At 28 years old, Jae’Sean Tate is something of an elder statesman on a rebuilding Houston Rockets team laden with recent former first round picks. Back on July 6, 2022, Tate signed a three-year, $22.1 million contract which pays him $6.5 million this season. Given that the Rockets possess a team option next year on Tate’s 2024-2025 $7.065 million salary, which they have until June 29, 2024 to exercise, Tate is essentially an expiring contract this year, for all intents and purposes.
The expectation has been that Rockets general manager Rafael Stone would go shopping at the trade deadline, armed with the expiring salaries of Tate, Victor Oladipo, Jeff Green, and Jock Landale. The Rockets roster is in need of scoring punch off the bench and rim protection and those holes have been more evident than ever through Houston’s first four games of the season.
But Tate has been a large part of head coach Ime Udoka’s bench, averaging 17.5 minutes per game so far. While he’s averaged just 4.5 points on 40% shooting and 33.3% on 3’s, Tate has found time to pull down 4.0 rebounds, and accumulate 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game during his stints. And most importantly, he’s been an absolute menace defensively for the team’s second unit, most recently helping the Rockets claw back into the game with multiple hustle plays in a loss against the Golden State Warriors. It’s easy to see why Udoka would value having Tate coming off his bench.
The big challenge with Tate is his shooting. The veteran wing is a career 30.7% three-point shooter on 2.5 attempts per game. Last season, he shot a career worst 28.3% from distance. While he possesses some playmaking ability, fitting Tate into the lineup offensively is a challenge given the impact on spacing. If Tate could shoot adequately, he probably would have already locked up Houston’s starting small forward spot given his elite defensive capabilities.
With sophomore forward Tari Eason still sidelined due to a lower leg injury and rookie guard Amen Thompson expected to miss several weeks following a sprained ankle incurred last night, Udoka will continue to rely on Tate to help anchor his bench lineups. It’s something to keep an eye on closer to the trade deadline for a Rockets team that will be in search of upgrades.