The Rockets have told each of their four lottery picks from the 2009 NBA Draft – Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Terrence Williams and Jordan Hill – they won’t be picking up the fourth-year option on their rookie contracts, a person with knowledge of the talks said.
As I said earlier this week, this should be unsurprising. Flynn, Thabeet, and Williams all seem unlikely to live up to their 2013 options, while Hill's rebounding was not so spectacular (or scarce). More importantly, this move likely gives them enough room to make a max-contract offer to one of this summer's free agents (Dwight Howard or Deron Williams). Both Feigen and Fox26's Mark Berman report that this is likely the Rockets' thinking:
"I was a little surprised," Bradbury said of the Rockets' decision. "His body of work this year in my opinion would merit picking up his option, but at the same time the way (Rockets general manager) Daryl (Morey) explained it, they're trying to clear all of the cap space they can to go after a max contract.
Remember that cap space is also a massive boon when attempting to trade for a free agent, since teams under the cap can simply absorb contracts (up to the cap level, of course). Maximizing cap flexibility seems like a decidedly better move than keeping Jordan Hill around for another year, regardless of if he can solidify his gains in rebounding and iron out his offensive problems.
Does this mean the Rockets will get Dwight Howard (or, ugh, Deron Williams)? Of course not. But it does mean that the Rockets can make an offer, which is more than most other teams (the Lakers, for instance) can do. And even if they swing and miss on Howard (or, ugh, Deron Williams), cap flexibility is probably better than paying Jordan Hill $3.6 million next year.