The Houston Rockets announced on Tuesday that they are sending first round pick Cam Whitmore to the G League’s Rio Grande Valley Vipers for the start of the G League season. The news came as a slight disappointment to observers, but not the least not at all a surprise given Ime Udoka’s plans for a Rockets team placing emphasis on the win column for the first time in four seasons. Even with a depleted bench, it was unlikely that Whitmore, the 20th pick in the 2023 NBA draft, would crack Houston’s rotation at the beginning of the 2023-2024 season. Once considered a possibility to be selected as high in the draft as #4 to Houston, Whitmore is considered a member of the franchise’s “Core 6” of young prospects upon which it hopes to build.
Whitmore signed a four-year, $15.595 million contract this summer. He will earn $3.2 million this season, in 2023-2024. His rookie scale contract runs through the 2026-2027 season with the Rockets possessing team options in successive seasons, in 2025-2026 and 2026-2027.
There does not project to be a clear path into Houston’s starting lineup for Whitmore over the life of his rookie scale contract with franchise cornerstone and former #2 overall pick Jalen Green entrenched at shooting guard and newcomer Dillon Brooks, still just 28 years old, looking like the Rockets’ most impactful two-way player in the early going. Brooks signed a four-year, $86 million contract this summer and has been a culture setter for Udoka in the new head coach’s attempts to overhaul the franchise’s culture.
The Rockets’ bench is thin at the wings following the trade of former starting point guard Kevin Porter Jr. to the Oklahoma City Thunder in what was largely a salary dump. Houston signed veteran guard Reggie Bullock to a one year, $3.196 million contract prior to the start of training camp, but Bullock has struggled in four appearances, shooting just 20% overall from the field. It was thought that, coupled with Bullock’s injury, and an ankle injury to backup point guard Amen Thompson, that there could be an opportunity for Whitmore to crack the rotation. It was not to be. At least for now.
Under Article XLI, Section 1 of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, an NBA team is permitted at any time to assign a player, other than a two-way player, to an NBA G League team, provided that the player has two seasons or less of service at the time of the assignment. (If the player has more than two years of service at the time of the assignment, the player and the Players Association must consent to the assignment in writing.) Upon the assignment to the G League team, the player is to be placed on the NBA team’s Inactive List.
Under Section 1, there is no limit to the number of NBA G League work assignments given to a player. Further, teams are permitted from issuing G League work assignments for the purpose of disciplining players for misconduct or retaliating against a player for exercising any right that he has under the collective bargaining agreement or the Uniform Player Contract.