We’re already in mid-June and the Houston Rockets are already working to make moves to keep this roster intact.
There’s a lot of work to be done but one of the easiest, no-brainer moves will reportedly be made to kick off free agency shortly after the draft.
Just what did the Rockets do?
According to Sportando, a popular, reputable European-hoops news source, the Rockets will exercise their $4.8 million option on forward Kostas Papanikolaou:
The move was made as a formality to give the Rockets the utmost in flexibility to make the moves needed to keep this team on the cutting edge.
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The Rockets had until June 29th to make a decision on his contract and it was natural for Morey to decide to execute the exercise of his option.
The beauty of this option is that it’s not guaranteed until Oct. 4, so the Rockets do not owe him a dime until that date.
So what does that mean for Papanik?
The benefits of the Rockets exercise their option are twofold for Papanikolaou:
1.) He will have to work hard to prove his worth if he wants to remain with the Rockets.
2.) He will at least have the opportunity to showcase himself to get others team’s attention if it doesn’t work out in training camp.
But it’s an uphill battle for the Papanik as the quality minutes he was getting were devoured by Josh Smith who is obviously the most seasoned vet.
Space City Scoop
Take a look at his stats before/after the arrival of J-Smoove as broken down by Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors:
Before: 6.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 24.6 MPG
After: 2.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 12.1 MPG
Since J-Smoove was signed Dec. 28th, Papanikolaou appeared in only 21 games partly because J-Smoove was the better man in the rotation and the other component being that he had suffered a knee injury that has plagued him for a good chunk of the 2nd half of the season.
It’s obviously clear that Smith has earned his way into the rotation which leaves Papanik deep on the pine until he has another opportunity to get out to the forefront.
But you know what?
It won’t happen here.
In short, he will earn that $4.8 million but it will be elsewhere.
Papanik’s salary is cheap enough for the Rockets to include in a deal to land a free agent to address more pressing needs to improve this roster even more.
As I’ve said before — Ty Lawson anyone?
I really like Papanik but he just has to become more finesse offensively in order to gain some ground on this team but I do think he’s an above-average defender.
We’ve seen flashes of that all throughout the season where he was brought in to defend not necessarily to score because we have so many other guys that can do that so well.
But who knows?
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He may just shock us all, crack back into the rotation and return for a second season.
But quite frankly, it’s all on him. We’ll see.
Papanikolaou, 24, averaged 4.2 PPG, 2.7 RPG and 18.5 MPG through 43 games last season with one start. He shot 35 percent from the field, 29.2 percent from behind-the-arc and 72.2 percent from the charity stripe.
Until then, go Rockets!