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Rockets Player: DJ Augustin, 5-foot-11 guard, 33 years old
Statistics in Houston: 10.6 points (42.4% FG, 38.6% on 3-pointers), 3.9 assists in 20.8 minutes per game
Professional Experience: 13 NBA seasons
Contract Status: Signed through 2021-22, will make $7.0 million next season
Augustin’s contract technically runs through the 2022-23 season — but of the $7.3 million he’s owed in that last year, only a tiny portion (~$300,000) is guaranteed. Thus, 2021-22 is effectively the final guaranteed year, with Augustin’s future beyond next season dependent on what Houston (or whatever team he is on) chooses to do in the 2022 offseason.
Augustin brings steady ball-handling and playmaking, veteran leadership, and reliable 3-point shooting to one of the NBA's youngest teams and nearly its worst from 3-point range. On paper, it's an ideal fit. Another benefit: While many veterans of his stature would prefer a title contender to a rebuilding team, Augustin has repeatedly signaled that he is happy in Houston — which happens to be his adopted hometown. Many rebuilding teams love the idea of having veteran mentors around to guide their young and developing players, but the challenge is finding veterans who will be happy in that role and not attempt to force their way to a contender. It seems that Augustin truly wants to be there. While the Rockets do have two other point guards in John Wall and Kevin Porter Jr., Houston started Wall and Porter together at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season. Assuming that continues, Augustin would still have a clear path to minutes as the floor general of the bench unit. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVOuvENd_To [lawrence-related id=49407]
In theory, if Houston desperately needed salary cap room in 2021, the Rockets could waive Augustin and stretch his guaranteed salary to a miniscule annual charge (~$1.4 million) over five years. However, 2021 is generally viewed as a weak free agent class, and the Rockets aren't exactly in position to be extremely attractive to free agents, anyway — coming off a year with the NBA's worst record. Plus, to have cap room, the Rockets would have to renounce their Bird rights to several internal free agents, led by Kelly Olynyk. While it can't be ruled out, the much more likely scenario for general manager Rafael Stone is to operate above the salary cap, which allows Houston to retain Bird rights on their own free agents and use various salary cap exceptions (including the larger mid-level exception and bi-annual exception) for roster additions. In this scenario, there's no need to ditch Augustin's salary. In addition, having a third established point guard gives the Rockets more options with Wall, who could become a candidate for a trade or even a contract buyout, according to some reports. Even so, Stone certainly wouldn't hesitate to ditch a 33-year-old role player, should Augustin's salary slot be needed to facilitate a significant trade — or if a marquee free agent signing is lined up, and more cap space is needed. But the most likely scenario is Augustin sticking around in a similar "veteran mentor" role to how the 2020-21 season ended. [listicle id=49660]