Gary Clark and Isaiah Hartenstein are less than 24 hours away from learning what the future holds for their careers with the Houston Rockets. On Tuesday, Jan. 7, both players will begin to out-earn their partially guaranteed contract, and general manager Daryl Morey must decide if the pair is worth the additional cost.
If given a reason to keep both Clark and Hartenstein past the deadline, the move will certainly push Houston over the luxury tax bill, something Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta has not been fond of, unless it means adding a significant piece that will drastically improve their chances of winning a title come June.
Although keeping Clark and Hartenstein around does not increase their odds of winning a championship, both players have proven they are worth the financial risk from a basketball standpoint.
Dates after which Rockets players will out-earn their partial guarantees by still being on the roster (for luxury tax purposes):— Albert Nahmad (@AlbertNahmad) November 24, 2019
- Ben McLemore ($500,000): December 1, 2019
- Gary Clark ($708,746): January 5, 2020
- Isaiah Hartenstein ($708,746): January 7, 2020
After taking full advantage of the opportunity presented following an injury to Clint Capela, Hartenstein has become a solid member of the Rockets’ 12-man rotation over the past two weeks. And after a double-double performance (16 points and 12 rebounds) in a win over the Nuggets, Mike D’Antoni announced that Hartenstein will be the Rockets’ back-up center moving forward during his post-game press conference.
While Hartenstein has gained the trust of D’Antoni to become an integral part of the team, the same cannot be said for Clark.
For the second consecutive season, Clark has experienced some inconsistency in minutes within the Rockets’ rotation. He received more playing time early in December due to the injuries of Eric Gordon and Danuel House, but his minutes became more condensed due to the production provided by Ben McLemore.
Although he seems to be on a continuous quest trying to find his niche within the team, the 25-year-old forward from Cincinnati is still the ideal 3-and-D prototype player for D’Antoni, as Clark shot 35.3% from deep while playing both center and power forward through his first 18 games of the season.
As of now, it seems as if Hartenstein is a lock to remain on the team past Jan. 7, but the Rockets may cut ties with Clark to avoid being closer to the luxury tax.
However, if a pink slip is handed to both players come Tuesday, perhaps Morey has his eyes set on making an enormous splash in the NBA buyout market following this year’s trade deadline.