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Houston Rockets Salary Cap Update: 2013 Training Camp Edition

David Weiner breaks down the Rockets’ new salary cap reality and ways they can still improve the team.

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What a difference a year makes.

Chandler Parsons Dwight Howard James Harden and Jeremy Lin

Those two guys in the middle weren’t with the Rockets this time last year

At this time last year, the Houston Rockets sported a young roster long on trade assets but short on star talent.  The marquee name on the roster was the recently-acquired Jeremy Lin (whose track record consisted of a few short weeks of “Lin-sanity” and not much else), and the roster was otherwise headed by the likes of Kevin Martin (scorer extraordinaire and “everything else” not-so-extraordinaire), Chandler Parsons (a solid second round pick with “quality role player” potential) and new starting center Omer Asik (he of the 3.1 point-per-game average the prior season in Chicago).  Add in a slew of young power forwards, including one (Royce White) making news for not showing up to training camp, and the Rockets weren’t exactly looking like playoff contenders, let alone title contenders.

Then, everything changed.

Rockets GM Daryl Morey pulled off a blockbuster trade with Oklahoma City for James Harden (cashing in several of those aforementioned trade assets) and immediately signed Harden to a five-year maximum salary extension (by no means a “no-brainer” to all at the time but an educated gamble on Harden’s upside).  Morey and the Rockets were rewarded for their faith in Harden, as he put together an All-Star season and repeatedly flashed the offensive talents that will keep him in the All-Star Game for years to come.  Parsons continued to exceed expectations and established himself as a young player on the rise with potential to become far more than just a role player.  Asik also surpassed all expectations, averaging a double-double and providing the Rockets’ defense with the anchor it so badly needed.  Lin, after a rough start while trying to recover from off-season knee surgery, gradually improved and played at a high level during the final few months of the season.

Add all that up, and the Rockets–with one superstar already in tow and the salary cap flexibility that Morey and his staff worked so hard to maintain–established themselves as a desirable free agent destination for other star players.

After a recruiting effort the likes of which has never been seen in Houston pro sports history, the Rockets successfully landed Dwight Howard to continue the franchise’s long line of dominant centers.

With the Rockets now sporting two superstars and legitimate title hopes for the first time since those two weeks when both Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming were healthy way back when, let’s take a look at the team’s current salary cap situation.

The Rockets’ Latest Moves
Since my last update, the Rockets have made the following roster moves (which include updated details from my last blog post on July maneuvers):

  • Traded Thomas Robinson to the Portland Trailblazers in exchange for the draft rights to Kostas Papanikolaou (regarded by many as a first round talent) and Marko Todorovic, a 2015 second round pick being the lesser of Minnesota’s or Denver’s, and essentially Portland’s 2017 second round pick.
  • Dumped… er, traded Royce White, the draft rights to Furkan Aldemir and enough cash to cover White’s 2013-14 salary to Sam Hinkie and the Philadelphia 76ers for a 2014 second round pick (not-so-shockingly, that pick is top-55 protected and has pretty much zero chance of amounting to anything).
  • Renounced the rights to free agents Francisco Garcia ($9.15 million cap hold) and Earl Boykins ($884,293 cap hold).
  • Waived James Anderson and Tim Ohlbrecht, both of whom were claimed off waivers by Hinkie and the 76ers.
  • Signed that Howard guy to a four-year, $87.6 million deal with a player option in Year 4.  You may have heard about the signing.
  • With respect to the three remaining incomplete roster charges, Houston used an equivalent amount of room ($490,180) to sign each of Robert Covington, B.J. Young and Jordan Henriquez to three-year contracts, each starting at the rookie minimum.  Covington’s deal is reportedly fully guaranteed in Year 1 and partially guaranteed in Year 2 for $150,000; Young’s deal has a $40,000 partial guarantee in Year 1; and Henriquez’s deal is totally non-guaranteed.
  • Signed 2013 second round draft pick Isaiah Canaan to a three-year deal using every last penny of cap room remaining after the Howard signing.  Canaan’s deal pays him $570,515 in Year 1 (paying the league minimum thereafter), is fully guaranteed in Years 1 and 2, and is 80% guaranteed in Year 3.
  • Signed Omri Casspi to a two-year league minimum deal.  Year 1 is fully guaranteed; Year 2 is non-guaranteed if Casspi is waived by August 5, 2014.
  • Signed Reggie Williams to a two-year league minimum deal.  Year 1 is 50% guaranteed (until January 10, 2014); Year 2 is non-guaranteed if Williams is waived by September 1, 2014.
  • Re-signed Garcia to a two-year, fully guaranteed league minimum deal, with a (gulp!) player option for Year 2.  The player option was presumably to reward Garcia for not demanding that the team use its Room Exception to re-sign him.  The Rockets will have full Bird rights to Garcia after this season if he does not exercise his player option; and, as a player playing on a (potential) one-year deal who could lose his Bird rights if traded, Garcia possesses the right to veto any trade involving him this season.
  • Re-signed Aaron Brooks to a one-year, fully guaranteed league minimum deal.  Brooks will be paid $1,027,424 this season.  However, as a veteran with more than two years of service playing on a one-year deal, the Rockets will only pay Brooks–and he will only count against the cap for–the two-year veteran’s minimum ($884,293).  The NBA will pick up the rest of the tab.  Also, the Rockets will have Early Bird rights to Brooks after this season; and, just like Garcia, Brooks has the right to veto any trade involving him this season.
  • Signed Marcus Camby to a one-year, fully guaranteed league minimum deal.  Camby will be paid $1,399,507 this season.  However, as with Brooks, the Rockets’ payment and cap hit for Camby will only be $884,293, with the league picking up the rest.
  • Signed Ronnie Brewer to a two-year league minimum deal.  Year 1 is partially guaranteed for $100,000, and Year 2 is presumably non-guaranteed (with the guarantee date not yet known).

Salary Commitments and Available Cap Room
(All salaries and contract information courtesy of ShamSports.com.)

The short answer here is that the Rockets do not currently have any remaining cap room this season and are unlikely to have much (if any) cap room this season or next (unless a trade involving either Lin or Asik is made that brings back little to no salary, an unlikely proposition).

Barring any further roster moves (which we will see as players are cut and the team finalizes the 15-man roster), and with the maximum team salary cap set this season at $58.679 million, the Houston Rockets now have nearly $64.8 million in team salary committed for the 2013-14 season: Howard ($20.51 million), Harden ($13.70 million), Lin ($8.37 million cap hit), Asik ($8.37 million cap hit), Terrence Jones ($1.55 million), Donatas Motiejunas ($1.42 million), Garcia ($1,265,977), Brewer ($1,186,459, partially guaranteed), Casspi ($947,907), Williams ($947,907, partially guaranteed), Parsons ($926,250), Camby ($884,293 cap hit), Brooks ($884,293 cap hit), Greg Smith ($884,293, non-guaranteed), Patrick Beverley ($788,872, non-guaranteed), Canaan ($570,515), Covington ($490,180), Young ($490,180, partially guaranteed), Henriquez ($490,180, non-guaranteed), and Tyler Honeycutt (waived – $100,000 partial guarantee).

Note that the Rockets were able to exceed the salary cap to sign Garcia, Brewer, Casspi, Williams, Camby and Brooks, in each case using the Minimum Player Salary Exception.  Remarkably, Morey and company have been able to assemble this roster without dipping into their Room Exception.

The Rockets are well below the luxury tax threshold and should be able to acquire additional salary this season (within the salary cap rules) without fear of the new punitive tax (which now starts at 150% and escalates quickly).

The Room Exception
There is one type of Mid-Level Exception (MLE)–commonly referred to as the Room Exception–available to teams that get below the salary cap and subsequently use most or all of that room.  This salary cap exception rewards those teams able to manage their cap situations effectively.  Under the prior CBA, only teams operating above the cap (and which did not open up any cap room that season) were entitled to use the MLE.

The amount of the Room Exception for the 2013-14 season is $2.652 million; and teams using the Room Exception can sign players to contracts up to two years in length (with a 4.5% raise for Year 2).  Starting on January 10, the MLE (all types) begins to reduce in value by 1/170th (there are 170 days in the NBA regular season).  Unlike the veteran’s minimum salary (which prorates from the beginning of the regular season), the MLE allows a team to provide a disproportionately larger salary to players if signed in the middle of the season.

Given the sheer number of players under contract this summer (19 out of the maximum 20 allowed) and the need to cut down to 15 players by the start of the regular season, it is unlikely that the Rockets will add a player with the Room Exception this month.  However, expect Morey to keep close tabs on the top remaining free agents and any talented players waived or released by their teams during the season.  For instance, if a team fails to dump salary by the February trade deadline and subsequently negotiates a buyout with a solid veteran, the Rockets could use the Room Exception to sign such player on March 1 for a starting salary of $1,887,600 (compared to a prorated amount of less than 28% of the veteran’s minimum salary with teams over the cap and/or seeking to mitigate luxury tax payments).

To play on a contending Rockets club featuring Harden and Howard, almost any of the top available players will have to strongly consider Houston as a destination come February or March.

Cap Consequences Immaterial to Roster Decisions
Due to the Rockets’ aforementioned cap situation (being above the cap, with no expectation of having much cap room through the 2014-15 season), it is not expected that salary cap consequences will play much of a factor in trimming the roster from the current 19 players in camp down to the required 15-man maximum by the start of the regular season.  Other than Howard, Harden, Asik and Lin, Houston has no real cap reason (irrespective of talent) to keep any of its players on the roster over any other.

Daryl Morey

Daryl Morey grins about the Rockets once again being in “WIN NOW” mode

Unlike in years past–such as in 2011, when Jonny Flynn was kept on the roster over Lin and Hasheem Thabeet made the team over Smith–the Rockets will not be hamstrung by the need to preserve/optimize salary cap flexibility in making its roster decisions.  In 2011, the Rockets were primarily motivated to keep Flynn and Thabeet (both of whom had mid- to large-sized expiring salaries) on the roster in order to facilitate–for salary-matching purposes–a major trade for that star player Houston so desperately needed.  (Flynn and Thabeet ended up being packaged at the February 2012 trade deadline for Camby, a valuable rotation piece who helped the Rockets nearly make the playoffs.)

The following is a list of the amounts of guaranteed salary that would be owed to each Rockets player in camp (other than the Howard/Harden/Asik/Lin quartet) if that player were to be cut prior to the start of the regular season:

Garcia – $2,582,786 (including $1,316,809 after this season)

Canaan – $2,144,818 (including $1,574,303 after this season)

Jones – $1,551,840

Motiejunas – $1,422,720

Casspi – $947,907

Parsons – $926,500

Brooks – $884,293

Camby – $884,293

Covington – $640,180 (including $150,000 after this season)

Williams – $473,954

Brewer – $100,000

Young – $40,000

Smith – $0

Beverley – $0

Henriquez – $0

Cutting any of these players would not materially impact the Rockets’ cap situation.  Of these players, only Garcia, Canaan and Covington would even count against the cap beyond this season.  (If the Rockets so elected, the portions of Garcia’s and Covington’s salaries owed after this season could be stretched over 3 seasons, and the portion of Canaan’s salary owed after this season could be stretched over 5 seasons.)  Obviously, there is no way the Rockets would cut a key rotation piece like Parsons or Beverley; but talent aside, there is little financial reason to keep any of these 15 players over any other.

The result of all this is that the Rockets’ front office and coaching staff are liberated, in a sense, in making the roster decisions that will most greatly benefit the organization and the team on the floor, for this season and beyond.

Conclusion
From “rag-tag band of young kids and trade assets” to “title contender with two superstars,” the Houston Rockets have undergone a remarkable transformation over the past year.  What makes this transformation even better is that the Rockets still sport all of their future first round picks, several additional future second round picks from other teams, and the rights to at least two players currently playing overseas (Sergio Llull and Papanikolaou) who could potentially be rotation pieces.  The Rockets also have the ability to offer free agents the full Non-Taxpayer MLE next summer (for up to four years, $22.65 million) if they choose not to wait to use the potentially significant cap room they could have in 2015.

Add it all up, and the Houston Rockets are primed to contend for the next several seasons.

Houston Rockets

Podcast: Houston Rockets options with the #3 pick of the 2024 NBA Draft

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Houston Rockets 2024 NBA Draft prospects Zaccharie Risacher Stephon Castle Reed Sheppard Donovan Clingan

The offseason is now underway.

The forecast looks good for the Houston Rockets, but… there’s pressure as well this offseason because there are a handful of other West teams that might have rosier futures. Ime Udoka wants to win and win big. As we are about five weeks away from the NBA Draft, what are the Rockets looking to do this summer?

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Rockets shockingly landing the #3 pick and their options in this draft, including Reed Sheppard, Donovan Clingan, Zaccharie Risacher, Stephon Castle, Matas Buzelis and others. They also discuss the possibility of some big game hunting in Houston.


CLUTCHFANS PODCAST: SPOTIFY | APPLE

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Podcast: Steven Adams, Mikal Bridges and Trade Possibilities for the Rockets

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Houston Rockets Trade Deadline 2024

The Houston Rockets already made one deal, acquiring center Steven Adams from Memphis for a handful of second-round picks, but we still have several days left before this Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline.

Are more deals on the way?

Rumors of interest in Mikal Bridges have swirled, with the Rockets holding precious (and unprotected) first-round picks from Brooklyn. They also could use some help inside this season, which Adams can not provide. Shooting is always in demand.

David Weiner joined Dave Hardisty on the ClutchFans podcast to discuss the Adams trade, its impact on the Rockets in 2024-25 and beyond, the Mikal Bridges rumors, the Brooklyn picks, other trade possibilities and options for Rafael Stone moving forward. Also discussed is the play of Houston’s core 6 prospects: Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Alperen Sengun, Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason and Jalen Green.


CLUTCHFANS PODCAST: SPOTIFY | APPLE

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Rockets trade for center Steven Adams

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Steven Adams Houston Rockets

The Rockets made a surprise trade on Thursday, sending the contract of Victor Oladipo and three second-round picks to Memphis for center Steven Adams.

The deal came together quickly and the Rockets had a small window to get it done, hence why this trade was made with a week to go until the trade deadline.

The Price

When you consider that Memphis did this for cost savings primarily and that Adams would not play for any team in the league this season, the price seemed a little high to me. The Rockets gave up the OKC second-round pick this year, which is no big loss, but they also give up the better of Brooklyn’s or Golden State’s second-round pick this season. That’s a pretty good pick (likely in the late 30’s). They also give up the better of Houston’s or OKC’s second-round pick in 2025. If things go as planned for the Rockets, that pick should be in the 45-55 range.

But they didn’t sacrifice a first-round pick, which would have been brutal, and they were not going to use all those seconds this season. So it’s just a matter of opportunity cost — who else could they have gotten for this package?

My understanding is they (particularly Ime Udoka) are very high on Adams.

The Rockets also did this move for cap purposes as well. By moving out the Oladipo contract, which was expiring, and bringing in Adams’ deal, which is signed for $12.4M next season, the window for the Rockets to put together a trade package for a star player is extended out until the 2025 trade deadline. They continue to wait to see which players, if any, shake loose here and become available. They want flexible (see: expiring) contracts that they can combine with assets and this gives them another year to be in that position.

The Trade

It’s not often that the Rockets acquire a player I had not considered beforehand but that’s the case with Steven Adams. The Rockets sorely need a big with size that provides more traditional center strengths, making Clint Capela, Robert Williams, Nick Richards or Daniel Gafford potential candidates, but Adams was overlooked for a few reasons.

First, the 30-year old big man is out for the season after knee surgery cost him the entire 2023-24 campaign, so the Rockets won’t get any benefit from this trade this season. Secondly, Adams is not your traditional center either when it comes to rim protection.

But what Adams does do, he’s really good at and he has some of the same strengths of Brook Lopez, who the Rockets tried to sign in the offseason. Adams is quite possibly the strongest guy in the league and a legitimate 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. He’s an outstanding screen-setter, something that could really benefit the likes of Fred VanVleet, Amen Thompson and Jalen Green. He was also an elite rebounder last season, finishing 6th in the league in caroms at 11.5 a game despite playing just 27.0 minutes a contest.

After watching Jonas Valanciunas absolutely bully the Rockets inside on Wednesday, it should be apparent by now to everyone that this was a pretty big need.

In 2021-22, the Memphis Grizzlies finished #2 in the West at 56-26. Their top two players in Net Rating that season were Dillon Brooks (+11.0) and Adams (+8.3), key cogs in a defense that held opponents to 108.6 points per 100 possessions. They’re both now Houston Rockets.

So this adds another trusted vet to Ime Udoka’s rotation.

The question is will the 30-year old Adams return to form after the knee injury? Adams sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee a year ago, which cost him the end of that season and the playoffs. He tried rehabbing it and it never got better, so surgery became the option just as this season was kicking off.

I like to think the Rockets did their due diligence on that, despite the short time it took for this deal to come together, but that’s unclear.

If he does bounce back, then Udoka has a big man he can turn to reliably in situational matchups or on nights when the younger bigs struggle. He wouldn’t be Boban or even Jock Landale in that scenario — he’s going to play, so the frontcourt depth in 2024-25 should be better. In the end, they got a starting-caliber center who will have no problems coming off the bench, and that’s what they were looking for.

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On the KPJ trade and future of the Rockets

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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.

ClutchFans Podcast: On Apple | Spotify

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Heavy investment in Kevin Porter Jr raises serious questions about Rockets front office

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Kevin Porter Jr. Rafael Stone

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?

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