Rockets Notes: Oladipo, Robinson-Earl, Boban, Brooks, Landale

There’s “little” belief among NBA personnel that Victor Oladipo will be able to play much – if at all – during the 2023/24 season as he continues to recover from a torn patellar tendon in his left knee, per Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Kelly Iko and John Hollinger of The Athletic agree that Oladipo will likely be sidelined for most or all of the coming season.

However, a source with knowledge of the the team’s plans tells The Athletic that the Rockets intend to keep Oladipo under contract until February’s deadline if they can’t trade him before then.

As Hollinger explains, being able to use Oladipo’s expiring $9.45MM contract in a subsequent trade was Houston’s prime motivating factor for giving up two second-round picks in its deal with Oklahoma City. The thinking is that the Rockets will be able to carry Oladipo well into the season if necessary, which may not have been a viable path with Kevin Porter Jr., given the optics of his domestic assault charges and the fact that his partial guarantee for 2024/25 would have increased if he remained under contract through opening night.

While Oladipo may make a better trade chip at this point than Porter, the 31-year-old’s knee injury means that he won’t have positive value either. If the Rockets want to acquire a rotation player using his expiring salary, they’ll have to give up additional assets beyond the two second-round picks they surrendered to land him.

Alec Burks and Talen Horton-Tucker are among the potential trade targets that have already been connected to Houston.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • With Oladipo considered likely to be on Houston’s regular season roster, it’s possible Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who was acquired from the Thunder in the same trade, will be the odd man out for a Rockets team that has 16 players on standard contracts, according to Hollinger. Alperen Sengun and Jock Landale are expected to be the club’s top two centers, so Robinson-Earl and Boban Marjanovic, who has a minimum-salary contract that’s partially guaranteed for $1.3MM, could be vying for the 15th regular season roster spot as well as the third center role, Hollinger speculates.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Iko explores the impact that free agent addition Dillon Brooks is having on the Rockets’ defensive mindset. The feisty forward is earning praise from his teammates and head coach Ime Udoka. “Dillon’s been great,” Udoka said. “We want to challenge our younger guys to defend at a higher level, and I think bringing in the right personnel, the right veterans, has been crucial to that. Not only them pulling guys aside and giving them pointers but directly watching them on the court. To have those guys gives us versatility and raises the expectations of the whole group.”
  • Landale, who injured his left ankle in a World Cup tune-up game in August, still isn’t feeling quite like his old self, but he’s getting closer to full strength, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscription required). “It’s a rehab process. It’s going to be a little bit a little bit before I’m back 100% healthy,” Landale said, referring to the ankle sprain as a “significant” injury. “But I feel I’m in a good spot where I can play, play competitively. I just want to be the me of last year.”
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