At this point in the 2021-22 season, alarm bells are ringing every time the Houston Rockets win a game. When they win two in a row, the townspeople start looking for their pitchforks.
Any anxiety is understandable. Rockets fans have been through the wringer this year. At 20-55, the team has nothing left to play for. More precisely, they have nothing more to to earn for.
Do they have nothing more to lose? Do they have nothing corn to lose? However you frame it, the fan base is well aware of the benefits of losing. Of course, the Rockets would rather pick from the top four: This early in a rebuild, the higher picks are better bar none.
Do they need it?
How strong is the 2022 draft?
Last season’s draft class is widely seen as potentially historic. With Jalen Green hinting at a huge advantage over the course of the end of this season, and Alperen Sengun looking like the steal of the draft, the Rockets seem to have taken advantage of it.
It should be noted that the 2023 draft has similar hype. Victor Wembenyama is perhaps the most anticipated prospect since LeBron James. Scoot Henderson is arguably the best point guard prospect since John Wall. The field is also deep.
The 2022 draft looks relatively ho-hum. Of course, there is talent. It turns out that no infallible superstar emerges from the class.
Chet Holmgren may have the highest ceiling in the draft, but at 7’0” and 195 pounds, questions about his frame dominate the talk. Paolo Banchero looks like an attacking powerhouse, but its limitations in terms of three-point shooting and defense are concerning.
Jabari Smith Jr. should be elite in both categories, but can he develop the handle to be anything other than a top role player? Meanwhile, Jaden Ivey has star potential, but are the Rockets ready to try and convert another outguard into a point guard?
Any of the top four prospects would be a welcome addition to the roster, but none of them secure the Rockets’ salvation. It’s not necessarily a popular sentiment, but this team could actually benefit in the long run from picking a quality rotation player in the top 10 and hoping for better lottery luck in 2023. .
In this case, the team would still have plenty of intriguing options.
Who could the Rockets target from the field?
Apart from the first four, Shaedon Sharpe from Kentucky probably has the highest potential. He’s one of the most unknown variables in the draft, as he hasn’t played with the Wildcats this season. His draft eligibility came as a surprise, and it’s not even certain he’ll declare himself.
If he does, the Rockets must consider him from the fifth pick. An explosive athlete with sophisticated attacking play and defensive tools, Sharpe is a lot like Jalen Green. However, at 6’6″ and potentially growing, he should be able to function as a scoring winger. If the Rockets intend to build around Alperen Sengun’s play, they will have room for two alpha scorers. in the starting formation.
from iowa Keegan Murray is another intriguing option. It provides spacing and multi-positional four-point defense. Drawing comparisons to Al Horford and Harrison Barnes, Murray looks like a fundamentally strong high-IQ player who eventually puts together a contending roster.
from arizona Benoit Mathurin has potential similar to a three and D wing with secondary scoring odds. Adrian Griffin Jr. matches the same description. Big man from Memphis Jalen Duren threatens to step on Alperen Sengun’s toes. Still, he could bring an element of rim protection to this team that they haven’t seen since Clint Capela walked the paint job at Toyota Center.
Rockets fans will inevitably be disappointed with any of these short-term picks. That doesn’t mean they won’t be thrilled with them later.
Reconstructions require a long lens
The Rockets don’t necessarily need to grab another star in this draft as much as they would like. The selection of a future strong starter could possibly move the needle.
Rebuilding can be an arduous process. Fans like to imagine that the progression will be strictly linear: you draft one star, you draft another star, then you acquire veterans to fill out the rotation.
It’s not always that simple. Luck is always a complicated factor. Slipping into this year’s draft could mean another season of misery in 2022-23.
That could land the Rockets in position to draft Victor Wembenyama.
Or not: nothing prevents the Rockets from slipping in the draft for two consecutive seasons. There’s also nothing stopping them from landing a star in free agency, through an unexpected trade or draft steal.
That may, in fact, still happen in the 2022 draft. If it doesn’t, Rockets fans should be prepared to do something remarkably difficult during a rebuild: stay calm.