SATURDAY, 11:19am: The Rockets have formally announced the signing (on Twitter).
2:35pm: Rockets GM Daryl Morey took to Twitter to welcome Harrell to the Rockets, so presumably that means he’s signed.
FRIDAY, 9:46am: The Rockets will sign Harrell to a contract worth $3.1MM over three years today, a source tells Feigen (Twitter link). It’ll include no option years or non-guaranteed salary, Feigen also hears. Still unclear is what Harrell will make this coming season, a figure that will determine how much the Rockets have left beneath their hard cap.
WEDNESDAY, 7:37am: Harrell is close to signing, but the sides are still hammering out some details, in spite of what McHale said, according to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). They do have agreement on the main parts of the deal, Feigen adds.
10:45pm: Rockets coach Kevin McHale said Harrell has signed with the team, Mark Berman of Fox 26 tweets.
11:45am: The sides have reached an agreement in principle, sources tell Spears (Twitter link).
TUESDAY, 11:02am: The Rockets and No. 32 overall pick Montrezl Harrell are finalizing a three-year deal, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link). The three-year length means the team is using its mid-level exception and will be hard-capped, as I explained in detail earlier. Houston won’t be able to carry a payroll of more than $88.74MM at any point this season once the deal with the Rich Paul client becomes official. The team already has $86,180,389 in guaranteed salary, according to Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders. It’s not immediately clear how much more the deal for Harrell will add to the total, but regardless, the Rockets won’t have much breathing room beneath the hard cap.
No. 31 pick Cedi Osman, the top pick of the second round, is unsigned, while No. 33 pick Jordan Mickey will receive a guarantee of nearly $1.171MM this season in the first year of the four-year contract he signed with the Celtics. No. 30 pick Kevon Looney will make a guaranteed $1,131,960 this season, though his salary was determined by the rookie scale that applies to first-rounders but not second-rounders. So, it would seem that Harrell is in range for a salary of around $1.1MM to $1.2MM, leaving as little as about $1.36MM beneath that hard cap for the Rockets.
Negotiations between the Rockets and Harrell’s camp have largely been quiet, with a late-August dispatch from Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com indicating the sides were talking the only substantive update since the draft in June. Still, it seemed the Rockets were doing what they could to clear the decks for a Harrell signing, breaking off their deal with Chuck Hayes, who later signed with the Clippers, and apparently also having undone their agreement to sign undrafted power forward Christian Wood, who inked with the Sixers instead. Both Hayes and Wood were to receive partial guarantees from the Rockets that would have counted against a hard cap.
Houston could have signed Harrell using the minimum salary exception and avoided the hard cap, but that would have entailed a salary of just $525,093 this season, one that Harrell and Paul were unlikely to have accepted, unless it came in the form of a one-year deal. The Rockets had to make a tender of a non-guaranteed one-year contract for the minimum salary by September 5th, and while signing that would have meant a short-term financial sacrifice for Harrell, he would have hit restricted free agency next summer just as K.J. McDaniels, last year’s No. 32 overall pick, did this year. McDaniels wound up re-signing with the Rockets on a deal worth $10MM over three years, the sort of price Houston probably wants to avoid paying to keep Harrell.
The Rockets instead appear to have averted that scenario at the cost of flexibility for this season. Harrell will presumably become the team’s 14th player with a fully guaranteed deal. Four others are on non-guaranteed deals, as our roster count shows, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Houston elect not to carry 15 players for opening night, given the team’s financial squeeze. Teams can have between 13 and 15 players during the regular season.
Do you think the Rockets made the right decision to control Harrell for three years and hard cap themselves for this season? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.