No. 37 pick Chinanu Onuaku couldn’t immediately cash in on the market conditions absurdly favorable to second-round picks, because the Rockets barely had more than minimum-salary cap space.
So, he got something else: Security.
The Rockets reached agreement with second-round pick Chinanu Onuaku on a three-year, fully guaranteed deal, using their remaining cap space to come to terms on the kind of contract they hope will provide time to develop the 19-year-old center.
It’s rare for second-rounders to get three guaranteed seasons. One guaranteed year and one partially guaranteed year is far more common.
But with the cap escalating, Onuaku was in position to demand it. Houston didn’t want him choosing the alternative to a multi-year contract: the required tender. The tender is a one-year contract — surely unguaranteed at the minimum — a team must extend to keep draft rights on a player.
The Rockets had $543,772 in cap space available ($301 more than the $543,471 rookie minimum), according to Yahoo Sports. So, at most, Onuaku will get $1,704,725 over three years.
I might have preferred the tender, even though it guaranteed no money, because it presents a far quicker path to free agency — i.e., the ability to bargain with all 30 teams instead of only one. But at least Onuaku got a high amount of security instead.
For Houston, even with his salary fully guaranteed, waiving Onuaku wouldn’t hurt much against a salary cap that will exceed $100 million in coming years.
The biggest winner in all this: everyone who gets to continue watching Onuaku attempt underhanded free throws.