The NBA draft is fast approaching and will be the first step in a huge offseason for the Houston Rockets. After the NBA Draft Lottery, on May 17, we will know precisely where the Rockets will be drafting at the top of the draft.
However, the Rockets do already know where they will be drafting with their second first-round pick. Houston, via the James Harden trade, will have the 17th pick this year. Most of the talk has been about the Rockets' first pick, but their second pick could ultimately become just as important.
You don't have to go back too far to see how mid-first-round picks can turn into something special. The Rockets made a draft-day trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder last year and were able to draft Alperen Sengun. People knew he would be a good player, but not this good and not this soon. So the 17th pick is not something to ignore. But what if there is a player available at 12 or 13 that you absolutely can't pass on? Should the Rockets roll the dice and trade up for that player? Here are three players the Rockets should consider trading up for in this year's draft.
1. Ousmane Dieng
With more and more centers and power forwards coming into the league being able to shoot from anywhere on the court, it is becoming less of a surprise each time we see it. However, it is still rare to see a 6’10” point guard who can excel at any position one through three, but that is what you have in Ousmane Dieng. The 19-year-old guard out of France is quickly rising up draft boards as teams become enamored with his potential.
Dieng has shown his unique skillset this year with the New Zealand Breakers. If the name sounds familiar it is the same team Jae’Sean Tate played for before coming to the Rockets. Dieng is the type of player a rebuilding team like the Rockets should take a chance on.
He has a ways to go to become a consistent outside shooter and can be erratic at times, especially on defense, but with his size and high ceiling, the Rockets could get a potential top five talent if they trade up a few spots and draft Dieng. He is the definition of a positionless player who can fit any team or playing style.
2. Tari Eason
With any of these picks, there is a chance they will be around when the Rockets draft at 17, but it only takes one team in front of you to derail all of your plans. A player that I would trade up a few spots for is Tari Eason out of LSU. Eason is a 6’8” versatile defender that never stops moving on the court.
He is a player that scores from anywhere and shot almost 36 percent from beyond the arc in his sophomore year. Eason also has the size and is the physical forward the Rockets need. Eason also averaged over a block per game and 6.6 rebounds in just 24 minutes per game last year for the Tigers.
Eason, like most young players, has to become more consistent from deep, especially off the dribble. He has to also work on getting his own shot, as scoring off the dribble is not a strong part of his game. With that being said, the Rockets need more size and athleticism on the wing, especially if they want to eventually start winning more games. Eason has the upside of a true three-and-D player.
3. Jeremy Sochan
The 6’9” forward out of Baylor has shot up draft boards the last few weeks because of his size and potential to be one of the best defenders in the draft. Sochan can play small ball center in some lineups and should be able to hold his own in the paint.
Sochan is a versatile defender with long arms and could be an excellent help defender. Also, he can score around the basket and play above the rim, something you have to be able to do if you are going to play center in a small lineup. With almost every team now going five out, especially in the playoffs, you need versatile defenders who can guard anyone.
Sochan is third on my list because of this less-than-stellar shooting. In his freshman year at Baylor, he shot under 30 percent from three-point range and under 59 percent from the free-throw line. Ultimately, to become a staple in starting lineups, he has to improve both numbers. We have seen time and time, especially in this year's playoffs, that a non-shooter at any position can derail an entire offense. The physical skills are there it all comes down to if Sochan can add the three to the three-and-D.
The Rockets may decide to stay at 17 so that they don't have to include any significant future draft capital to make a move. They may also have a player on their board they are willing to do whatever it takes to move up a few spots to draft. I don't see them trying to get into the top 10 from 17, but trading into the 12-14 range is a real possibility.