In a move that comes as little more than a mild surprise, the Rockets have elected not to extend a $3.5 million qualifying offer to Terrence Jones, making the former first-round draft pick an unrestricted free agent hours before teams and players can officially begin discussions. Jonathan Feigen reported the decision.
At the same time, the Rockets did extend a $3.4 million to Donatas Motiejunas, meaning the Lithuanian big man is now a restricted free agent. He could elect to simply sign the offer to become an unrestricted free agent next year, or, more likely, sign an offer sheet for more money/years with another team, which the Rockets would likely match.
As we have predicted for some time, the Terrence Jones era in Houston is probably finished. He was a massive disappointment the last two years after a promising start to his career, as injuries sapped consistent playing time and being brutalized by LaMarcus Aldridge in the playoffs two years ago sapped his confidence.
Jones will get paid by some team — so will everyone this summer — but chances are, it's not the Rockets. They have Donuts penciled in still as their starting power forward, and Chinanu Onuaku and Montrezl Harrell as backup big men to him and Clint Capela, plus whoever else the Rockets sign. A change of scenery would likely do Jones well.
Donuts, now, is far more relevant to the Rockets' offseason. Considering they have $46 million of cap space to work with, that $3.4 million cap hold is not going to hold Daryl Morey up from chasing Al Horford, Mike Conley and others. More importantly, it speaks to what we suspect about Donuts: last year was a lost cause because of his back surgery recovery, and we should expect him to be just as good this coming year as he was when he started 62 games for the 56-win 2014-2015 squad.
Donuts is a modern NBA big man. He's 7 feet tall, can shoot from the outside and, most importantly, is a well-above-average passer. Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut helped the Warriors reveal the secret that the Spurs have known for years: big men who can pass make stodgy offenses hum. Having a 7-footer set a screen, then get a pass and be able to pop a jump shot, drive to the hoop and get a bucket with deft footwork, or find a cutting teammate is an incredibly valuable skillset. Donuts has that. And the Rockets will likely have him back next year.