The Houston Rockets have less than two weeks left in the 2021 season — which is a bit of good and bad news. The bad is that the Rockets will likely finish with the league’s worst record for the first time since 1983 (14-68). The good is that Houston will be in a prime position to keep their top-four protected pick in an attempt to draft their next franchise star.
The 2021 NBA Draft class has tons of potential, headlined by Oklahoma State prospect Cade Cunningham. With the Rockets heading straight towards the lottery, here’s a look at how three of the top draft prospects fit in Houston.
Jalen Suggs is one of the most intriguing prospects coming out of the 2021 draft, but he may not be a great fit for the Rockets. Yes, he is arguably the best point guard available in the draft. But Suggs isn’t the traditional pass-first point guard, which may hinder the development of Kevin Porter Jr. in the process.
If the Rockets are looking to pair Porter with a backcourt mate he can grow with, Rafael Stone should seek a two-guard who can play off-ball — similar to the Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum duo in Portland. Plus, if Stone is unable to find a trade partner for John Wall and Eric Gordon come late July, Suggs may find himself in a situation where he would not be able to reach his potential playing behind three ball-dominant guards.
While leading the Gonzaga Bulldogs to the National Championship game, Suggs averaged 14.4 points, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals during his freshman year. Suggs’ stock rose tremendously during the NCAA tournament.
The lack of ball-handlers this season is one of the main reasons why the Rockets are sitting at 16-49 entering Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers. But if the risk to solving the problem is by adding Suggs, it may be in the Rockets' best interest to pass given the number of glaring holes on the roster.
Christian Wood has established himself as the main foundational piece for the Rockets to build around, and Stone may look to maximize his potential by pairing him with one of the top prospects in this year’s class. Since Wood has developed chemistry with Porter as an inside-outside combo, the Rockets should look to add additional talent to their frontcourt by drafting Evan Mobley from USC.
Wood has demonstrated he is at his best playing alongside another versatile big with Kelly Olynyk, but there is a good chance the Canada native will be playing for a different organization come next season. And should Olynyk re-sign this offseason, how much will he be part of the Rockets’ rebuilding plans?
Mobley enters the draft as the best big man in the class, after averaging 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks across 33 games played. He is a proven stretch big who shot 30 percent from three in college and his skill set is similar to that of Wood. The addition of Mobley would help Wood become more of a dominant frontcourt player. At an even seven-feet, Mobley would take over the center spot as Wood is thrust back into his primary role at forward.
Cade Cunningham is easily the NBA’s grand prize in this year’s draft. He averaged 20.1 points during his lone season at Oklahoma State that ended with Cunningham receiving Big 12 Freshman of the Year and First-team All-Big 12 honors. Cunningham’s skill set makes him the most NBA-ready prospect. But how does he fit with the Rockets? Perfect.
Everything that the Rockets need Cunningham provides. If the Rockets are looking to add a player who can excel playing both on and off the ball alongside Porter, Cunningham. If the Rockets are looking for a prospect who can give a boost to the frontcourt, Cunningham would be able to provide a lift despite not being able to move Wood back to forward.
Cunningham is arguably the best scorer in this year’s draft, as he is a player who can go out and create for himself. but his ability to put the ball in the basket overshadowed his play on the defensive side of the ball.
The Texas native has quick hands and lateral quickness when applying pressure to the ball handler. The results often lead to Cunningham coming away with a steal, as he led the Cowboys averaging 1.6 steals per game.
Cunningham is a two-way star who will change the trajectory of an organization in basketball purgatory. Hopefully, the impact Cunningham will have in the NBA will take place in the city of Houston.
Which of these three draft prospects do you like most in H-town?
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