Kostas Papanikolaou played in just more than half the Rockets’ games this past season, and got 18.5 minutes a night when he did get in. K.J. McDaniels had been a stud rookie in Philadelphia but barely saw the court in Houston as the season wore on (then fractured his elbow in the season finale).
The Rockets were the No. 2 seed and a Western Conference Finals participant, they are not a team flush with minutes to develop rookies like Papanikolaou and McDaniels. Yet, watch the best teams in the NBA and they find ways to replenish their roster and stay young (and athletic) by developing younger players.
Which is why the Rockets want both Papanikolaou and McDaniels back, reports Jonathan Feigen at the Houston Chronicle.
KJ McDaniels will be a free agent, but the Rockets hope to sign him. The Rockets do want to bring back Kostas Papanikolaou, but Rosas said “a decision has not been made” about whether to exercise their option on the second year of his contract or to try to sign him again as a free agent.
They likely will bring both back.
McDaniels is a restricted free agent, and while there will be some interest, a guy coming off an elbow fracture is not going to draw the kind of offer that Houston would hesitate to match. With Papanikolaou, the Rockets likely pick up his option, then have him as a restricted free agent next summer.
The Rockets have other, higher priorities to focus on this summer — what to do at the point guard spot, adding depth up front — so the rookies are not on the front burner. If those two want to see the court more next season, the quickest way to do it is develop a quality three-point shot — the Rockets are looking to add shooters. Start to show that off and minutes will follow.