A lot is riding on the NBA Draft. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.
The Houston Rockets have a ton of decisions to make and this offseason is huge because of the NBA Draft and potential signees. Rafael Stone must make critical decisions in the summer regarding Kelly Olynyk and John Wall. Should they re-sign Olynyk, and should they look to trade John Wall?
Honestly, in my opinion, the draft positioning is key for the Rockets' front office. If the Rockets perhaps land the first pick, Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State is the selection, and the second pick would be Evan Mobley of USC. Cunningham would be a perfect match with Kevin Porter Jr. and Mobley would be a great fit working in combination with Christian Wood.
The Rockets have been watching how Porter and Wall play together, and the same can be said for Olynyk and Wood. Both combinations have played well together and enjoy each other's company on the court. These pairings for the Rockets could be experiments for Cunningham or Mobley.
Wall and Porter average 19.5 minutes, 46.6 points, 10.7 assist and shooting 47% from the field, while playing on the same court. These two have played well together by pushing the tempo and sharing the point guard responsibilities. It's easy to tell that Wall is pushing Porter to learn the point guard position more because of their dialogue on the bench. Porter has become a combo guard instead of a wing player.
Cunningham would be the perfect fit for Porter. He brings defense, scoring, playmaking, and leadership. His biggest strengths on defense are fighting over picks, so he can stay with his matchup. Cunningham shot the three-ball at 40 percent in college, and the Rockets need shooting desperately. He would easily improve the Rockets' shooing in the backcourt.
40 percent at shooting the three-ball ✍🏾 #Rockets My film session. https://t.co/SnTiLa3U3n— Zach Allen (@Zach Allen) 1618459484.0
A quick reminder, Cunningham is 6'7 with a 7'0 ft wingspan as a guard. Having a tall athletic point guard that can see the floor well with good ball handling could pay huge dividends. He averaged 20 points per game with Oklahoma State. His best skill set is elevating the players around him.
IMAGINE KPJ X CADE 👀 https://t.co/jtLBRxJoAi— Zach Allen (@Zach Allen) 1618459751.0
If the Rockets selected Cunningham, what do they do with Wall? The Rockets owe him $91 million, so trade partners could be hard to find. Three-team trade perhaps? The teams that could afford to have Wall on their roster are the New York Knicks and Oklahoma City Thunder. The Knicks are more likely, but the Detroit Pistons would be a perfect situation. It's a hypothetical thought though because the Pistons' cap couldn't afford Wall, thanks to Jerami Grant's contract.
Stone will likely have to swallow the financial bullet and keep Wall until the next All-Star break. He still provides a veteran presence for Porter and possibly Cunningham.
Olynyk and Wood average 23 minutes, 54 points, 21.9 rebounds, shooting 35.4% at the three-point-line, and making 45.6% from the field. These two guys can fill up a rebound chart and have been efficient on the court together.
The biggest clue of the offseason is the asking price of Olynyk. The 30-year-old Olynyk has played well for the Rockets this season. He was traded from the Miami Heat in the blockbuster trade that involved Victor Oladipo. His numbers have shown reasons for a higher tax bracket. Olynyk is averaging 16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.8 assist per game, while his shooting splits are 58.5% from the field, 83.9% at the free throw line, and 37.3% behind the three-point line. He has averaged this in 10 games with the Rockets.
Olynyk has proven his value to the Rockets after serious doubt from spectators. Many fans were scratching their heads when the Rockets acquired Olynyk. So the question becomes: are the Rockets willing to let Olynyk walk if they have the 2nd pick in the draft? Olynyk has shown his great passing skills, IQ inside the paint, and his ability to run the floor. Mobley is more athletic and younger and should be better support defensively.
Mobley's defensive rating is 90.9 and he averages five blocks a game per 100 possessions. His 7'0 ft frame could play the center position, while Wood plays the power forward spot. This allows Wood to keep his game by spacing the floor. Mobley plays better drop coverage on the pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop than Wood. Mobley has a knack for being a wall inside the paint defensively. His IQ, agility, and versatility allow him to guard wherever and on whomever when it comes to defense.
Mobley can guard all angles of a court for a 7’0 ft big man. RENZO’s film room tomorrow inside my next article.… https://t.co/xDfz6YqcEE— Zach Allen (@Zach Allen) 1618459361.0
Mobley averages 16.4 points per game and shoots 57% from the field. Like Olynyk, he plays the high-screen-and-roll and passes the ball exceptionally well. He is impressive in the open court because of his speed, decision-making with the ball, and ball handling. Mobley looks like a gazelle in transition with a wide-open court. Wood wouldn't be the only big man for the Rockets to push the ball in transition. The Rockets could consistently run a three-man game in fast break situations.
EVAN MOBLEY RUNS LIKE A GAZELL. WOOD-KPJ/WALL-MOBLEY three-man game on fast break.. Article dropping tomorrow.… https://t.co/GH8KGFIIJG— Zach Allen (@Zach Allen) 1618459199.0
This year's draft could have a huge impact on the decisions the Rockets have to make. Letting Olynyk walk could be wise if they get Mobley. Signing Mobley to a rookie deal is cheaper than paying Olynyk $12 million a year. Plus, Mobley has more upside because of his youth and rebounding.
This summer will be real interesting to see which way the Rockets go.
The biggest news from Astros spring training in West Palm Beach has been the arrival of muscle-packed third baseman Alex Bregman, who’s in the final year of his contract with free agency looming.
Facing a battalion of microphones, Bregman has been saying all the right things – all the right things that Astros fans are happy to hear.
“I feel like I’ve never been in better shape in my life.”
“I expect to have the best season I’ve ever had.”
“I absolutely love every single second here. Being able to put on this jersey is an absolute honor and a dream come true for me as a kid. When it comes to the contract, I just let Scott do that.”
"Scott" is Bregman’s cold-blooded agent Scott Boras who is known for taking his clients to free agency and playing hardball with owners. Bregman, who will be 30 at the end of the season, is expected to draw offers perhaps as rich as $250 million over seven or eight years.
When I watched Bregman talk about his love for Houston and how he’d love to stay an Astro, I was half looking for an earpiece like the Impractical Jokers wear, with Boras whispering to Bregman what to say.
At the same time, but not the same place, Astros general manager Dana Brown was gushing over the Astros third sacker.
“He’s locked in. He is a special talent.”
“I’m expecting he’s going to have a really good season. I’m excited.”
“He has the heartbeat of a champion.”
The way Bregman and Brown are talking … I’ve heard less flirty prom invitations.
Now cue the scary music from horror movies. When Bregman was asked, have the Astros approached you with any offer of an extension, he answered a simple “no.”
When pressed for a timetable on a Bregman extension, Brown admitted, “at some point we’ll put together an offer. But right now we’re not engaged in an offer.”
In other words, both sides are talking. But not to each other.
Spring training is in full swing. Often players say if they don’t have an extension by the start of the season, they’ll shut down contract talks. They don’t want to think about a contract when they’re in the batter’s box and the games count. We don’t know if that is Bregman’s position, but it’s Boras’ modus operandi. It’s looking more and more like hello free agent Alex Bregman.
If Bregman is looking for a long-term deal at $200 million-plus, that’s more than Astros have ever offered a player. It could be too costly for owner Jim Crane’s blood.
Where do you stand on the Astros-Bregman dilemma? If you were Jim Crane, what would you do?
Break the bank and pay the man? After all, Bregman is a key piece of the Astros lineup. He’s been a dependable, hard-nosed player, a bit of a lovable wise ass and a huge part of the Astros’ dynastic run since 2017. Last year Bregman played 161 games, batted .262 with 25 homers, 98 RBI and 103 runs scored. He was a Gold Glove finalist at third base. He’s well liked in the clubhouse and adored by Astros fans. He has his own line of condiments.
Or let Bregman walk and save the money to make a run at keeping Kyle Tucker? As old school sports writers would say, you can look it up. In 2019, his career year so far, he batted .296, belted 41 homers, drove in 112 runs and led the league with 119 walks. He finished second in MVP voting behind Mike Trout. He hasn’t made an All-Star Game since then. His numbers, while not in free fall, have dwindled the past four years. He still is an above average player, though. Some team looking to go deep in the postseason will offer him big bucks at season’s end.
If it were up to you, would that team be the Astros?