Rockets Rumors

Texas Notes: Exum, Ntlikina, Rockets, Mavericks

In a tweet and Instagram video, Bobby Marks of ESPN breaks down the creative structure the Rockets employed for Dante Exum‘s contract, which was initially reported to be worth a fully non-guaranteed $15MM over three years.

The base salary for the first year is $2.5MM non-guaranteed, with $2.5MM in likely incentives. As Marks states in the video, Exum can earn $1MM for averaging 15.8 minutes per game and another $1.5MM for playing 15.8 MPG and recording a net rating of at least +2.7. Both incentives – which apply to all three seasons of the deal – are considered “likely” because Exum averaged 19.3 MPG with a +3.6 net rating in 2020/21.

The leaguewide salary guarantee date is January 10, so if Exum is still on the Rockets by that date his salary would be guaranteed and would be considered $5MM for trade purposes.

There’s more from Texas:

Community Shootaround: Who Gets Traded First, John Wall Or Ben Simmons?

Sixers star Ben Simmons has been in the NBA’s oddest situation all summer, but Rockets guard John Wall may have surpassed him this week.

Wall and Houston management have reportedly reached an agreement to work together to find him a new team, and he won’t play in any games until that happens. Wall will report to training camp and will remain around the team, but there are no plans for him to have any on-court action. Wall reportedly hasn’t asked for a trade, but at age 31 and with his history of injuries, he’s not in the long-term plans for the rebuilding Rockets.

The major impediment to dealing Wall is his contract, which will pay him $44.3MM this season, with a $47.4MM player option for 2022/23. Wall could theoretically make himself more tradable by agreeing to turn down the option in hopes of working out a long-term contract with his new team, just as Chris Paul did with the Suns.

Also limiting the market for Wall is his sparse playing time over the past three seasons, brought on by heel surgery and a ruptured Achilles tendon. He managed to play 40 games last season, averaging 20.7 points and 8.7 assists in 32.2 minutes per night, but wasn’t ever used in both games of back-to-back situations and was shut down in late April with a hamstring injury.

The Rockets are reportedly unwilling to part with multiple first-round picks as an incentive for a team to take Wall and are reluctant to take on unwanted long-term salaries, which further limits their options for finding a trade partner.

Simmons, of course, has been the subject of trade rumors since his baffling performance in the playoff loss to Atlanta. He took offense to comments made by coach Doc Rivers after the conclusion of that series and has threatened to hold out of training camp if the team doesn’t trade him by then.

The Kings, Timberwolves and Warriors have been among the teams most prominently mentioned as potential landing spots for Simmons, but sources say Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey has set a very steep asking price. Simmons is reportedly “in step” with Philadelphia’s efforts to move him, but has expressed a desire to go to the Lakers, Clippers or Warriors rather than a rebuilding organization.

Numerous reporters have expressed doubt about whether Wall or Simmons will be traded any time soon, but we want your opinion. Which of these players do you expect to wind up with a new team first? Please leave your answer in the comments section.

Rockets Sign Dante Exum, Waive Tyler Bey

The Rockets have officially re-signed guard Dante Exum and waived Tyler Bey to create a roster space for him, according to the NBA’s transactions log. Hoops Rumors’ JD Shaw was the first to report the Bey transaction (Twitter link).

The deal is expected to be for three years and could be worth up to $15MM, but it will be non-guaranteed and will be heavy on incentives, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter link). We’ll have to wait for more details on the agreement to get a sense of how much Exum will realistically earn if he makes the regular season roster.

With John Wall not expected to play for the team this season as it seeks to trade him, the Rockets were in the market for another point guard. The Rockets’ interest in Exum surfaced on Tuesday.

Exum’s career has been marred by major injuries since he was selected with the No. 5 overall pick by the Jazz in 2014. He was dealt to Cleveland in December 2019.

Exum ended up with the Rockets this past winter as part of the four-team James Harden trade, though injuries kept him on the bench for the entirety of his 2020/21 Houston tenure. He appeared in just six games for Cleveland last season.

Exum played a prominent role on Australia’s bronze medal-winning squad at the Tokyo Olympics, averaging 9.0 PPG and 2.8 APG.

Bey, a 6’7” forward, signed an Exhibit 10 contract with Houston on Aug. 25.

He was a high second-round selection in 2020 out of Colorado, taken with the 36th pick by the Sixers. He was included in the deal that sent Josh Richardson to the Mavericks for Seth Curry. Bey only played 18 games with the Mavs, and averaged just 3.9 minutes a game in those 18 contests, though he recorded 15.1 PPG and 9.2 RPG in the G League.

Eric Gordon Would Be Open To Trade

Rockets guard Eric Gordon hasn’t asked team management for a trade, but sources tell Kelly Iko of The Athletic that Gordon would be open to moving to a club closer to title contention.

Like fellow guard John Wall, Gordon is a veteran with multiple years left on his contract who likely doesn’t have a place in Houston’s long-term plans as the team pivots to a rebuild. The Rockets and Wall have reached an agreement to hold the point guard out of games while they seek a new home for him, but it doesn’t sound like it will come to that with Gordon.

As Iko details, the Rockets have communicated in meetings with Gordon’s representatives this offseason that they’ve love to have the shooting guard stick around. And Iko refers to the 32-year-old as a “consummate professional” who will play whatever role is asked of him and won’t push the team for a trade. Still, Gordon acknowledges that it will be a challenge playing for a retooling club after having gotten accustomed to contending for a championship.

“It’s tough for a person in my situation,” Gordon said. “It’s tough going from going to the Western Conference Finals against one of the best teams of all time and being very competitive each year. And now, it’s a restart with no high expectations at all. So it’s much different.

“… But my ultimate goal is to just go out there and play, help, show that I’m healthy and gravitate to these guys to get better.”

Gordon is under contract for three more years, but his final year is non-guaranteed, so he’s essentially only owed about $37.8MM over the next two seasons. That will make him much easier to move than Wall if the Rockets want to pursue a deal, though he’ll have to show he’s healthy first.

[RELATED: John Wall Situation May Not Be Resolved Anytime Soon]

In 2020/21, Gordon was limited to just 27 games due to knee and groin injuries. He has made it a priority to get back to 100% this offseason, in terms of both health and conditioning.

“Physically and mentally, I’m definitely in a good spot,” Gordon told Iko. “Looking forward to training camp with the team and don’t have to really worry about any setbacks or whatnot.”

When healthy, Gordon can still be an effective role player on a playoff team. Although he has struggled with his three-point shot during his last two injury-plagued seasons, he averaged 16.8 PPG with a .364 3PT% during his first three years in Houston from 2016-19. Last season, he recorded 17.8 PPG, but made just 32.9% of his threes.

John Wall Situation May Not Be Resolved Anytime Soon

The Rockets reportedly intend to hold John Wall out of games until they can find a new home for him, which suggests the team is hopeful that there’s a deal to be made in the not-so-distant future. However, a number of NBA reporters aren’t so sure that the Wall situation will be resolved anytime soon.

Appearing on ESPN (video link; hat tip to Clutch Points), Adrian Wojnarowski said he believes trading Wall will be “almost impossible” unless Houston is willing to attach multiple first-round picks, which the team has resisted thus far. Wojnarowski adds that he thinks Wall will be in Houston for “a while” unless the point guard becomes receptive to giving up a significant amount of salary in a buyout.

On the latest episode of his Lowe Post podcast, ESPN’s Zach Lowe also expressed skepticism that there’s a deal out there for Wall and his oversized contract (two years, $91.7MM). Lowe told fellow ESPN reporter Tim MacMahon that he expects we’ll be waiting a long time for a resolution, with an eventual buyout representing the most likely outcome.

“I think it’s, ‘Hurry up and wait until next summer,'” MacMahon responded, per RealGM. “I think that’s what ends up happening.”

These reports are hardly surprising. Wall’s $44.3MM cap hit for the 2021/22 season is difficult to match for most teams, especially since newly-signed contracts can’t be moved right away in trades. And the clubs that are in position to package two or three players to match Wall’s salary may not want to give up those players for a former All-Star who has been slowed by injuries in recent years and didn’t look quite like his old self in 2020/21.

If the situation does drag out for months, it will be interesting to see whether the Rockets reconsider their stance of having Wall sit out games for the entire 2021/22 season. While that may be the safe approach to keep him healthy, the 31-year-old could perhaps boost his trade value a little if he returns to the court and proves he can still be productive.

Latest On John Wall

The John Wall situation in Houston is nothing like the problem the team dealt with a year ago when James Harden forced his way out of town, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Whereas Harden had become frustrated with the organization and did all he could to be moved, Wall is comfortable in Houston and was viewed as a “valuable ally” to first-year head coach Stephen Silas last season, according to Iko.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN conveys a similar sentiment, writing that Wall’s relationship with team management and ownership is still strong, as all parties have remained in frequent contact throughout the offseason. Rockets sources told MacMahon that the club valued Wall’s leadership during the tumultuous Harden-related drama a year ago.

“(Wall’s) been a rock for us,” one source told ESPN. “He’s been great since he got here.”

Still, with Wall preferring the opportunity to compete for the playoffs and for a championship, and the Rockets focused on carving out enough playing time for all their young players, the two sides are no longer a great match, which is why they’ve mutually agreed to try to find Wall a new home. Rockets sources told MacMahon that the franchise wants to “do right” by its veteran players, as it did last season by sending Harden and P.J. Tucker to title contenders.

Here’s more on Wall and the Rockets:

  • Sam Amick and David Aldridge of The Athletic take a closer look at which teams might be potential fits for Wall and whether his contract (worth $91.7MM over the next two years) will prevent Houston from finding a taker. Neither Amick nor Aldridge could identify any obvious trade partners.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype wonders if the Thunder might be the best fit for Wall, since they’re the only team that could realistically take on his $44MM+ salary without sending out a ton of salary in return. However, the Rockets reportedly don’t want to give up first-round picks to move Wall, and Oklahoma City would likely require significant draft capital to seriously consider a deal.
  • In an Instagram video, Bobby Marks of ESPN runs through a few possible Wall suitors, explaining why it would be challenging for each of them to put together the $35MM+ in salaries needed to match Wall’s $44MM+ cap hit. As Marks points out, it will be even more difficult once the regular season begins and teams are only permitted to carry 15 players on standard contracts, since matching Wall’s salary may require a three- or four-for one structure, which would require Houston to waive multiple players.

Rockets Working Towards Re-Signing Dante Exum

The Rockets are nearing a deal to re-sign free agent reserve guard Dante Exum, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Charania had reported earlier today that Houston was talking to free agent point guards, with John Wall not expected to play for the team this season.

Injuries have hampered Exum’s time in the league thus far. He was drafted by the Jazz with the fifth overall pick in 2014. The club eventually sent him to the Cavaliers in December 2019.

Cleveland, in turn, shipped Exum out to the Rockets as part of the four-team James Harden trade, though injuries kept him on the bench for the entirety of his 2020/21 Houston tenure. He appeared in just six games for Cleveland, and thus overall, during the 72-game 2020/21 NBA season.

All told, Exum has appeared in 245 of a possible 554 games during his eight-season NBA run thus far. The 6’5″ Exum holds career averages of 5.7 PPG, 1.8 RPG, and 2.1 APG across 18.6 MPG.

On a Houston team not expected to contend for a postseason berth, the 26-year-old could have plenty of opportunity to rebuild his value in the marketplace. Charania observes that Exum averaged 9.0 PPG and 2.8 APG for Team Australia’s bronze medal-winning club this summer during the Olympics in Tokyo.

The Rockets currently have a full 20-man preseason roster, so they’d need to waive someone to make room for Exum. Khyri Thomas, Daishen Nix, Tyler Bey, and Armoni Brooks are on non-guaranteed contracts.

Rockets, John Wall Agree To Hold Him Out Of Games, Seek Trade

2:42pm: The Rockets don’t want to give up any first-round picks in a Wall trade, according to MacMahon. Realistically, the only way for Houston to avoid attaching a first-rounder would be to take back one or two unwanted contracts in the deal.

MacMahon adds that the Rockets wouldn’t want to engage in buyout talks until possibly the 2022 offseason.

12:31pm: The Rockets and John Wall have agreed to work together to try to find a new home for the veteran point guard, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic. Wall didn’t explicitly ask to be traded, but he isn’t part of Houston’s long-term plans, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston.

As Charania explains, the Rockets’ intention is for Wall to remain around the team, starting with training camp in two weeks, but he won’t play in games for Houston this season.

In a recent meeting between the two sides, team officials explained to Wall that they want to protect his health and avoid jeopardizing his fitness, which led them to agree to this plan, according to Charania, who adds that the club and the 31-year-old see “eye-to-eye” on the issue. As long as he remains around the team, the Rockets believe Wall’s veteran leadership will have a positive impact on youngsters like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., per Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link).

Sources tell Charania that the Rockets aren’t looking to negotiate a buyout of the two years and $91.7MM left on Wall’s contract, and are focused for now on finding a deal on the trade market. Given Wall’s pricey cap hits ($44.3MM this season, with a $47.4MM player option for 2022/23) and his injury history, he has negative trade value, so Houston would almost certainly have to attach assets to find a taker.

It’s unclear how much appetite the rebuilding Rockets will have to surrender future draft picks in order to move Wall. Even though they landed several first-rounders and pick swaps in last season’s James Harden trade, they don’t have a huge surplus of future selections, having previously sent out a pair of future first-rounders in their deal for Russell Westbrook.

Wall’s trade value should at least be a little higher than it was a year ago, when he was coming off a 2019/20 season fully lost to an Achilles injury. In 2020/21, he appeared in 40 games for the Rockets (32.2 MPG), averaging 20.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, and 3.2 RPG, albeit with a modest .404/.317/.749 shooting line.

As they explore their trade options for Wall, the Rockets will have to lean more heavily on Porter and D.J. Augustin. Charania indicates the team has also held discussions with free agent point guards in recent days, suggesting another player could be added to the mix at the position.

The Rockets currently have a full 20-man offseason roster, but only 14 of those players are on fully guaranteed standard contracts, so they could open up the final spot on their 15-man regular season roster for a point guard, if they so choose.

And-Ones: Rule Change, Rookies, Ignite, J. Franklin

The NBA’s Board of Governors will vote later this month to approve a rule change to the way late-game out-of-bounds reviews are handled, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links).

In past seasons, close out-of-bounds calls have been automatically reviewed in the last two minutes of games, resulting in prolonged stoppages that have halted the momentum of close contests and dragged out the final moments of those games. If the Board of Governors approves the rule change, a head coach’s challenge will be required to trigger those reviews, says Charania.

As John Hollinger of The Athletic points out, it’s possible some close calls would be missed as a result of this change. However, some of the calls being overturned by those automatic reviews were plays where a defender clearly knocked a ball out of bounds, but it grazed the ball-handler’s fingertips last, which was a change “nobody wanted.”

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link) identifies several 2021 rookies who are strong candidates to outperform their post-lottery draft positions, including Rockets big man Alperen Sengun (No. 16), Pelicans wing Trey Murphy III (No. 17), and Nuggets guard Bones Hyland (No. 26).
  • BIG3 director of basketball operations Thomas Scott, a former Lakers assistant, has joined the G League Ignite as an assistant coach on Jason Hart‘s staff, per an announcement from the BIG3 (Twitter link). Scott will also be the Ignite’s head of player development, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.
  • The Chinese Basketball Association has lifted its restrictions on teams signing foreign players now that it has decided to conduct its 2021/22 season in a bubble, as Nicola Lupo of Sportando writes. Sources tell Sportando that former Grizzlies and Nuggets wing Jamaal Franklin – a second-round pick in 2013 – is one of the first players to take advantage, having signed a lucrative new deal with the Shanghai Sharks.

Anthony Lamb Accepts Qualifying Offer From Rockets

Anthony Lamb has accepted the qualifying offer that the Rockets made at the end of July, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

Because Lamb was on a two-way contract, the offer is the equivalent of another two-way deal that carries a $50K guarantee. He and rookie Matthew Hurt will be Houston’s two-way players heading into camp, and they will battle for roster spots along with guards Armoni Brooks and Daishen Nix and forward Tyler Bey, who all have Exhibit 10 deals. Lamb’s signing brings the team to the training camp limit of 20 players.

After going undrafted out of Vermont, Lamb went to camp with the Pistons last December but was cut before the season began. The 23-year-old played in the G League before joining the Rockets in March. He got into 24 games, starting three, and averaged 5.5 points and 2.9 rebounds in 17.3 minutes per night.

If Lamb makes the team, Feigen speculates that his future will be as a stretch four as he shot 39.2% from three-point range over his final 15 games. Lamb has upgraded his strength and fitness, according to Summer League coach Will Weaver.

“The biggest focus this summer is defense,” Lamb said. “I just went out trying to figure out how I can make myself more versatile, being able to switch onto multiple people, guard whoever comes against me. I’m trying to use my voice and talk to make sure that I’m really effective on that end.”