It's that time of year again when amateur draft experts ( myself included) began to ramp up trade talk and analyze the top players in the draft. With the Houston Rockets having the worst record for the second straight year, Rockets fans are included in this group.
A couple of terms that are becoming commonplace when speaking of the draft are “best player available” and “best fit”. Now best fit has become a curse word for some, especially within Rockets Twitter. Some feel this is settling for a player that may not be the best overall player in the draft. The argument is that when you are rebuilding, you need to take the best player and worry about how they fit when you become a winning team.
Then you have people like myself who say the best fit is the best player available and that it can be the same thing. You may ask how it is possible that those two phrases can be the same. But they are the same in this situation because of Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun.
Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun are the pieces every other player needs to fit around
Jalen Green was drafted second overall last year, and he wasn't drafted that high to be a second or third option. Green was drafted to be THE GUY. That means the team is supposed to fit around Green. Going into last year's draft, best player available made perfect sense. You were dealing with a blank slate, and this was the first building block.
Now you have that first building block, and you need players that can help Green on the offensive end and protect him on the defensive side. So you have to draft players that spread the floor so Green can operate in the paint, get tough rebounds so Green can get out on the break, and big men that can effectively run a pick and roll.
For instance, there has been some talk of Paulo Banchero being the best player available, and you should only choose Chet Holmgren if you are going for fit. So this is where Holmgren is the best player available because he would fit well with Green and Sengun, which will help him showcase his skills better on this team than if you bring in a player like Banchero, who mirrors a lot of what Sengun already brings. Banchero is a great passer and great in the midrange and on post up, but most of that is provided by Sengun already.
Sengun has to factor into this decision as well.
Sengun operates a lot in the mid-post to under the basket. He is a good passer from anywhere on the court, but struggles with rim protection and outside shooting. The talk for most of the season, and rightfully so, is how good Sengun was this season at only 19 years old and how much better he can become. However, if Sengun is destined for the starting lineup, you need players that fit around him and do things on the court he cannot.
That brings us back to why fit and best player available are the same this year. I am on record saying I would take Holmgren first and Jabari Smith second because they are the best players in the draft for the Rockets. I repeat, they are the best players available for the Rockets. That doesn't mean that Banchero won't go and put up great numbers for the Orlando Magic, for instance, because Orlando doesn't have a Sengun or Jalen Green. Banchero would not put up the same numbers for the Rockets in a different role.
Even on a rebuilding team, you have to make sure the pieces fit to get to the next level, consistently winning games. Once you have your franchise player, you have to make sure you have players around him that will elevate his game. This year's draft is all about fit, and if a player fits well with Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, that means they are the best player available for the Rockets.