They say that if you want something, you should picture it.
Visualize the action, actualize the vision. Does it work? Is it just self-help guru pseudoscience?
Well, it’s not science. We can probably go ahead and draw that conclusion. At the same time, knowing what you want can help you get what you want. Unless you’re a Houston Rockets fan: if your name isn’t Stone or Fertilla, you’ve got no control over that.
Yet, we visualize without the possibility of actualization. At least, I do. If you’re reading this, you’re going to have to as well.
Here are five possible futures the Rockets could be facing.
The top two pick
If the Rockets land a top-two pick, this whole thing writes itself.
They’ll either be the Victor Wembanyama team or the Scoot Henderson team. As much talent as the Rockets have on their roster, these are two guys who are going to be the franchise player for whichever team selects them.
Any player on the current roster who doesn't fit with either is a trade candidate. Some diehard player fans are going to be upset by that implication, but it’s true.
Is it true of the presumptive third pick?
Amen to that
Call me crazy, but I’ve got a funny feeling that if the Rockets land the third pick, they're going to trade it.
This has been the worst team in the NBA for two years in a row. An NBA-record third year feels likely, if not altogether inevitable.
Meanwhile, the presumptive third pick in this draft is Amen Thompson (although Brandon Miller is gaining ground — more on that later). So let’s talk about Amen Thompson.
Ceiling-wise, he’s basically Magic Johnson meets LeBron James meets Ben Simmons. I know, I know — draft nuts tend to get hyperbolic with player comparisons. This kid is special though. Thompson is a 6’7” point guard with prodigious floor vision. He probably comes into the league as the best pure run-and-jump athlete in basketball. How could he miss?
Well, he misses jump shots — a lot. Thompson’s shot is utterly and perhaps hopelessly broken.
Can that be worked around? Perhaps. Any team drafting Thompson is going to have to put a four-out offense around him. If the Rockets select him, they should offer Myles Turner the earth, moon and stars.
Drafting him, in my opinion, probably necessitates an Alperen Sengun trade as well. On that note...
The Sengun offense
Fine. Fine. Alperen Sengun could be the Rockets’ franchise player.
Those who have followed my work know that I’m deeply conflicted on this issue. I wrote a whole piece comparing my conversion to him to a religious experience. A week later, I had concerns about the rim protection again.
I think I’ve finally come around. Sengun is beyond gifted. He’s the most naturally talented basketball player on this team. He may even be the most naturally talented basketball player in his draft class.
His defense is actually better than expected at this juncture too. In fact, he’s got the fifth-highest D-RAPTOR rating on the team at 0.5.
Are defensive metrics flawed? You bet. Garrison Mathews is leading the team at 5.5. I actually think Mathews is unfairly scapegoated by this fanbase, but at the same time, he’s not exactly a lockdown defender. His penchant for drawing charges is probably carrying a lot of water in this metric.
Only, Sengun is leading the team in Defensive Win Shares (1.0) as well. He’s fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus at 0.2.
The argument was never that a big man has to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. The argument was always that they can’t be a defensive liability. Sengun may not be one, and he’s good enough offensively to be the focal point of an NBA offense.
So if the Rockets draft Brandon Miller and acquire a low-usage, three-and-D point guard, this could be the future. Miller would be the best fit for this philosophy in the draft — he’s an outstanding shooter, solid defender and nifty passer. At the same time, Ausar Thompson is currying favor with what looks like a passable jumper as well. He should be an All-Defense candidate when he hits his ceiling.
That should be enough to make up for any deficiencies Sengun has on that end of the floor.
Here’s one more way this could look. The Rockets trade down in the draft, receive O.G. Anunoby and select Cason Wallace. He’s getting Marcus Smart and Jrue Holiday comparisons. Surround Sengun with three-and-Ds plus Jalen as the alpha scorer, and the Rockets should cook.
Of course, that’s not the only big acquisition the Rockets could make this summer.
The Harden reunion
This one is going to be decidedly shorter.
The rumor is out there. Mention it in the wrong circles, and the word “delusional” is likely to come up.
It could look a few different ways. I already outlined them. In short, the Rockets could sign Harden to usher the youth into the postseason, or they could sign him and make a major trade for another star.
The ceremonial 10-day contract wouldn’t be significant enough to elaborate on here.
Harden may be running point for the Rockets again in the near future. For a lot of fans, this would be like picking up a glass of orange juice that you expected to be milk. It’s not what you expected, anticipated or necessarily wanted, but it’s not so bad, right?
The other star trade
LaMelo Ball. Trae Young. Bam Adebayo. Someone who hasn’t been in a trade rumor yet.
Who knows? That’s supposed to be the fun part. Of course, nothing is especially fun about the Rockets right now.
The future will look different. One way or another, it’s going to have to.
Which of these outcomes will you be visualizing?
Choose your Rockets adventure
Top two pick