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Rockets pick up Kostas Papanikolaou's option, open up trade avenues

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Big Papa is going to be a nice trade chip this summer.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets can add almost $5 million to the payroll for next year after picking up the option on Kostas Papanikolaou today.

Big Papa has a non-guaranteed contract for next year, and despite showing flashes of promise last year, is likely more valuable as a trade chip for Daryl Morey — since he can be cut pain-free by the Rockets or some other team — than as an actual player in the 2015-2016.

That sounds harsh, but it's true. Papanikolaou underwhelmed as a rookie, and by the time he recovered from a late-season leg injury, he was out of a locked rotation that wound up going to the Western Conference Finals without him. Him grabbing minutes on the team in next year's playoffs is not an ideal scenario. Daryl Morey needs to improve the team, from within or without, and a $5 million non-guaranteed contract is gold in trade talks.

Pablo Prigioni is also under a non-guaranteed contract next year, and combined they are $7 million in a trade that the other team doesn't actually have to pay. Trevor Ariza makes $8 million a year. This is the kind of player the Rockets could acquire without giving up anything of serious on-court value.

Of course, not all deals we think the Rockets will make materialize. If Morey can't deal Big Papa, he can simply cut him before October and that will open up a roster spot, a precious commodity in a world where Joey Dorsey has a guaranteed contract.

Or, as Feigen hinted, if the Rockets really get no bites on trades or none of the free agents they target, they simply get another year to see what Big Papa can do. He disappointed from deep last year, but he's a crafty passer and dribbler and isn't the most unathletic wing in the league. He's a good guy to have at the end of the bench, he's just better served, right now, in a deal.