After surprisingly declining his $1.8-million team option for 2022-23, the Houston Rockets re-signed Jae’Sean Tate in July to a contract worth up to $22.1 million over three years. The 26-year-old’s new deal could run through 2024-25, though with the final year being a team option, 2023-24 is the last fully guaranteed season.
It was a twist that many around the NBA didn’t see coming, since Tate will now be paid more than $5 million more in the coming season than what he would have been under his original deal.
At an annual community event Monday honoring Sept. 11 first responders, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone took questions from media for the first time since that decision. While some fans had wondered if the unnecessary pay raise was a means of rewarding Tate for his strong play and leadership during his first two NBA seasons, Stone made it clear that it was a strategic decision.
We’re in a business, so I don’t think it’s really about rewarding.
I think he’s a very good player, and obviously we like the deal, and he did, too. That’s why the deal happened.
For us, we’re doing [salary] cap planning going out multiple years, and we thought this made a lot of sense for us. Obviously there’s risk in allowing somebody to hit restricted free agency a year earlier, but as we mapped it out, we thought it was strategic.
We’re betting on him, and our ability to help him, too. Off the court and on the court, he’s been everything we want to be as an organization and as a group, so we feel like it’s a really good bet.
I asked #Rockets GM Rafael Stone about the thought process with extending Jae’Sean Tate early:
“We’re doing [salary] cap planning going out multiple years, and we thought this made a lot of sense for us. It was strategic.” pic.twitter.com/kfUgr4l4jL
— Ben DuBose (@BenDuBose) September 12, 2022
Translated, the team’s conclusion — and it’s a reasonable one — is that 2022-23 cap figures don’t particularly matter, since the Rockets were going to be above the salary cap, regardless, due to the final year of the bloated John Wall contract. The years that matter, in terms of cap figures, are when Houston is potentially well below the salary cap in 2023-24 and 2024-25, and Tate’s annual numbers in those years are now likely lower than they would have been, had the Rockets allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent in 2023.
From Tate’s perspective, the pay increase of more than $5 million in…