as their future point guard. They also signed Porter Jr to a team-friendly four-year deal despite the fact that a much more team-friendly restricted free agency was on deck.
Porter Jr. has gotten better and more comfortable at the lead guard spot in two-plus seasons, which could bode well for his future here, but it’s not near enough. He lacks ability to make advanced reads, which is one of the reasons the Rockets are dead last in corner three-point attempts. His tendency is to isolate, which is his strength, and that can create a lot of selfish basketball. In essence, the Rockets have been starting a pair of shooting guards.
The Rockets love them some KPJ, particularly Stone, so I’m not saying he’s done here. He could thrive in an alternate role, if he embraces it. But the Rockets want to make a leap next season, the first year they are on the hook to Oklahoma City for their first-round pick from the costly Russell Westbrook trade. You’re probably not going to make a bigger jump than by improving the on-court leader spot.
Confidence Level: 80%
3. Alperen Şengün Will Be Shopped
You either believe Alperen Sengun is the next Nikola Jokic or he’s a defensive liability that is too much trouble to build around. There doesn’t seem to be much in between.
Sengun is incredibly gifted offensively and is only 20 years old, so it’s very early. This is also the biggest offseason of his young career, where he won’t be preparing for EuroBasket and can specifically train for the NBA.
There is no evidence at all they are looking to trade him. I’m very much going rogue with this prediction. But consider:
1. Internally he has been viewed as possibly the worst pick-and-roll defensive big in the league.
2. They started Bruno Fernando over him to open the season.
3. They rarely run the offense through him (“ŞenHub”).
4. The Rockets are not well-positioned with future draft picks to trade and likely need to move a good young player if they’re looking at any significant deals.
5. They believe bringing in a center is a high priority (though that could be as a backup to Sengun).
To be clear, I’m not predicting Sengun will be dumped but rather we will hear his name floated in rumors. A lot could change — a new coach could see Alpi as key to the future, for example — but right now, given all the factors listed above, I would be surprised if Sengun is the centerpiece of this rebuild. I think he’s more likely the trade piece.
Confidence Level: 60%
Mike D’Antoni: The Rockets isolation offense wasn’t pretty, but it was effective
Former Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni made an appearance on the Thinking Basketball podcast to discuss his career, and he went into his stretch with the Houston Rockets (2016-2020).
One of the big topics discussed was the isolation sets that the Rockets ran often and why they did it.
“If that one-on-one was not efficient, we wouldn’t do it,” said D’Antoni. “But it was doing, if I’m not mistaken, 1.2-something (points per possession) ridiculous. 1.16, for a long time, was the standard of the best offense an NBA team had. We kind of blew that out of the water a little bit (at) 1.20, but our isolation game was like 1.25, 1.24, so it was like — why wouldn’t we isolate?”
The former Rockets coach admitted it was not the most pleasing offense to the eye.
“People don’t like it,” said D’Antoni. “Aesthetically it’s not good. I don’t love it. I would rather pass the ball around. And if I had a team that didn’t have James Harden, guess what? We’d be passing the ball around… It wasn’t pretty. People can complain. But when you have the most efficient offense in NBA history, or close to it, why wouldn’t you do it? Just because you want to look pretty?”
D’Antoni talked about how good the Rockets second units were in the 2017-18 season because of Chris Paul, citing how often the Rockets boosted their lead or turned a deficit into an advantage when they turned to the bench.
“Chris was just a maestro at running our offense, and doing it a little bit (Steve) Nash-like,” said D’Antoni. “Harden had to do it like Harden did it, but both of them were good. Both of them were perfect.”
D’Antoni said part of the reason for the iso sets was he wanted to maximize James Harden and make him “the best player he can possibly be.”
“James is one of the smartest players — and there are a bunch of them — that I ever coached,” said D’Antoni. “I thought probably two or three years there, he had a complete mastery of the game. He went over 50 I don’t know how many times in a row. We were banged up one night and I said, ‘James, you might have to get 50 tonight for us to even have a chance to win.’ He gets 60 and we win. Stuff like that. He was able to do stuff (that)… just a mastery of the game.”
On how close the Rockets were to winning a title, said D’Antoni, “I thought we had it, the third year until Chris went down. Maybe not. Who knows, because Golden State had hearts of champions. Those guys are hard to beat. But I thought we had a good chance at it, that’s for sure.”
Why Alperen Sengun will come off the bench
With Bruno Fernando expected to start, here’s the plan for the Rockets second-year center
When the Rockets traded Christian Wood, it was crystal clear that Alperen Şengün was the new starting center for the Houston Rockets.
As we’re on the cusp of the Rockets 2022-23 season opener, there’s only one problem — he’s not.
Bruno Fernando is expected to get the starting nod at the five for the Rockets, leaving many to wonder why the second-year center out of Turkey is coming off the bench.
There are a couple reasons why.
First, the Rockets are trying to optimize their prospects, putting them each in the best position to succeed. In the case of Sengun, they want to leverage his passing skillset by making him an offensive hub. That’s difficult to do when you have ball-dominant guards in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., who thrive out of isolation and are trying to make progress leading pick-and-rolls.
Fernando is a much more limited player, but he fits better right now with the starters because he screens/rolls hard and plays above the rim as an alleyoop threat — it’s been fairly apparent in the preseason how the guards use him. While not a great defender, Fernando also is more of a rim protector than Sengun.
Secondly, Sengun needs to adapt more to the NBA game. The Rockets very much believe in his prospects — he’s only 20 years old — and they still consider him the best five on the roster. But the NBA is a much different game than EuroBasket, which is where he spent more of his offseason focus. The days of just dumping the ball into a post player seem to be dwindling in the NBA. He’s got to get quicker, stronger, tougher — but most important of all, he’s got to shoot the ball better from range.
In a culture where coming off the “bench” is considered a demerit (it shouldn’t be), you have to explain the reasons why — but keep in mind, his minutes will still be significant. I expect he will likely get in the 24-26 range this year, an increase over the 20.7 he got last season. He’s still going to have plenty of opportunity to develop.
My two cents: I give the Rockets props for doing this so early. It’s been apparent to me that the Rockets have multiple players who would be considered secondary playmakers, and to maximize their skills, they need the ball in their hands (imagine if the Rockets drafted Paolo Banchero … grateful every day that Jabari fell to #3!). This hopefully allows for that. Playing Sengun off the bench gives you an opportunity to play a variety of ways and also covers up a current deficiency at backup point guard.
I don’t want to watch Sengun follow the guards around — I want to watch peak Sengun running offensive sets.
Overall, I like it — let’s get the season going.