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Rafael Stone talks drafting Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore and the Rockets future

Rafael Stone talks to the media following the Rockets drafting Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore.

2023 NBA Draft Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Going into the 2023 NBA Draft, many expected the Houston Rockets to draft Amen Thompson, Cam Thomas or Brandon Miller if he fell to number four. As the night began and it became apparent that Amen would be the pick, it seemed to be going as planned. It had also been reported that the Rockets were looking to trade the number 20 pick in favor of either moving up or bringing in a veteran via trade.

Well, that's where the night started to get interesting as a presumed lottery pick and, at times, top-five pick Cam Whitmore started to slide down the draft board as team after team passed on the athletic forward out of Villanova. He would slide all the way to pick 20, and the Rockets were able to draft Whitmore at a spot that no one expected in this year's draft.

As you can imagine, the Rockets front office was ecstatic about this development, and Rafael Stone spoke to the media after Thursday's draft concluded.

Rafael Stone on any health concerns about Cam Whitmore

Stone started the press conference by addressing the rumors about Cam Whitmore's health. He was asked if the Rockets had any worries about Whitmore health.

“No, we don't. Cam physicaled in Chicago, every team had access to it, our doctors had access to it.”

Reports surfaced during the draft that some teams were concerned about Whitmore's medicals as he continued to drop further down the draft board. The Rockets, with the luxury of a second pick, were willing to take that chance and had their eye on Whitmore even before the draft started.

Rafael Stone on the Rockets trying to trade up or out of the draft

Before the draft, many speculated that the Rockets were considering either trading up in the draft or out of the 20th pick to bring in veteran help. I asked Stone if the team was considering moving out of the pick before Whitmore started to slide.

“Yes, we considered trading it, but both ways. We were actually trying to trade up. We always intended to trade up in this draft, but that was when we thought Cam was going in the top six or seven picks.”

“We also talked about if that wasn't successful trading out if we didn't like someone at the pick. We were talking to a number of teams about what that would look like and some of those potential transactions were very attractive, but again, not nearly as attractive as picking Cam, which is what we did.”

To be able to come away from any draft with one top-five player is every team's goal heading into the draft, but to be able to get two top-five talents without trading any of your current assets is a rare accomplishment, especially when your second pick is at the back end of the draft.

Are there injury concerns about Whitmore? Yes, but nothing major. Whitmore missed the first seven games last season with a thumb injury but returned and had a productive Freshman season and was Big East Rookie of the Year. Reportedly, he didn't have good workouts or interviews, but the Rockets felt strongly enough about Whitmore that they were considering moving back into the top ten to draft him.

In Amen Thompson, they get one of if not the best athletes in the draft, but he is not just a high flyer. He is also, if not the best, one of the top three passers in this year's draft. At 6'7”, Thompson brings the Rockets a natural point guard who looks to get everyone involved on any team he has played for.

The Rockets came away from last night's draft the winners because they got two players projected to be in the top five for most of the offseason draft cycle. The real fun begins as they prepare for Summer League and the all-important free-agent period.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @BinkleyHoops. as I will be at the Rockets press conference on Monday as they introduce Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson.

Full press conference link: Rocket Fuel Podcast