Rockets Rumors

Raptors Notes: Mitchell, Vezenkov, Agbaji, Diallo, Dick

The Raptors believe Davion Mitchell will bring a perimeter defensive presence they lacked last season, writes Josh Lewenberg of TSN. The 25-year-old was acquired from the Kings in a trade on the second night of the draft to fill Toronto’s need for a backup point guard.

“I’m trying to bring leadership, defensive mindset, being that dog, just doing the little things on the floor,” Mitchell said. “Over my career playing basketball, every team that I’ve been on, the guy that’s on the ball brings that energy. I think that me putting pressure on the ball up top, a lot of people are gonna want to play just as hard. No one wants to stand out by not playing hard. So, me bringing that energy is going to show.”

Mitchell’s defensive prowess convinced Sacramento to select him with the ninth pick in 2021, but he struggled to find playing time in a crowded backcourt. Even though he appeared in 72 games last season, he dropped to a career-low 15.3 minutes per night and his other numbers declined across the board. The Kings were looking to unload his contract to provide cap relief, and Toronto welcomed the opportunity to increase its toughness level on defense.

“It’s not just about him, it’s all the guys,” coach Darko Rajakovic said. “Everybody has to step up. We’re working a lot during the summer to really improve on-ball defense, aggressiveness. We’re really, really trying to – as you can see in the draft class as well – find as many possible two-way guys. We call them the most important guy. Most important guy is the guy who’s guarding the ball. He makes it easier for everybody else. And we’re really trying to develop everybody on our roster to be able to do a better job.”

There’s more on the Raptors:

  • Toronto hasn’t resolved the situation regarding Sasha Vezenkov, who was acquired from Sacramento in the same trade, tweets Blake Murphy of Sportsnet. Vezenkov reportedly reached a deal with Olympiacos in Greece, but there’s one year left on his NBA contract, plus a team option for 2025/26. “We’re still having that conversation,” team president Masai Ujiri said today on a broadcast of the Raptors’ Summer League game. “He had a tough time in the NBA last year. We are trying to figure it out, and what he wants to do. The right decision will be made. … I think he’s a phenomenal player, had a tough season last season, those things happen, great shooter. Whatever happens, we’re going to make the best out of this situation. We support him in every way and we know where our team is going. So hopefully soon.”
  • Even though it’s somewhat rare for former lottery picks with two full years of experience to participate in Summer League, Ochai Agbaji and Raptors officials both believed it would be beneficial, per Lewenberg (Twitter link). Agbaji appeared in 27 games with Toronto after being acquired from Utah in February.
  • The Raptors hosted a private scrimmage on Friday in Las Vegas that involved representatives of the Clippers, Trail Blazers and Rockets, according to Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). Iko hears that the standout performer was free agent swingman Hamidou Diallo, who played two games with Washington last season.
  • In an interview with Eric Koreen of The Athletic, Gradey Dick talks about the challenges of his rookie season.

Rockets Notes: Sheppard, Whitmore, Griffin, Summer League

The first few minutes of Reed Sheppard‘s Summer League debut weren’t productive, but he began to recognize opportunities while watching the final four minutes of the first quarter from the bench, writes Kelly Iko of The Athletic. When he returned to action, Sheppard displayed the qualities that convinced the Rockets to select him with the No. 3 pick in the draft — an elite jump shot, sharp defensive instincts, and a high I.Q. for the game.

He just stayed the course,” said Garrett Jackson, Houston’s Summer League coach. “He was just steady. Let the game come to him, making the right reads. Any time we could get him playing pick-and-roll in space, especially high on the court, he was able to make reads, attack bigs, pull up and shoot.”

Sheppard began exploiting gaps in the Lakers’ defense, especially in the third quarter when he hit 5-of-7 shots and scored 12 points. He finished the game with 23 points, five assists, four rebounds, three blocks and a steal, and Iko points out that he was able to create separation off the dribble and make passes to set up teammates for open shots.

“Those types of instincts kind of remind me of (Rockets point guard) Fred (VanVleet),” Jackson said. “Fred’s not the tallest guy, but he’s very smart. Defensively, he’s got quick hands and knows how to jump lanes. Reed is very similar.”

There’s more on the Rockets:

  • After a strong rookie season, it wasn’t certain that Cam Whitmore would return to the Summer League, but the league’s reigning MVP couldn’t resist the allure of playing basketball in Las Vegas, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. It hasn’t been decided how many games the team will permit Whitmore to play, so the second-year wing wants to set an example for his teammates in any way he can. “I think I had the same swagger and confidence coming into Summer League last year,” Whitmore said. “I would say a little higher chip on the shoulder because of the draft (last summer after his surprising fall to the 20th pick). This year, I’m going to keep that same intensity, keep that same mentality, just try to spread it around the other guys to win the championship.”
  • AJ Griffin is enjoying a fresh start with Houston after his career stagnated in Atlanta, Feigen adds in a separate story. The Rockets, who were interested in drafting Griffin two years ago, were able to acquire him from the Hawks last month. “I got the mindset to be able to have a chip on my shoulder,” Griffin said. “It motivates you to prove yourself in this league. New city, new teammates and everything. I’m just having fun out there, get used to the guys here. It’s fun playing together, get the feel for everyone’s games.”
  • In case you missed it, the Rockets have been placed in West Group A along with the Timberwolves, Clippers, Kings and Trail Blazers for this year’s Emirates NBA Cup.

Groups Revealed For 2024 NBA Cup

The NBA has announced the five-team groups for this year’s in-season tournament, now renamed the Emirates NBA Cup, the league announced in a release on Friday (Twitter link).

Like last year, there are six groups — three each from the Western Conference and Eastern Conference — and each conference was split into five groups based on last year’s standings. One team was selected at random from each group to determine the group round matchups.

The results are:

  • West Group A: Timberwolves, Clippers, Kings, Rockets and Trail Blazers
  • West Group B: Thunder, Suns, Lakers, Jazz and Spurs
  • West Group C: Nuggets, Mavericks, Pelicans, Warriors and Grizzlies
  • East Group A: Knicks, Magic, Sixers, Nets and Hornets
  • East Group B: Bucks, Pacers, Heat, Raptors and Pistons
  • East Group C: Celtics, Cavaliers, Bulls, Hawks and Wizards

The NBA Cup begins with group play, which runs from Nov. 12 to Dec. 3. Each team plays one game against each of the four opponents in its group. The NBA released a matchup matrix to help fans follow along (Twitter link).

Just like last season, the winner of each group advances to a knockout round alongside the team with the best record in each conference that didn’t win a group. The semifinals and finals will again be played in T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Last year, the Lakers won the inaugural in-season tournament over the Pacers. LeBron James was named the tournament MVP after dropping 24 points in the title game.

The full game and broadcast schedule for group play will be announced next month.

Rockets Guarantee Jeff Green’s Salary For 2024/25

The Rockets have guaranteed Jeff Green‘s salary for the 2024/25 season, confirms Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Houston exercised Green’s team option at the June 29 deadline, but his salary didn’t become fully guaranteed for another couple weeks.

As our list of early salary guarantee dates shows, Houston would have had to waive Green on or before July 11 in order to avoid being on the hook for his $8MM base salary in 2024/25. There were reports leading up to free agency indicating that the Rockets had no plans to cut the veteran forward, so it comes as no surprise that the two sides didn’t agree to push back that guarantee date.

Green will turn 38 years old next month and will be entering his 18th NBA season this fall. He continued to play a regular rotation role for the Rockets last season, though his 16.8 minutes per game represented a new career low. He averaged 6.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in 78 appearances (six starts), posting a shooting line of .456/.331/.819.

Green’s contract also includes $1.6MM in annual incentives, but he didn’t earn those bonuses last season, so they’re considered unlikely in 2024/25 and have been removed from his cap hit, lowering that figure from $9.6MM to $8MM. Green would have to appear in at least 55 games and average 19 or more minutes per contest in order to earn that extra $1.6MM.

Green is one of a handful of players on Houston’s roster who could become a trade chip for salary-matching purposes if the team looks to make a major move before or during the season. Green ($8MM), Jock Landale ($8MM), and Jae’Sean Tate ($7.57MM) are all on contracts that don’t include any guaranteed money beyond ’24/25.

Orlando Robinson Joins Summer League Team

  • Former Heat big man Orlando Robinson is on the Rockets’ Summer League roster, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Robinson was waived on July 7 before his $2.1MM contract became guaranteed. He cleared waivers on Tuesday. Robinson appeared in 36 contests for Miami in 2023/24, averaging 2.8 points on a .500/.533/.760 shooting line. Robinson also chipped in 2.3 rebounds and 0.9 assists per night.
  • Rockets guard Amen Thompson, who is a member of the USA Select Team this summer, said Houston coach Ime Udoka is “reasonably hard” on his players, he told Sam Yip of HoopsHype. “He’s kind of similar to some coaches I’ve had in the past. The thing that’s different about him is he can get in the mix with us, like he’s a player,” he said. “I’ve never had a coach that played in the NBA. When he talks, I gotta listen because he’s been there. He’s reasonably hard on everybody. He doesn’t go crazy, but he’s reasonably hard.”

Team Canada Finalizes 2024 Olympic Roster

The Canadian national team has formally announced its 12-man roster for the Paris Olympics, making its final cuts ahead of Wednesday’s exhibition games against Team USA.

Team Canada’s 12-man squad is as follows:

While the group obviously isn’t as star-studded as the U.S. roster, it’s headed up by a 2024 MVP finalist (Gilgeous-Alexander) and a guard who was the second-best player on the 2023 NBA champions (Murray). In total, it features 10 active NBA players, and all of them played regular roles for their respective teams in 2023/24.

The only two non-NBA players are Birch, who spent six seasons in the league but now plays in Spain, and Ejim, a former Iowa State standout and a Team Canada veteran who has been a productive contributor for several teams in Europe since 2014.

Andrew Wiggins is among the notable names missing from Team Canada’s squad for Paris. He was on the original training camp roster but withdrew right before camp began due to what the Warriors referred to a mutual decision. Various reports, however, suggested that Golden State was the party driving that decision.

Grizzlies rookie Zach Edey also removed his name from the training camp roster in order to focus on Summer League and his first NBA season.

Trail Blazers guard Shaedon Sharpe and Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin, both of whom were coming off injuries that ended their 2023/24 seasons, were among the players who attended training camp but weren’t in the mix for roster spots for the Paris Olympics. Timberwolves forward Leonard Miller was in that group too.

This will be the first time Canada has been in the men’s basketball event at the Olympics since 2000.

Rockets Add N’Faly Dante Via Two-Way Deal

JULY 9: Dante has officially signed the two-way contract, the team tweets.

JUNE 27: The Rockets are signing undrafted Oregon center N’Faly Dante to a two-way deal, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The 6’11” big man was a two-time All-Pac-12 honoree and was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team in 2024. A five-year senior in 2023/24, he enjoyed his most productive season yet as a super-senior, averaging 17 points per game on 69.5% shooting from the field and 61.3% shooting from the charity stripe. Dante also logged averages of 9.2 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.7 steals and 1.6 assists per contest.

Houston only wound up with one pick in the 2024 draft, the third selection, which the Rockets used on sharpshooting Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard. The club traded out from the No. 44 pick in the second round to obtain reserve small forward AJ Griffin from the Hawks as part of a three-team deal.

Contract Details: George, Martin, Wiseman, Isaac, Hield, More

Following the end of the July moratorium on Saturday, teams wasted no time in officially finalizing many of the contracts they’d agreed to up until that point.

Now that those contracts have been completed, we have the official details on many of them. Here, via several reporters – including Keith Smith of Spotrac, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, and cap expert Yossi Gozlan – as well as our own sources, are some of those notable details:

Players with trade kickers:

Lakers forward LeBron James (15%), Knicks forward OG Anunoby (15%), Sixers forward Paul George (15%), Sixers forward Caleb Martin (15%), Mavericks sharpshooter Klay Thompson (15%), and Mavericks forward Naji Marshall (5%) received trade kickers on their new free agent deals, while Celtics guard Derrick White (15%) got one on his contract extension.

As an aside, James’ exact starting salary in 2024/25 is $48,728,845, which is $1,258,873 below the maximum he could have earned.

Players who waived their right to veto a trade:

A player who re-signs with his team on a one-year contract (or two-year contract with a second-year option) is typically awarded the right to veto a trade, but has the option to waive that option.

Heat center Thomas Bryant, Rockets guard Aaron Holiday, Raptors wing Garrett Temple, and Magic teammates Gary Harris and Moritz Wagner all surrendered their right to veto a trade in 2024/25 and could be moved freely.

Unlikely incentives:

Nets center Nic Claxton ($97MM base + $3MM incentives), Pacers forward Obi Toppin ($58MM +$2MM), Suns forward Royce O’Neale ($42MM +$2MM), and Sixers forward Martin ($35,040,704 + $5,256,106) are among the players whose contracts include unlikely bonuses that would boost the total guaranteed salary if those incentives are reached.

As cap expert Albert Nahmad observes, the structure of Martin’s contract helped the 76ers maximize their cap room, since his unlikely incentives don’t count toward the cap once he signs.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Martin’s “unlikely” incentives are easier to earn than a typical player’s incentives would be — I don’t expect them to be for making an All-Star team or anything like that. An incentive is considered unlikely for cap purposes if the player wouldn’t have met the criteria the year before. For example, as Nahmad suggests, a bonus related to Martin making 24 or more starts would be considered unlikely because he started 23 games last season. Martin’s bonuses – considered “unlikely” for cap purposes but perhaps “likely” to be earned in reality – could have served as a way to strengthen the Sixers’ offer without sacrificing that extra cap room.

It’s also worth noting that a player’s unlikely incentives can’t exceed 15% of his guaranteed base salary, and Martin’s $5,256,106 in incentives represent exactly 15% of his overall $35,040,704 salary.

Partial or non-guarantees and options:

James Wiseman‘s two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Pacers is guaranteed for $500K in year one, with a team option for 2025/26. That team option would be guaranteed for $569,041 if exercised (ie. the same percentage as his first-year salary).

Luka Garza got a similarly structured two-year, minimum-salary deal with the Timberwolves, except his first year is fully guaranteed prior to his second-year team option. That 2025/26 option would be guaranteed if picked up.

As previously reported, Isaiah Hartenstein‘s three-year, $87MM deal with the Thunder includes a team option for 2026/27. It’s worth $28.5MM, with $58.5MM in guaranteed money across the first two seasons.

Magic teammates Harris ($7.5MM) and Wagner ($11MM) each have second-year team options on their two-year deals.

The Rockets used their full bi-annual exception to give Holiday a two-year deal worth $9,569,400 that includes a second-year team option ($4,901,400).

Neemias Queta‘s three-year, minimum-salary contract with the Celtics is fully guaranteed in year one with a partial guarantee of exactly 50% ($1,174,789 of $2,349,578) in year two, plus a third-year team option for 2026/27. The third-year option ($2,667,944) would be guaranteed for 50% ($1,333,972) if exercised. Since his minimum deal covers more than two years, a team wouldn’t be able to acquire Queta via the minimum salary exception if he’s traded down the road.

Jonathan Isaac‘s new long-term deal with the Magic is partially guaranteed ($8MM of $14MM) in 2026/27, with non-guaranteed salaries of $14.5MM in 2027/28 and $15MM in 2028/29. However, each of those salaries would become fully guaranteed if Isaac plays at least 52 games in the prior season. For instance, if Isaac were to appear in 54 games in 2026/27, his $14.5MM salary for ’27/28 would be fully guaranteed.

Sign-and-trade contracts:

Interestingly, Kyle Anderson‘s and Buddy Hield‘s new contracts with the Warriors have the exact same salaries for the first three seasons: $8,780,488, $9,219,512, and $9,658,536. Anderson’s three-year deal is fully guaranteed for the first two years and non-guaranteed in year three.

As for Hield, his four-year contract is fully guaranteed for the first two years, with a partial guarantee of $3MM for year three. His fourth year is a $10,097,560 player option that would be partially guaranteed for $3,136,364 if exercised.

Klay Thompson’s three-year contract with the Mavericks comes in at exactly $50MM, as reported — it starts at $15,873,016 and features 5% annual raises.

Jonas Valanciunas‘ three-year contract with the Wizards is worth $30,295,000 in total, beginning at $9.9MM (which is the amount of the trade exception generated for the Pelicans). It’s fully guaranteed for the first two seasons and non-guaranteed in year three.

Cody Zeller got a three-year, $11,025,000 deal in the sign-and-trade that sent him from New Orleans to the Hawks. The first year is guaranteed for $3.5MM, with two non-guaranteed seasons after that.

Finally, as part of the Mikal Bridges trade, new Nets guard Shake Milton got a three-year, $9,162,405 contract that has a guaranteed first-year salary of $2,875,000, with two non-guaranteed years after that ($3MM in 2025/26 and $3,287,406 in ’26/27). His teammate Mamadi Diakite, who was also sent to Brooklyn in the trade, had his $2,273,252 salary partially guaranteed for $1,392,150.

Milton’s $2,875,000 salary, Diakite’s $1,392,150 partial guarantee, and Bojan Bogdanovic‘s $19,032,850 salary add up to $23.3MM, which is equivalent to Bridges’ salary — the exact amount of outgoing salary the Knicks needed to send to avoid being hard-capped at the first tax apron.

Southwest Notes: Green, Morris, Thompson, Sengun

Klay Thompson‘s departure to Dallas broke up Golden State’s longtime big three. It almost happened last summer, according to Draymond Green. In an episode of his podcast (Twitter video link), Green revealed that he briefly thought he would be joining the Grizzlies as a free agent in 2023.

“I called Klay, and I called Steph (Curry), separate calls,  and Steve (Kerr) and I was just telling them like ‘Yo, I’m leaving. I’m going to Memphis,’” he said.

Green wound up re-signing with the Warriors on a four-year, $100MM contract.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Free agent Markieff Morris hinted on Twitter (link) he’s planning to return to the Mavericks. “I’m coming back. I want bro to come with me,” he said in a reply to a fan urging him to re-sign with Dallas. His “bro,” naturally, is Marcus Morris, who is also a free agent. Markieff Morris, 34, appeared in 26 regular-season games and one postseason contest last season.
  • Thompson’s decision to join the Mavericks ends a lengthy history of the franchise falling short in its efforts to attract quality free agents, The Athletic’s Tim Cato opines. The reason why Thompson wanted to go there is that the franchise’s image has changed. There’s a newfound belief that Dallas offers a family atmosphere and comfort alongside its basketball success, Cato concludes.
  • The Rockets could follow the Sixers’ blueprint for creating max cap space, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes. If they forgo rookie scale extensions for Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun and keep cap holds on the duo next offseason as restricted free agents, Houston can make other roster moves to generate max or near-max cap space. The Rockets would have to decline team options on Fred VanVleet and Aaron Holiday and waive Jock Landale to do so, Hollinger writes. The Sixers put Tyrese Maxey‘s extension on hold until this summer and cleared as much space as possible. They wound up winning the Paul George sweepstakes.

Rockets Re-Sign Jeenathan Williams To Two-Way Contract

The Rockets have re-signed guard Jeenathan Williams to a two-way contract, according to the NBA’s official transaction log. Williams spent the 2023/24 season with Houston on a two-way deal.

In addition to confirming they have re-signed Williams, the Rockets also announced they’ve officially re-signed Jermaine Samuels and Nate Hinton, who each last season on a two-way deal alongside Williams (Twitter link via The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen).

It was previously reported that Samuels and Hinton were rejoining the team on Exhibit 10 contracts. So Williams, the only one of the three who received a two-way qualifying offer, is the only one on a two-way deal for now, but Samuels and Hinton are both candidates to be converted at some point, as Feigen previously reported.

In 22 games with Houston last season, Williams averaged 2.9 points. He spent five games at the end of the ’22/23 season with Portland, scoring 10.6 points per game with four starts. Williams played in 11 games (10 starts) with Houston’s G League affiliate — the Rio Grande Valley Vipers — last year, averaging 16.3 PPG and 5.6 RPG.

Hinton played in 15 NBA games, averaging 2.2 points last year. In 37 G League games, he averaged 13.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 5.1 APG.

Samuels appeared in 14 games with Houston, averaging 1.4 PPG. Like Williams and Hinton, he played more in the G League, averaging 19.6 PPG and 7.8 RPG in 38 games.

Undrafted center N’Faly Dante is expected to sign a two-way contract from the Rockets, so if he and Williams make it to the opening-night 18-man roster, that would leave just one two-way slot for Samuels, Hinton, and any other Houston camp invitees.