As the NBA Draft Lottery approaches on Tuesday, spectators in Houston, Texas are getting anxious. Fans of the Houston Rockets are hoping they land a 1-4 pick, but what if things go south? The Rockets could possibly miss the lottery despite having 52 percent chance of landing between 1-4.
Cade Cunningham at first overall is the hope, however, another hope is that the Rockets land a 2-4 pick, making Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs, and Jonathan Kuminga all possibilities for Houston if they end up keeping their pick.
Coty Davis of The Dream Shake SB Nation sat down with ZO’s Podcast to discuss different scenarios the Rockets’ front office could be in if the lottery goes backwards.
“Everybody’s main concern is Cade Cunningham. But even at number two, Evan Mobley and Cade Cunningham are the two guys I really want to see. Guys that can do it all on the court. That’s who I want in this year’s draft.” - Zach Allen
“I am a huge believer in Evan Mobley, and I think he is the best prospect in this year’s draft. No disrespect to Cade Cunningham, but Zach, you can call me crazy if you want, and if I had to choose between Mobley and Cunningham, I’m taking Mobley.” - Coty Davis
Rafael Stone will have to go through certain variables to require the right players in the draft. He has been successful at finding players inside the NBA to make Rockets’ roster to work throughout the season.
“I do trust Rafael Stone inside this year draft. Everybody he has brought in has worked out. So, whatever player he selects in the draft, we just got to take him for his word because so far he has been right with the process going forward with the Rockets.” - Allen
“The rebuild process for the Rockets is in good hands, especially to your point on Rafael Stone. This is a guy, like you mentioned, a lot of these players we have never heard of before. Jae’ Sean Tate, I remember the first time we saw Tate play, if he develops the right way, he might turn out to be a little better than P.J. Tucker. I don’t know how you feel about this, but I could truly see him turn into Draymond Green type of player and to your point even better.” - Davis
“If the Rockets continue this rebuild, establish laying down this foundation, the Rockets have a lot of great guys that they can build around. You can even take a look at Armoni Brooks, the last time I saw Armoni Brooks, he was hooping at UH, and I covered him at UH, and when I heard the Rockets signed him, great, they just need bodies. Now he was one of the main guys I’m hoping the Rockets bring back for next year in 2022. I trust Rafael Stone a lot, and he has a very bright future. I think Stone and Silas are the two guys the Rockets hope for.” - Davis
The Rockets have three first-round picks. That’ a lot of ammo. Ideas of trading up for certain players also sparked an interesting dialougue. Kai Jones and James Bouknight are key draft prospects that Rockets should take a hard look at. They already worked out Tre Mann from Florida University and 6’10” JT Thor who attended Auburn University.
Jones is an extraordinary project that the Rockets could use next to Christian Wood in 1-5 pick-and-rolls, different disguises in the horns and drag sets, and make him the primary defender on defense. “You put him next to Christian Wood, you put him in a horn set, and you run different actions of that in a variety of ways,” Allen said.
He became the Texas Longhorns Sixth Man of the Year in the Big 12 Conference. In two seasons with the Longhorns, Jones averaged 6.6 points per game but had a career high of 8.8 points per game this past season. Also, he defends the rim well by averaging 1.1 blocks per game in the 2019-2020 season.
He could fit well in Stephan Silas’ system because of his spread out shooting. The previous head coach of the Longhorns Shaka Smart allowed Jones to shoot from the perimeter, which he shot 38 percent at the three-point line. Jones is an incredible athlete at 6’11” with a 7’1” wingspan that can finish well around the rim.
Bouknight is a 6’5” versatile guard who could play point guard and shooting guard in different possessions. He played two seasons at the University of Connecticut, which Bouknight averaged 15 points per game off 45 percent shooting. His midrange is respected off dribble, including in simple sets off pick-and-roll. Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns proved that midrange game is still valuable in today’s NBA after a magnificent Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Clippers.
In two seasons at the collegiate level, Bouknight shot 51.3 percent from midrange. He got most of his shot from dribble drives and floaters when attacking the basket. Also, he’s a good three-point shooter from behind the arc. No matter the obstacle, Bouknight can shoot off pin-downs, trailing defenders, and creation off dribbles and step-backs behind the arc. He shot 32 percent from three off 4.2 attempts a game in two seasons at UConn.
Another thing that amazes spectators is his athleticism and 7’5” wingspan. That allows him to finish gracefully around the basket with layups and dunks. Bouknight isn’t afraid to attack height of the defender at the basket.
Hopefully, if the Rockets miss out on Cunningham, Green, or Suggs, Bouknight is there. They probably must trade up and keep in contact with other teams to see who wants Bouknight. Possibly even giving up an older Eric Gordon, Sterling Brown, or DJ Agustin to move up in the draft.
“I would love to see us trade up for the UConn guard. He is a versatile guard and a beast with the ball at UConn. Watching clips of him is very exciting. A guy who can put the ball on the ground. If the Rockets had to trade up, Eric Gordon is someone you have to monitor of course. I can see them throwing Eric Gordon to the wolves for a draft pick like him if they don’t land that lottery pick. Or just keep him as trade bait, I’m pretty sure teams are anxious to get him.” - Allen
After serious conversation, Davis and Allen both agreed on Green and Mobley being in serious consideration for that 2-4 pick.
“I would definitely get Jalen Green over Jalen Suggs, but they’re both versatile. But Jalen Suggs is a better defender than Jalen Green. But Jalen Green is a better offensive player than Jalen Suggs. Jalen Suggs can still do it all on offense and is a good ballhandler. A good point guard to build around. Evan Mobley can play everywhere on the court. Every angle and any defender. He is coming into the league doing that at his height, which is 6’10”, 6’11”, 99 defensive rating.” - Allen
“Evan Mobley could be the big man in the five-out offense. He’ll play most of the defense. You’ll have so many pick-and-roll actions from different angles with Christian Wood. You could run 1-5 pick-and-rolls, 4-5 pick-and-rolls. The pick-and-roll game would be serious for the Rockets. They would lead the league in pick-and-rolls. Now you have two big guys that could roll to the basket and of course shoot the three. He is a guy that could transition to the three in the NBA because most of the big men in the NBA shoot threes. I think Evan Mobley would be the wiser pick at number two, but no surprise if he went number one.” - Allen
“When I take a look at Evan Mobley, the theory I want to see the Rockets use in this year’s draft, you go out and get guy that develop and build around and expand and help the younger guys who already on this team. You still have an opportunity to pair Christian Wood alongside next to a high-volume prospect big, and I think that’s what Evan Mobley is. Christian Wood is one piece of the puzzle.” - Davis
“If you go out there and draft Evan Mobley, that also gives to Porter Jr. and I think that could help with his development. Now you’re looking at a situation where your give KPJ not one but two big man that could step out and shoot the three and two lob threats. Outside of Evan Mobley, the next guy I want to see the Rockets get is Jalen Green.” - Davis
“I like Jalen Green because he seems more of that traditional two guard. If the Rockets go that route and draft a guard, I’d much rather them draft Jalen Green because he doesn’t need the ball in his hands as much. They want to keep the ball in KPJ’s hands.” - Davis
Hopefully, the lottery and draft go as planned, because the next three to five years depend on the Rockets’ front office the next two months. Listen to and download the full podcast here!