I know, Houston Rockets, fans I know. Everyone's worst fears were realized when they said, "The fourth pick in the 2023 NBA draft goes to the Houston Rockets".
Unfortunately, three seasons of being one of the worst teams in the league haven't netted the Rockets a top pick. On the contrary, it got worse every season. From the number two pick in 2021 to the third pick last year and now the fourth pick.
The Rockets are drafting fourth, and I know, at this point, most fans don't want to hear that it's not the worst thing in the world, but it's not the worst thing in the world if the Rockets are smart and aggressive. Here are three reasons for optimism even after the bad news Tuesday night
The Rockets could still get Scoot Henderson
For a long time, the consensus top pick has been Victor Wembanyama. Second on the list is Scoot Henderson. Recently there has been some chatter about Brandon Miller from Arkansas possibly being the second-best prospect, but for the most part, Henderson has been a top-two prospect. That may have changed with the order of the draft lottery.
The top three teams are the San Antonio Spurs at one, the Charlotte Hornets at two, and the Portland Trailblazers at three. We all know who the Spurs are taking, but after that, things get interesting. The Hornets already have their franchise point guard despite the injuries in LaMelo Ball, and a Henderson Ball backcourt is a strange fit.
The Blazers, of course, have future Hall Of Famer Damian Lillard, who is still putting up 30 points a game. Yes, it is a chance they will trade Lillard this offseason, but even if that is the case, they still have an upcoming possible star in the backcourt in Afernee Simons. They may view Henderson as a better player than Simons, but Simons has shown flashes of great play in his early career.
That is three teams ahead of the Rockets who don't need or will not be drafting a point guard. The Rockets may still have to trade into the top three to land Henderson, as other teams may think the same thing, but it is more likely that the Rockets could trade into the top three with this order of teams.
Rafael Stone will be more aggressive
If the Rockets had landed a top-three pick, their chances of trading that pick would have dropped significantly. Now with them at four, that opens the door to many more possibilities. They could look to trade up into the top three. They could also start to gauge the availability of some of the better players in the league.
Jaylen Brown's name has been floated around recently as a player who may be on the move. There are players every season that could be available through trade that we never hear about daily. General Managers frequently discuss trade possibilities, so there may be a star-level player on which the Rockets may have their eye.
It may not even be a star player. But, on the other hand, it could be a quality player package that makes the Rockets a better team. Either way, it allows the Rockets not to take the cautious approach.
Rockets still have the most cap space in the league
Yes, the Rockets were banking on a top-three pick, but their getting the number four pick doesn't change the fact that the Rockets have the most cap space in the NBA at an estimated $60 million plus. There may not be a lot of superstar players in this free-agent class, but there is plenty of good value to be had.
If the Rockets are smart and make the right decision during free agency, they could go into the 2023-24 season with a much better and deeper team than they have had in the last three seasons. This is the offseason where Rafael Stone will earn his money.
No way to sugarcoat it. Tuesday night's results were about as bad as it gets. However, if you take a step back and look at the offseason, you will realize the Rockets still have several avenues to becoming a much better team next season. Options with the fourth pick, cap space, and, let's not forget, the hiring of Ime Udoka make tonight's results a little easier to deal with.