By: Rahat Huq
Zach Lowe today wrote extensively on the extension-eligible class of 2012, a group that includes Houston's Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. On Jones, specifically:
Would it be insane for Jones to hold out for at least $15 million per season? Probably not, even though he would likely be the least accomplished player ever to sign an extension that pricey. Would it even be insane for Houston GM Daryl Morey to accept that kind of deal? No one really knows, but Jones’s team will begin extension talks at an eye-popping number.
That kind of market sounds about right given the expected cap increase. I wrote last week that if Motiejunas proves he's recovered from the back injury which saw him miss the postseason, we'll possibly see Jones moved closer to the deadline. One interesting byproduct of the new cap universe is the premise that, because there's more money, it can necessarily be spent with indiscretion. To put it in other words, just simply because Terrence Jones will garner offers at such high figures does not mean such a signing would be wise, or a proper appraisal of the player's real value. The market itself, with the cash available for buyers, cannot be trusted.
To some meddling Eastern Conference team, hoping to take a flier on a young building block, Jones might be worth the reach. But for Houston, with a steadier option in Motiejunas, there are better ways in which that same figure can be spent. Almost undoubtedly, with Motiejunas likely to command a similar sum, the Rockets will not bring back both players long term.
I've written extensively on Jones in relation to my deep mistrust. Tantalizing in moments, but equally unreliable, at the most critical of times. I have milk cartons from May bearing his visage. It is certainly possible, maybe even probable, that with time, the inconsistency which has plagued Jones will be overcome. But as I've written, Houston right now is not in such a position to wait, and now pay, for development. They need steady production now in an unforgiving Western Conference where star power forwards loom on a nightly basis. $15million may no longer be star money, but it is starter money, defined inherently thus as deserving only to a player who is a solid dependable starter. How many times have you seen Terrence Jones languished on the bench, completely unplayable at the end of close games?
As I wrote at the time of his departure, the biggest loss in the Josh Smith parting was that the team almost had to hold onto Jones. That wasn't meant as a slight on Jones: I assumed at the time that such a trade chip would be necessary to acquire a player the caliber of Ty Lawson. But now, the Rockets find themselves in a precarious position. Assuming the team decides Motiejunas is preferable--and the team almost surely will not opt to prematurely extend either of the two--what does it do with Jones? While the Rockets' best bet would be a trade to recapture his value, there really aren't any holes on this roster(!). And a deal for a future pick and/or young prospect would only hamper Houston's postseason chances. Despite the reasons I outlined above in citing my deep reluctance to commiserate Jones with a payday, he still will be better as an immediate bench option than any other player on the market in February. Houston might hope the newly drafted Montrezl Harrell can duplicate even a fraction of Jones' energy to begin thinking about a deal. It's a development we'll need to watch closely.