Here's what a KPJ extension could look like for Houston Rockets
The Rockets are on the move. They have drafted well, gotten rid of some bad contracts, and have young guys ready to develop into stars in Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr, Jabari Smith Jr, Josh Christopher, Tari Eason, and others. Those days of only winning 20 or so games are about to be a distant memory. This coming season, they may even challenge for a play-in spot. At the conclusion of last season, they were 14 games out of the 10th and final play-in spot. Having to overcome the Spurs, Lakers, Kings, Blazers, and Thunder shouldn't be as difficult as it seems. Most of those teams won't be any better this coming season, and some of the other teams that made the playoffs may take steps backwards.
Part of rebuilding a team with young talent means knowing who to offer extensions to, when, and how much. Home teams can offer players a five-year deal, while opposing teams can offer a four-year deal. Enter KPJ. He's going into the final year of his rookie deal. He and the team reportedly have mutual interest in an extension, according to The Athletic. Jae'Sean Tate was the first of this new crop of guys to re-sign. His three year, $20.5 million dollar deal was very team friendly. Tate said he feels home here and took less to stay because he feels this is best for him, and he wants to see things through with the Rockets. While that's a rare idea for a young player to not maximize his earning potential, one can't expect everyone to do so.
KPJ is eligible for a five-year max worth up to $188 million (25% of the cap, with a year on salary of $32.45 million). That most likely won't happen. So what will his extension look like? I could see anywhere from a short term deal in the neighborhood of two to three years, or a full five-year commitment. The length will hinge upon how confident the team is in his ability to be here long term and develop into the role they envision for him. Part of that is contingent upon his attitude taking the full turn for the better, with no more hiccups like he's had in the past.
The monetary value is another thing. To keep it simple, I'll speak in terms of average annual value. Anything in the area of $8-15 million a year says they see him as a role player. $18-20+ million says they see him as a future cornerstone of the franchise moving forward. Green is obviously being positioned as the guy. He will command a full max extension when he's eligible. KPJ seems as if he sees himself in the same light, or at least similarly. Let's look at some of his strengths and weaknesses (shout out to my good friend Tim for his observations):
Strengths: When focused, he's proven he can be a point guard. He's improved his shooting and continues to get better. Good in transition, attacking the basket or getting the ball to a teammate. Good ball handler.
Weaknesses: Has to control his emotions, limit turnovers, and improve defense. Also needs to learn how to be a leader on/off the court.
Final thoughts: I think something to benefit him and the team moving forward would be best. A three-year deal, with a player option for the final year worth $15-20 million per year is fair. This gives him security, gives the team flexibility, and opens the door for a max extension if he proves he's worthy after two years. Jalen Brunson signed for 4yr/$104 million with the Knicks this offseason. That would be the ceiling for KPJ since his career numbers are very similar. The fear of him falling apart gives cause for concern, so does the lack of playoff production, which helped Brunson tremendously. I'd also put a Kyler Murray type clause for him to check in with John Lucas and/or a team approved mentor to keep him on the straight and narrow. He's definitely worth keeping around to see what he can develop into, but not at the cost of the team's goals and detriment of the development of others.