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Can a two-way or exhibit 9 player make an impact for the Rockets this season?

Do the Rockets hold a wild card in their hand?

2023 NBA Summer League - Championship Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets figured to have their roster set going into the 2023-24 season — that was until unsettling news broke of Kevin Porter Jr.’s arrest earlier this month. As his fate looms in the distance, the team is now faced with filling his roster spot, either likely by trade or free agency.

However, what if Houston didn’t have to search too far for a serviceable player? What if they could fill the void with a player that is already under a Two-Way or Exhibit 9 contract?

If you’re wondering what an Exhibit 9 contract is, it’s basically an Exhibit 10 contract, but it protects teams in the event that a camp invite were to get injured. It all comes back to that guaranteed money.

It’s definitely not as glamorous of an option as it would be to bring in a proven commodity, but with more talent than ever throughout the NBA and G-League, it’s conceivable that there are some hidden gems out there. There’s a few other ways to view this through optimistic lens.

With the uncertainty that surrounds the prospects of moving Porter Jr.’s contract, the Rockets wouldn’t have to commit to much more of a financial hit for this season. Saving draft assets in any potential trade would also be a result of going this route.

Another interesting angle to look at this through is that this could make it easier to find minutes for a player such as Cam Whitmore. Incorporating a player with a lower pedigree into the fold shouldn’t impede Whitmore’s opportunities early on. Compare that to bringing in an established veteran, and Whitmore may be in Edinburg longer than he’d hoped.

But to get back on focus here, we’re here to figure out if anybody can make an impact on the court this season. Just being on the NBA roster doesn’t necessarily guarantee a chance of seeing live game action.

With the depth and priority levels of a dozen plus players already ahead of them, it would likely require a strong showing in training camp, or a string of injuries for most of these guys to get a crack at meaningful NBA minutes. Still, it’s worth seeing who and what they can provide.

The candidates

Apologies if you were still clamoring for Fletcher Magee from the Las Vegas Summer League, but the Rockets didn’t see the vision.

Exhibit 9 Contracts:

Nate Hinton

Jeenathan Williams

Matthew Mayer

Joshua Obiesie

Two-way Contracts:

Darius Days

Trevor Hudgins

Jermaine Samuels

Of these seven players, Samuels, Mayer, and Obiesie are either rookies or yet to appear in an NBA game. Hudgins and Days appeared in five and four games respectively for the Rockets last season. Hinton has registered the most appearances among this group with 21 games between the Dallas Mavericks and Indiana Pacers in the 2020 and 2021 COVID-19 impacted seasons.

However, it is Williams who has seen the most significant time on the court as he averaged 25.4 minutes, albeit in five games, last season with the Portland Trail Blazers. The 6’5” Shooting Guard managed to score 10.6 points per game in the waning moments of the season and that performance alone makes him worth looking at.

Some appearances from Samuels, Mayer, Hudgins and/or Days wouldn’t be surprising if the dominoes fell accordingly. Samuels and Days could provide frontcourt depth after being a part of the impressive LVSL runner-up squad. Days especially figures to be a project worth investing in after securing G-League All-Rookie Team status last year.

There certainly could be worse options if Hudgins were to get the last roster spot. He left college as the most decorated Division II player in history and therefore I don’t believe it’s in him to make the same baffling mistakes that an unnamed player did last year. Despite his size, or lack thereof, he is an excellent shooter.

The player that I’m most intrigued by is Mayer. The former Baylor Bear/Fighting Illini offers a skillset that none of the others can quite provide, height and shooting. The 6’9” forward may give you Ryan Anderson flashbacks, which is a good thing in this writer’s opinion.

Looking at the Rockets roster, the thing that they most desperately need is three-point shooting. Mayer shot nearly 44 percent in the LVSL, and there’s always room for elite shooters in this league.

While I’m not here to pigeonhole him into the tall white guy that can light it up from three stereotype, I’m going to do it anyway. Sam Hauser carved out a spot in the Boston Celtics rotation this past season. Duncan Robinson parlayed his gravity into a $90 million contract, and Davis Bertans somehow keeps finding his way into trades as salary filler after finessing the Washington Wizards some time ago.

It’s likely this season is too early to slam the “Matthew Mayer” card on the table, but wilder things have happened. Khyri Thomas averaged 16.4 points for the Rockets once upon a time.