Before the 2021 draft, the phrase the Houston Rockets drafting( fill in the blank) in the first-round did not usually go together. During the James Harden era, the Rockets valued win-now players over draft picks. This led to several years when the Rockets didn't have a first-round pick.
Last year was a completely different story. The Rockets finished the draft with four first-round picks. This year they are at least adding two more first-round picks barring a trade. Most of the talk has been about the top of the draft. Debates continue as March Madness rolls along about who the Rockets should draft if they secure the number one overall pick.
However, there is the Brooklyn pick that the Rockets will also have this year. As we saw last year, there can be value later in the first round. The Rockets were able to trade into the 16th spot in last year's draft and select maybe the steal of the draft Alperen Sengun. Sengun has been the most consistent rookie all year for the Rockets. The Rockets selected Josh Christopher, who has improved throughout the year, even later in the draft.
The pick from the Brooklyn Nets could be the middle of the first round in the early 20s. Either way, the Rockets should be able to find good value at that pick. For instance, there are factors that the Rockets select with their first pick. If they go with the outstanding Purdue guard Jayden Ivey maybe you go with a center with the second pick. If you go with Chet Holmgren, then you may look to pick a wing player. Here are the three players that could be available with the Rockets’ second first-round pick.
The Cincinnati Bearcat transfer has had an excellent season for the LSU Tigers. Tari Eason is a 6'8” prototypical combo forward who can guard point guards to power forwards. Eason is also uber-athletic, can score in the paint against anyone, and can put the ball on the floor effectively going to the basket.
His shooting was the one weakness in his game, especially in his first year. However, in his second year, he has also improved his three-point percentage from 24.1 up to 35.9, which is huge for any player going into the draft. The ultimate three-and-D guy who can give the Rockets the length they desperately need on the wing, Eason is the type of player who can fit on any team because he impacts both ends of the court.
Brown is another long, athletic wing who can defend multiple positions and at the same time score inside against bigger defenders. In his rookie year, Brown shot 58 percent from the field and 34 percent from deep. Brown is also an excellent post-up player, which is an area he can thrive at in the NBA at 6’8”. Brown also excels off the ball. as he is good at cutting to the basket and getting in good position.
Brown will have to improve his ball-handling and shot selection, because teams will make it a point to dare him to beat his defender off the dribble. However, Brown has three-and-D potential and the size to compete right away in the NBA.
The Duke big man is one of the best shot blockers and post players in the country. When evaluating players that the Rockets could choose for their second first-round pick, it's not necessarily a player who has to be a starter right away. William gives the Rockets something it is sorely lacking — a big man who is a space-eater. A player that won't get pushed around in the paint.
Two areas of concern make him a better off the bench option than a starter. First, he has trouble changing direction, which can become an issue in the pick-and-roll happy NBA. Also, Williams isn't much of a three-point shooter, so he would need to be used in spurts and not necessarily 30 minutes a game. Every player you draft doesn't have to be a starter. You need bigs who can shot block and command the paint, which Williams can do.
We all know what is at stake for the Rockets at the top of the draft. For the second year, the Rockets have a chance to draft a franchise-altering player just like they did with Jalen Green. As I stated earlier, there is plenty of value in the latter part of the first round, and the Rockets have a chance to find a diamond in the rough with that valuable second-first-round pick.