The Houston Rockets are coming off a disastrous 17-win 2020-21 campaign and boast three picks in the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft. Among them, Houston is slated to select No. 2 overall.
Assuming Cade Cunningham goes No. 1 to the Detroit Pistons, general manager Rafael Stone and the Rockets would still have a ton of options with the second selection. They could go with stud wing Jalen Green or look to improve in the frontcourt with USC big Evan Mobley.
There’s also a scenario in which the Rockets trade up with Detroit for the first pick.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, that’s turning into a real possibility.
“The Rockets have been aggressive in their pursuit of Detroit’s No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and have also discussed guard Eric Gordon in trade scenarios, sources said.” Charania reported on Tuesday.
We’ve already discussed the possibility that Houston could look to move off Gordon in a trade with the Indiana Pacers that would net the team another lottery pick. However, it’s the note that the Rockets are being aggressive in their pursuit of the first pick that’s rather interesting here.
Houston is in an interesting situation. It landed a ton of future draft capital in the James Harden trade to the Brooklyn Nets early during the 2020-21 season. The team also has two future first-round picks headed to the Oklahoma City Thunder stemming from the ill-fated Russell Westbrook trade years back, however.
Any move up to the No. 1 pick would cost Houston one of its other first-round picks later this month (23rd or 24th overall).
However, the team would also have to yield a nice amount of future draft capital to make it worth the Pistons’ while. That would likely include at least one future unprotected first-round pick in addition to a young player. Perhaps Kevin Porter Jr. would make sense for the Pistons.
Right now, big man Christian Wood and young forward Jae’Sean Tate seem to be the two building blocks in Houston.
Depending on whether he’s used in a trade up for the No. 1 pick, Porter Jr. could also be categorized in the same company. The former USC product showed out big time with Houston after being acquired for pennies on the dollar early in the season from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The wing averaged 16.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 6.3 assists in 26 games with Houston.
This trio is pretty nice. However, adding someone of Cunningham’s ilk to the mix would help expedite Houston’s rebuild.
Cunningham is the cream of the crop. He’s the consensus No. 1 player in the draft, and it’s not close. The 6-foot-8 Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 40% from distance for Oklahoma State last season. He’s an elite prospect and a future NBA All-Star at either guard position. Think Ben Simmons with an actual shooting ability.
With that said, it remains an open question whether Detroit is actually 100% sold on Cunningham. Up-and-coming general manager Troy Weaver might have his eyes set on someone else and is considering a trade down. If so, the Rockets should pounce.