Should Rockets extend Kevin Porter before season? It’s a tough call.

Kevin Porter Jr., and the Rockets have mutual interest in a contract extension this offseason, according to The Athletic’s Sham Charania. Of course Porter, who is now entering his fourth season in the league, can enter restricted free agency next summer if an agreement is not reached.

While Porter averaged 15.6 points and 6.2 assists per game last season in his first year as the team’s starter at point guard, he exploded in particular during the last stretch of the season, especially once Christian Wood was shut down for the year. Over his last seven games, Porter averaged 28.7 points, 7.4 assists and 7.3 rebounds per game on 48% shooting from the field and 40.3% on 11 3-point attempts per game. Those are jaw-dropping statistics for the 22-year-old, but it’s an extremely small sample size.

To say that this is an important year for Porter would be an understatement. In some ways, the question of whether Porter can be the team’s point guard of the future will again be the most important question surrounding the team’s season. Porter’s talent is undeniable. But the well-chronicled concerns over his maturity make a long-term financial commitment quite the risk. I personally would prefer to just play out the season and let him test the market next summer.

One hope of mine though is that the presence of Alperen Sengun in the lineup at center could make things easier for Porter at point guard. I noted last season that Porter, while not a traditional point guard, seemed to be at his best when simply attacking the basket without needing to set up the offense. If used as a playmaking hub, Sengun could ease some of this burden allowing Porter to play to his strengths. At 6-foot-4, Porter has serious defensive potential and last season was deadly as a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter. Overall, he shot 37.5% from 3, a trait which serves him very well to operate off the ball.

Here’s to hoping Porter can build upon his 2021-2022 campaign. I strongly advocated last summer that the Rockets find a way to trade John Wall so that they could jump-start the process in finding out what they had in Porter. Ultimately, the team came to a mutual agreement with Wall for the veteran to not participate in actual games, clearing the way for Porter to take the keys to the bus. While there were certainly bumps and growing pains, the promise shown over the course of the season was undeniable. The jury has yet to deliberate, but I see no reason to rush a verdict.

A low ranking

Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets in action during the first half of a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on February 14, 2022 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

I’m a little bit late on this one due to Summer League, but I would be postponed if not submitting comments on Bill Simmons’ annual trade value list, an ongoing column that has been a staple of NBA discussion dating back to the early aughts . In this year’s edition, the only Rockets listed, to no surprise, were Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr., ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively. Of course, in accordance with the parameters Simmons delineated himself, this doesn’t mean he believes Green and Smith are the 31st and 32nd best players in the league. Rather, taking into account age and contract, the premise is that such rankings represent those players’ standing league-wise in terms of trade value.

Notably, Simmons has Chet Holmgren (29) and Paolo Banchero (28) ranked similarly to the Rockets, but curiously has Scottie Barnes (16), Cade Cunningham (15) and Evan Mobley (9) ranked multiple thirds higher. While it’s perfectly reasonable to have Green’s fellow All-Rookie teammates ranked higher, such a striking gap suggests to me that Simmons probably wasn’t paying very close attention to the second half of last season, particularly after Daniel This exited stage left (unclogging the lane) and Green returned from injury.

Over his last nine games, Green averaged an eye-popping 28.1 points per game on 48.6% shooting from the field and 42.7% from 3, seemingly vindicating those scouts who projected him to one day lead the NBA in scoring. If you think that was some sort of late-season fluke binge, here’s more: Green missed 15 of 16 games due to injury from Nov. 27 through Dec. 27. Over the next 48 games, he averaged 18.4 points per game on 43.8% shooting from the floor and 35.6% on 7 3’s per game. That’s over half a season of extremely impressive production for a 19-year-old.

It’s Simmons’ prerogative to conduct his rankings however he sees fit, but I can tell you definitively that there are maybe only 10 players on his list ranked above Green and Smith for whom Rockets general manager Rafael Stone would actually accept a trade offer, especially when taking into account Simmons’ own parameters (extreme emphasis on age and size of contract.) In regards to many of the players ranked higher, Stone would probably fall over laughing before hanging up the phone.

Stone would not trade Green straight-up for any of Zach LaVine (27), Pascal Siakam (26), Rudy Gobert (25), Karl-Anthony Towns (24), Kawhi Leonard (23), Zion Williamson (22), Jrue Holiday (20), Jaylen Brown (19), Paul George (14), Jimmy Butler (13), Anthony Davis (12) or Kevin Durant (10).

Really the only guys for whom Stone would likely definitely swap Green are Giannis (1), Luka Doncic (2), Nikola Jokic (3) and Joel Embiid (6). You could make strong cases on Ja Morant (5), Jayson Tatum (7), Anthony Edwards (8), Mobley (9), Cunningham (15), and Barnes (16), but those aren’t a given. Morant’s injury history is concerning and it’s not really a given that any of Edwards, Mobley, or Barnes project to end up better than Green.

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