ESPN’s Jonathan Givony blasts the Houston Rockets, saying they should cut a key player

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

In an appearance on the Lowe Post podcast, ESPN and Draft Express’s Jonathan Givony blasted the Houston Rockets and, in particular, their organizational culture. Givony told Zach Lowe that people around the NBA don’t have good things to say about their culture and locker room, with Zach Lowe calling it “a circus.” To hammer home his point, Givony said that even players on the Rockets say, “we’re a mess.”

Jonathan Givony did not pull punches on Kevin Porter Jr.

The most explosive remark Givony made involved Kevin Porter Jr. The draft analyst believes the Rockets should cut the soon-to-be 23-year-old point guard as a way to clear out the “bad apples” and reset the team’s culture. Porter, after some dust-ups last season and early in his career, has avoided trouble this season. Givony may believe Porter’s style of play is hampering the development of Houston’s younger and more talented core of Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, and Jabari Smith Jr. His brand of basketball sees him dominate an offense and doesn’t leave many meaningful reps for his teammates. 

On the surface, releasing Porter so soon after signing him to a four-year extension would be a drastic change of opinion, but looking at the details of the contract, make it clear that the Rockets always wanted an easy out with Porter. Porter’s four-year $82.5 million extension only includes $15.86 million in guaranteed money, all in 2023-24. Each subsequent season there are trigger dates for guaranteed money, and the final season is a team option. If the Rockets were to move on from Porter today, it would only cost them $15.86 million in dead money. 

There is no reporting that the Rockets are currently entertaining releasing Porter, and it is just Givony’s opinion. However, as the structure of Porter’s contract suggests, it’s clear the Rockets were never completely sold on Porter being a long-term piece of their rebuild. Remember, NBA front offices show love through guaranteed money and player options. 

Lowe and Givony are concerned about Jalen Green

Lowe and Givony also had strong remarks about Jalen Green’s development. Both felt that he hadn’t shown much growth and has gotten worse in two critical developmental areas, defense and decision-making. Green’s defensive effort has been a problem all season, but it’s tough to gauge how much of his decision-making shortcomings are a product of his environment. 

The Rockets have fluctuated between Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun dominating their offensive identity. When Porter runs the show, he dominates the ball, running pick-and-rolls and isolations. However, when Sengun is at the helm, the Rockets play through the post and dribble handoffs. The Rockets' two distinct offensive identities have forced Green to constantly oscillate his role within the offense. If Green were a musician, it would be like trying to master classical and jazz music at the same time. 

Givony also made a comment that is sure to anger Rockets fans but was rather a compliment on Jalen Green’s talent in light of the admission that his development has stalled this season. He said, “Jalen Green, even if he’s a sixth man…he’s pretty freaking dynamic and explosive.” The combination of sixth man and Jalen Green in the same sentence may feel like a diss, but the subtext was Givony expressing his belief that Green’s lowest outcome as a player would be as a dynamic sixth man. 

If the floor for Green is a Tyler Herro-type player, then that is still an incredible player. Would it sting to have selected that player over Evan Mobley? Absolutely, but rostering a dynamic perennial Sixth Man of the Year is still incredibly valuable.

Givony still believes in Houston's long-term prognosis

Even though Givony was critical of the Rockets, he still expressed a belief that Houston’s long-term prognosis isn’t dire. He pointed to the presence of Alperen Sengun, draft assets, cap space, and Houston’s massive market size as marks in the franchise’s favor. In his mind, by cutting bait with Porter and instilling a new culture of accountability through a new coaching staff, the Rockets could quickly become one of the more attractive franchises in the NBA. 

Jonathan Givony was critical of the Houston Rockets, but most of his comments were fair. Cutting Kevin Porter Jr. may seem aggressive, but the Rockets clearly wanted that option when they extended him. Jalen Green has progressed as a player, but his development, thus far, has been rocky. If his sources within the NBA say the Rockets’ locker room is a mess, that’s probably closer to the truth than saying there’s bias. When you’re the worst team in the NBA and tanking, the truth hurts. Jonathan Givony told the truth. It hurts, but there’s still plenty to be hopeful for. 

dark. Next. Will Alperen Sengun be moved if the Rockets land Victor Wembanyama?

If you're interested in listening to the full episode of the Lowe Post with Jonathan Givony, here is a link.