For all of the suffering of this past season, the Rockets fell short of hitting the lottery during this week’s NBA Draft Lottery.
But they came up with the next best thing.
With Rockets legend and Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon representing the franchise, the Rockets finished second in the lottery and will draft No.2 behind Detroit during the July 29 NBA Draft. So now general manager Rafael Stone has the task of figuring out who to use the pick on or how to best leverage the pick to improve the roster.
“The goal is to find a star player,” Stone said following the draft. “When you bring in young players especially, you’re really looking for star potential. I wouldn’t use the word ‘expect.’ I don’t want to put that pressure on a player. I do think we’re likely to get somebody really, really talented if we pick the pick.”
The hope was that the Rockets would be in position to draft presumptive No.1 Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State after finishing with a league-worst 17-55 record this past regular season. But the Pistons, who had the same percentage chance of winning the lottery, leaped over the Rockets in the lottery and it’s all but guaranteed they will take Cunningham.
That still leaves some great players available for the Rockets to take. Look for either Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs or G-League Ignite shooting guard Jalen Green to be high on the Rockets’ list. Stone, of course, is not showing his hand at this point.
Though Stone emphasized the Rockets hope “to find a star play” in the draft, he also didn’t shy away from the idea of trading the pick. In addition to the second overall pick, the Rockets also have the 23rd and 24th picks from Portland and Milwaukee.
“The easiest way to make a mistake is to predetermine what you’re going to do,” Stone said. “I think our approach generally to the draft, free agency, is to look at everything that comes up. We will do all the work. We’ll research all the players in the draft and we’ll try to figure out the best way to move forward.”
The Rockets dodged having to turn over their high pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder when pick didn’t fall outside of the top four.
This will be the highest the Rockets have picked in a draft since taking Yao Ming No.1 overall in 2002. The last time the organization selected No.2, the San Diego Rockets picked Rudy Tomjanovich.