Houston Rockets: 3 reasons letting Kelly Olynyk go was smart

N.B. Lindberg
Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets
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Kelly Olynyk, Houston Rockets
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Houston Rockets: Reason #2 letting Kelly Olynyk go was smart: He hurts the tank

The two most important goals for the Rockets in 2021 and 2022 are the development of their young players and racking up losses. Going from a championship contender to a bottom feeder can leave a fanbase with a serious case of whiplash but getting stuck in the middle is a far worse outcome. 

The Rockets outright own their next two first-round picks and it behooves them to make those picks as valuable as possible. The chances that Jalen Green, Alperun Sengun, Usman Garuba, Christian Wood, and Kevin Porter Jr all reach their ultimate upside are infinitesimal. Teams hoard prospects and draft picks because they know that not all of them will pan out. 

Kelly Olynyk hurts the Rockets’ tank in two distinct ways. The first, and most obvious, is that he simply makes the Rockets a slightly better team. Is Olynyk the difference between the worst record in the league and the playoffs? No, that’s James Harden territory, but he is the difference between one of the three worst records and one of the ten worst records. Finishing with one of the three worst records gives you a 14-percent shot at the first pick while finishing tenth gives you a 3-percent chance. 

The second way that Olynyk would have hurt the Rockets tank is he would take valuable court time away from their two first-round picks, Alperun Sengun and Usman Garuba. Tanking isn’t simply about losing a ton of games, a lot of it is developing young players. Olynyk would cut into their development, which needs to take priority over winning games. 

A lot of the arguments against signing Daniel Theis are applicable here as well. The Rockets should want to be really bad right now, to be really good down the line.