The Rockets have not decided whether to exercise the team option on Kostas Papanikolaou‘s contract or try to re-sign him as a free agent, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Rockets VP Gersson Rosas told Feigen the team is still mulling both options, though they want the 6’9” forward back.
This contradicts a recent report by Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia that the team had already decided to exercise the team option. Still, Papanikolaou’s salary of nearly $4.798MM wouldn’t become guaranteed until October 4th, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders first revealed, even if Houston indeed picks up its team option by the deadline, which is June 29th unless the sides negotiated an earlier date.
The Rockets would still retain his Non-Bird rights to re-sign him if they declined the option. He would then become a restricted free agent if they extended a qualifying offer of close to $6MM, but that qualifying offer would entail guaranteed salary. If the Rockets don’t extend a qualifying offer, they would have to renounce his rights to rid themselves of his cap hold of more than $5.757MM. Thus, picking up the option would give the Rockets the most flexibility possible, while still allowing them to have the final say on whether Papanikolaou plays for them next season.
Papanikolaou cracked the rotation in the first half of last season but the acquisition of Josh Smith limited his minutes the rest of the way. He averaged 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds in 24.6 minutes per game before Smith joined the team and 2.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG and just 12.1 MPG in 21 appearances afterward.