The NBA regular season is coming to an end and the Houston Rockets can finally let out a sigh of relief. The 2020-21 season did not go as planned for the Rockets but there are still some signs for hope going into next season. Kelly Olynyk has been the Rockets’ most consistent player in the 2nd half of the season. Olynyk has overachieved since joining the Rockets, exceeding all expectations. The only question that remains about Olynyk is if he can continue this level of play and whether he fits the Rockets rebuild timeline.
Kelly Olynyk a Diamond in the Rough: Expectations
The trade that brought Kelly Olynyk to the Rockets was a deadline buzzer-beater. The trade sent All-Star Victor Oladipo to the Miami Heat for Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, and a 2022 pick swap. On the surface, the trade seemed rushed but looking back at the deal it was a good trade for both parties. Victor Oladipo wanted out and preferred to end up in Miami who needed a scoring punch to help them with their playoff push even with the injury history. The Rockets received a versatile big man to pair next to Christian Wood and also a wing who is a capable defender on a moveable contract.
Since joining the Rockets Olynyk has posted numbers on par with some of the best forwards in the league. In the 25 games as a Rocket, Olynyk posted 19 PPG, 8.5 RPG, and 3.9 APG. Since coming to Houston Olynyk has exceeded every expectation placed upon him. The numbers look good but his impact on the court can’t be overstated. The Rockets’ young core has had a tough season but Olynyk has helped this team find some success together.
Being the anchor for this rebuilding squad Olynyk has posted numbers similar to Bam Adebayo. Bam is clearly the better player overall but Olynyk has impacted this young team similar to how Bam could. Olynyk is the better shooter by far, shooting 38% from downtown on nearly 5 attempts per game as a Rocket. Having another big man that can stretch the floor has elevated the entire roster, but Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood have benefited the most from Kelly Olynyk being on the court.
Kelly Olynyk fit for the future:
The rebuild in Houston has just begun and the front office needs to figure out who can fit the playstyle the team wants to play down the line. The Rockets have clear untouchables that are in it for the long run. Those guys include Kevin Porter Jr., Christian Wood, KJ Martin, and Jae’Sean Tate. The Rockets want to play with space and attack teams early on offense. On the defensive end Coach Silas switches the defensive setups according to matchups so a roster of versatile defenders is a must.
Kelly Olynyk is a prototypical big for the Rockets system. He can play with space and pace while also holding his own on the low block defensively. Even if Olynyk gets switched onto opposing guards he doesn’t end up lost, he is a high IQ player and it shows on the court. It’s essential for the Rockets to get as much value out of Olynyk without overpaying him for his services. He can be a big piece to this team but the Rockets have a history of overpaying role players that have breakout seasons. The last thing the Rockets need to do at the start of a rebuild is bind themselves with another bad contract.
Kelly Olynyk will need a new contract in the offseason and his current salary is over 12 million for the 2020-21 season. If the Rockets want to retain Olynyk he’ll want a pay increase but the Rockets front office shouldn’t give him more than 14 million for the next couple of seasons. The Rockets still have plenty of work to do roster wise and making sure Kelly Olynyk continues to be a positive asset is a key part of the upcoming offseason.
Kelly Olynyk has been a diamond in the rough for the Houston Rockets this season. Olynyk is one of the many great finds for GM Rafael Stone this season and he absolutely deserves to return next season. That being said the Rockets front office should not overreact and throw a huge payday his way, only bring Olynyk back on a team-friendly deal. It would hurt to see him walk but the return for the Oladipo trade has already panned out. The Rockets should be able to get a good deal done for both sides but this is a business so there’s rarely any certainties for deals.
The expectations for Olynyk were to become a decent backup for the Rockets in a season that has been rough, to say the least. The reality has been that Olynyk has been the most consistent player for the Rockets in the 2nd half of the season. With the injuries piling up and the younger guys getting extended playing time, Olynyk has been the veteran, on-court presence that this team needed to develop. Even if Olynyk doesn’t return next season ( he probably will ), the impact he’s had on this young team in a short period of time can’t be overstated.
He may not be the flashiest or most athletic player on the court but Kelly Olynyk has produced as a Houston Rocket. He deserves another stint with the team and I personally hope he comes back. You’d never think that Kelly Olynyk could anchor a young upcoming squad but it’s the NBA “Where Amazing Happens”. I know the Rockets fanbase has fallen in love and let’s hope that he can continue the consistent production. Rockets fans know that role players can get hot and cool off tremendously but let’s hope this is a totally different case. All in all Kelly Olynyk has been an absolute diamond in the rough this season, plain and simple.
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