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With Lin and Asik still in Houston, Parsons may find his payday delayed

With the Rockets unable to move Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons seems unlikely to get his new contract until 2015.

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Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin

The presence of Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik on the Houston payroll could impact the timing of Chandler Parsons’ eventual contract extension with the Rockets.

Five months ago, I touted the merits of giving Chandler Parsons a long-term contract in July 2014. He’s certainly made his case for it on the floor this year, with his points, field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free-throw percentage, rebounds, assists and overall efficiency (PER) all rising relative to last season.

But with the trade deadline passing without a major move, it’s time to contradict myself and explain why that scenario no longer makes sense for the Rockets, who now seem likely to delay Parsons’ extension until July 2015.

With Parsons playing at a low annual salary of just over $900,000, the Rockets have room for three max or near-max salaries around him. Right now, those slots are for James Harden, Dwight Howard and a combination of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who between them take up $16.7 million per year in cap space.

The first two slots, of course, are ideal. But in a league that values quality over quantity, general manager Daryl Morey and the Rockets would prefer to use that remaining $16.7 million on a third “star” player, rather than divided up between two good players. Morey recently expressed his belief that the Rockets “don’t have our third-best player on a championship team yet”.

When I wrote my initial Parsons story in September, the top bullet point was “the Rockets should acquire more key players before mid-2015”. Suddenly, that no longer appears likely. Morey tried desperately to move Asik in December, but couldn’t find an acceptable deal. Respected NBA reporters including Marc Spears and Zach Lowe reported last week that the Rockets also tried to move Lin before the February 20 trade deadline, ultimately to no avail.

Will both Asik and Lin play out their contracts in Houston, which expire after the 2015 season? It remains to be seen. But after the recent failed attempts at trading each, one thing appears clear: a package involving one or both of those players does not carry enough value on the NBA marketplace to net a third “star” in return. Without that, the Rockets appear best suited to hold off on any long-term commitments for the time being – including with Parsons.

The two contract scenarios

David Weiner has done a great job breaking down the math for us. Here’s a quick rundown. The 2014 scenario, which means declining the option for 2014-15 and allowing Parsons to hit restricted free agency this summer, would give the Rockets the right to match any outside offers and likely result in a more team-friendly deal.

Meanwhile, the 2015 route would give Houston one more season of cheap labor ($964,750) from Parsons along with a miniscule July 2015 cap hold of approximately $1.8 million. The downside to this scenario, of course, is that Parsons would be an unrestricted free agent, and other teams would be more likely to offer a higher overall dollar amount.

For his part, Morey played it coy when asked in a recent Q&A with season-ticket holders.

“With Chandler, we have an interesting decision,” said Morey. “At the end of this year, we can turn down his option. People wonder why, because it’s so cheap, but then he’d be a restricted free agent. Or he can go through his fourth year and be an unrestricted free agent. There are advantages to each, so it’s something we’ll continue to talk about.

“He’s going to make a lot of money on his next contract,” Morey added. “We don’t know how much. But we’re committed to keeping him.”

Kevin Love could be an attractive free agent in 2015.

Kevin Love is probably the most attractive option for the Rockets in the July 2015 free agency scenario.

Star search

We’ve long heard that 2015 free agency is important to the Rockets, with a class headlined by Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge — two power forwards with range and potential dream fits. To put it simply, if Parsons is extended this summer, signing a top free agent in 2015 is no longer an option.

The Rockets already have over $38 million in guaranteed 2015-16 salaries, just between Harden and Howard. Add in a base salary of around $9 million for Parsons and minimum cap holds ($500K each) for the remainder of the roster, and the Rockets would already have over $50 million in committed salary. To put it in perspective, the salary cap is at $58.6 million this season. Even if Asik and Lin are allowed to expire, there would not be room to make a major 2015 free agent signing if Parsons has already been extended.

To be fair, there are two ways in which the Rockets could extend Parsons this summer and eventually still acquire a third star. But upon exploring both options, it’s clear that both are unlikely.

Route 1 is 2014 free agency. The Rockets aren’t currently projected to have cap space this summer, when free agents could include LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh. But it doesn’t mean Morey won’t try. If Asik and Lin were traded to a team with cap space in June or July of this year, the Rockets could come close to affording a top 2014 free agent while simultaneously pushing Parsons into restricted free agency and locking him up long-term at a cheaper rate.

That said, this plan seems improbable for two reasons. First and foremost is the “balloon payment” issue. Despite the fact that Lin and Asik would each take up just $8.3 million/year in cap space, they are due $15 million/year in 2014-15 in real dollars, all owing to the contract structure Morey used to pry them away from the Knicks and Bulls as restricted free agents in 2012. Reports earlier this season said the high 2014-15 price tags were a stumbling block for rival owners in potential deals, even when offset by smaller current salaries ($5.2 million). As such, it would seem even less likely to find homes for Lin and Asik when they lack a “cheap year” to offset the balloon payment year.

It’s worth noting that the circumstances wouldn’t be identical to Morey’s trade proposals during the season, in which the Rockets likely asked for at least some rotation value in return. After all, the team as currently constructed is a legitimate championship contender, and losing Asik and Lin for nothing but future cap space would’ve been a crippling short-term blow. Morey would seem more likely to make a “cap space” deal in the summer, when he could more immediately reap the benefits.

The problem, however, is that the timing of such a move may not make sense for the other team. If a team theoretically has the cap space for Asik or Lin, they would also likely have room to go after the LeBron/Carmelo/Bosh tier. So why would they use cap space on Asik and/or Lin before even trying for bigger fish? And if they wait until after, the value of a “cap space” trade goes away for the Rockets, since the big free agents would be off the board. It’s not impossible, as evidenced by Golden State’s salary-shedding deal with Utah last July to make room for Andre Igoudala, but the odds are long.

Could Carmelo Anthony's departure from Denver be a road map for future free agency-driven trades?

Carmelo Anthony’s departure from Denver in February 2011 could become a road map for future free agency-driven trades.

Route 2 would be to trade for a third star, either this summer or during next season. It’s possible that if Minnesota and Portland feel uncomfortable with their chances of keeping Love and Aldridge, they could trade them before the 2015 deadline. That would allow those teams to avoid potentially losing their franchise players for nothing, as the Lakers did with Howard last summer.

But for the Rockets to make the salary math work in a potential trade, both Asik and Lin would have to be involved. After failed attempts at trading each this season, I don’t see how Morey could be confident that an Asik/Lin-centered deal would ultimately be the preferred offer by one of those teams. In fact, one of the only plausible ways the Rockets could make a “star trade” next season would seem to be if Love or Aldridge used the Rockets’ cap room as leverage against other teams in negotiations, thus scaring away other suitors on the logic that the player is bound for Houston regardless (think back to Carmelo and the Nuggets/Knicks deal in 2011).

If Parsons is extended this summer, that option would essentially be off the table.

2015 carries minimal risk for all parties

On the surface, unrestricted free agency sounds scary. For Parsons, it means having to wait one more year to finally get his deserved payday. For the Rockets, it means exposing Parsons to the rest of the league as an unrestricted free agent and potentially having to pay a huge amount to retain him.

But when you actually go through the logistics, it makes at least some sense for all involved.

For Parsons, whatever value he loses by playing one more “cheap year” could be recouped (and perhaps even more so) by the higher market price he could command as an unrestricted free agent in July 2015. He’s also proven quite durable throughout his young career, so injury risk isn’t significant.

For the Rockets, the team in place now would mitigate any risk that Parsons would actually want to leave. Parsons is loved in Houston and is seen as the leader of a cohesive, young and contending team. If money is equal, why would he want to go elsewhere? Sure, Parsons and his agent would likely shop around the league for the best offer – before ultimately going back to Houston and giving them the opportunity to match (much like Goran Dragic’s free agency in July 2012).

But unlike when the Rockets decided to let Dragic go, they wouldn’t still be in the process of building a contender and needing to retain flexibility. Here, they already have one. So if Houston must overpay to keep Parsons, so be it. With Harden, Howard and a hypothetical third star in place, it’s not as if the Rockets would need to save that cap space. They’d already be capped out regardless.

If Les Alexander is willing to spend to keep a contender together – and by all accounts, he is – a potential “overpay” of Parsons in 2015 isn’t something the Rockets should be overly concerned with.

In fact, if the cards are played right, it could be the cherry on top of a potential Houston dynasty.

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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