The SB Nation site manager NBA mock draft has been a long-standing tradition across the network, and it’s one we all look forward to each season. It’s also one I’ve never been able to participate in. The last first-round draft choice from the Houston Rockets came in 2015 (Sam Dekker), and while I was writing for TDS at the time, I wasn’t yet site manager (hi, Ethan!), so this is my first ever mock for the network.
And to celebrate, Rafael Stone hooked me up with three — yes, three — first round picks. It’s possible that the Rockets use some of those to trade or move up, but for the purposes of this mock draft, there were no trades involved. Natural picks only. So let’s get down to business.
Pick Number 2 - Jalen Green - 6’6” SG
This is obviously the key pick for the Rockets in the draft, and there are several ways they can go with it. Green, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Suggs are all on the table for Houston, and all three players have their serious supporters. But for me, Green is the pick. He’s not as polished as Cade Cunningham, and he obviously doesn’t have the height like Evan Mobley, but I think he has the highest upside of any player in the draft, and if there’s one thing the Rockets need right now, it’s a go-to scorer. Green has that in spades.
At just 19-years-old, Green will need some development (hi, John Lucas), but the fact that he’s already been playing in the G-League against grown men — and playing well, averaging 18 per night on 46 percent shooting — means he’s already much further along than your typical 19-year-old.
He’ll need some work on the defensive end and, of course, need to add some man-strength, but he did average 1.5 steals per game in the G-League, but I don’t see how you can pass up a guy that has the clear potential to develop into a 28-30 per night scorer in the right environment. The Rockets need firepower, and what a weapon Green would be for Stephen Silas.
I’d also be okay with Evan Mobley here if that’s what Stone decides. After watching Giannis Antetokounmpo dominate the NBA Finals, the concept of the big man is back in vogue, and taking Mobley would give Houston the option of utilizing a modern Twin Towers with Mobley and Christian Wood or open Wood up to a potential trade with his value likely at its peak.
I’d be less thrilled about Jalen Suggs here, as I think he’s a clear tier below the top three, but AK did a great job yesterday of trying to convince me on Suggs, and I’d be less upset about that now than I was just 48 hours ago. But for me — and for the purposes of this mock — Green is the pick.
Pick Number 23 - Miles McBride - 6’2” PG
Yes, I know the argument that the Rockets need some size, but those of you who saw me in the comments of Jeremy’s McBride piece from the other day know that I’m high on this guy. The number one reason why? Defense.
McBride is regarded as a stellar defender, who despite his smaller stature, is capable of defending either guard spot, and his offensive game grew leaps and bounds last season, as he averaged 15.9 points per game at WVU while shooting 41 percent from three, and he also snagged Second Team All Big East honors.
Considered a physical specimen, McBride is strong and fast and carries a 6’9” reach (big for his size) with a reported standing reach of 8’4”. I think the Rockets could really use his physicality in their backcourt, and as it stands now, there are no young backup point guards on the roster.
John Wall, Kevin Porter Jr., and D.J. Augustin are all still on the team, but the only player likely to last is KPJ, and the Rockets will looking to move on from Wall at any and every opportunity.
McBride does need some growth in running an offense, which is why I think he’s be ideally suited to a second string point guard, but the Rockets need an injection of talent regardless of position, and there’s no doubt McBride is talented.
He’s been going as high as the teens in some mocks I’ve seen and I’ve also seen him slip to the back end of the first round, so who knows if he’ll actually be there when the Rockets pick, but after snagging a scorer with my first pick, I’m going defense with this one.
Pick number 24 - JT Thor - 6’9” PF
Those of you waiting for me to pick some size finally got your wish, as I nab high-upside big man JT Thor out of Auburn with my final first-round pick.
Thor is just 18 years old, turning 19 in August, and though he’s considered a bit raw, he is also considered to have one the highest possible ceilings of any big man in this draft.
He’s currently 6’9” (I say “currently” because his age means he might not be done filling out), and he carries a ridiculous 7’3” wingspan, meaning that length is going to cause some serious disruption to the opposition’s offense.
He’s a fantastic rim protector, as he averaged 1.4 blocks per game this past collegiate season, and his length and elite speed for a big man mean he’s very capable of switching onto guards, something that should help him immensely at the next level.
His young age and relative lack of experience, however, means he needs some work on the offensive end. Thor averaged 9.4 points per game this past year, and at least for the moment, he’ll likely be relegated to a lot of working off the pick-and-roll, running the floor, and cleaning up the trash.
He does, however, have nice form on his jump shot, meaning the pick-and-pop is also in play, and despite shooting just 30 percent from deep last season, many feel his technique is solid enough that the long-ball percentage should improve with some time. He did shoot 74 percent from the line, so he has the touch to make it work with his jumper.
Thor had a great combine, and our own Zach Allen took a look at the possibility of the Rockets drafting Thor earlier this offseason, while our sister site Peachtree Hoops did a great breakdown of Thor’s game just a few days ago. Make sure you check it out.
As for the rest of the Mock, here’s the list of picks so you can see who I passed up on.
- Detroit Pistons - Cade Cunningham
- Houston Rockets - Jalen Green
- Cleveland Cavaliers - Evan Mobley
- Toronto Raptors - Jalen Suggs
- Orlando Magic - Jonathan Kuminga
- Oklahoma City Thunder - Scottie Barnes
- Golden State Warriors - Davion Mitchell
- Orlando Magic - Moses Moody
- Sacramento Kings - Jalen Johnson
- New Orleans Pelicans - Franz Wagner
- Charlotte Hornets - James Bouknight
- San Antonio Spurs - Josh Giddey
- Indiana Pacers - Jared Butler
- Golden State Warriors - Alperen Sengun
- Washington Wizards - Corey Kispert
- Oklahoma City Thunder - Keon Johnson
- Memphis Grizzlies - Trey Murphy III
- Oklahoma City Thunder - Isaiah Jackson
- New York Knicks - Tre Mann
- Atlanta Hawks - Kai Jones
- New York Knicks - Sharife Cooper
- Los Angeles Lakers - Usman Garuba
- Houston Rockets - Miles McBride
- Houston Rockets - JT Thor
- Los Angeles Clippers - Jaden Springer
- Denver Nuggets - Chris Duarte
- Brooklyn Nets - Zaire Williams
- Philadelphia 76ers - Nah’Shon Hyland
- Phoeniz Suns - Josh Christopher
- Utah Jazz - Ayo Dosunmu
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