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Why the Rockets were forced to convert Chris Clemons

Houston Rockets Chris Clemons (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Chris Clemons (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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With news of the Houston Rockets agreeing to terms on a standard contract with rookie guard Chris Clemons, here’s why this was essentially the only option.

With the Houston Rockets not having any draft picks during the 2019 NBA Draft, Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey knew he had his work cut out as it pertained to adding players at a low cost. Morey took a flyer on undrafted rookie Chris Clemons, who starred in the Summer League and averaged 20.8 points per game on 43.1 percent from 3-point range. When given the opportunity, Clemons has continued his stellar play, which should have been enough to land him significant playing time.

Unfortunately Clemons has only played 8.2 minutes per game, despite the fact that the rookie guard has shot 39.1 percent from downtown, which is third-best on the Rockets. Clemons has averaged 21.1 points per 36 minutes, which begs the question of why he’s not been getting more playing time.

The Rockets have had difficulty finding contributions on the second unit aside from Ben McLemore, who has had a career resurgence. It’s clear that Clemons could be the Rockets’ leading scorer off the bench if he had an uptick in minutes. But even though Mike D’Antoni hasn’t fully turned to Clemons, the fact of the matter is that the Houston Rockets can’t afford to part ways with a 39 percent 3-point shooter who is fairly inexpensive.

This is exactly why the Rockets agreed to terms on a three year contract with Clemons, as first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic. Clemons was running out of days in which he could be on a two-way deal and the Houston Rockets had the remaining money on their mid-level exception so this was the only option.

But there’s also another strategic reason for giving Clemons a long-term deal: outgoing salary. The Rockets will need as much salary fillers as they can get in order to continue to make trades in the manner in which Daryl Morey likes. With Clemons’ ability to shoot the triple at an elite clip at such a young age, he’ll surely have value around the league, especially at such a low cost.

But even if the Rockets don’t end up trading him down the line, he’d still make for a great option off the bench.

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At the end of the day this was a great move by the Rockets, but it was also their only option. The wise decision was to keep the young asset because he could very well be the determining factor on the court or in a trade.

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