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Houston Rockets: Montrezl Harrell Becomes Priority

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Houston Rockets fans were left scratching their heads Thursday when news broke that free agent big man Chuck Hayes would not be returning to the Rockets as reported just weeks earlier.

Marc Spears of Yahoo sports has the details.

Free agent forward Chuck Hayes will not be signing with the Rockets as expected, his agent Calvin Andrews tells Yahoo pic.twitter.com/ClMbFJZyZm

— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) August 27, 2015

When rumors first dropped that Hayes was expected to return to Houston, the Rockets were in the middle of completing a couple of transactions that, frankly, were more important than the signing of Hayes. Those deals included a trade for point guard Ty Lawson, and ongoing negotiations with Rockets free agent point guard Jason Terry concerning his return to the team.

Confident in the group that made it to last season’s Western Conference Finals, the Rockets made it a priority to bring back most of the team, and did so early on in free agency, signing Patrick Beverley and Corey Brewer to deserving deals. The Rockets also added veteran guard Marcus Thornton, and signed second-year forward K.J. McDaniels to a deal worth $10 million over three years.

While the Rockets are transforming into one of the deepest teams in the league, they’re also approaching a hard cap of $88.7 million, and have to be careful with which direction they choose to go next in the signing of players. Though it hasn’t been confirmed, it is likely that the Rockets were not able to offer Hayes the type of money he was interested in because the organization still has to work out a suitable deal for second-round draft pick Montrezl Harrell.

Harrell, out of Louisville, is a high-motor player, but is likely to never be an all-star. That being said, he is someone who has the potential to turn a game around with his energetic play, similar to Kenneth Faried of the Denver Nuggets. In the summer league, Harrell did his best to impress the Rockets staff with hustle plays like these.

Needless to say, the Rockets have serious interest in signing the big man, and seeing how his talent pans out as a professional. If he signs with Houston, Harrell is likely to go the route of most Rockets youngsters, spending his first year in the Rio Grande Valley with the organization’s development team, providing him with an opportunity to improve his game.

With the Rockets choosing to forego Hayes’ deal, Houston is now able to offer Harrell the mid-level exception.

With 13 players under contract, HOU has ~$2.6M for (1) Harrell to sign MLE deal, (2) C.Wood's partial g'tee & (3) ANY other g'teed salary…

— David Weiner (@BimaThug) August 27, 2015

Had Hayes signed with the team, the Rockets would have been forced to offer Harrell the Rookie minimum in order to stay under the hard cap. If that had been the case, Harrell’s agent, Rich Paul, most likely would have disapproved of the deal. With Hayes looking elsewhere for a team, the Rockets now have the flexibility to sign the rookie to a deal both parties will be satisfied with. The Rockets must be swift in their signing of Harrell, however, seeing that if a deal is not reached by September 5th the Rockets will lose negotiating rights, and Harrell will become a free agent.

While it is definitely sad to see that Hayes won’t be returning to a city where he is loved by many. Entering his rookie season, Harrell’s future in the league is brighter than Hayes’, whose career is coming close to an end. So close in fact, that there have been mentions of Hayes remaining in the league as a coach.

Maybe Hayes will eventually return to Houston after all, as a member of the Rockets coaching staff. Only time can tell. For now, the Rockets main focus is to sign rookie forward Montrezl Harrell before it is too late.

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