IT'S NOT OVER!

Here's how the Houston Rockets can still score big in the NBA Draft

Here's how the Houston Rockets can still score big in the NBA Draft
The Rockets have plenty of draft capital to play with. Composite Getty Image.

The NBA Draft Lottery has come and gone and the Houston Rockets fell just a number short of winning the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.

With the intrastate rival San Antonio Spurs coming out of Tuesday holding on to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Rockets came away with the No. 4 overall selection. The Charlotte Hornets took the No. 2 overall pick and the Portland Trail Blazers ended up with the third overall pick.

While not winning the lottery stings for Houston, the results give the Rockets flexibility in terms of what they can do in the draft. They could stick with the pick and select from a plethora of talent, or they could be aggressive and choose to trade up to select either Alabama forward Brandon Miller or G League Ignite’s Scoot Henderson.

Here is what Houston could package in a deal to Charlotte if the Rockets feel inspired by the Houston Texans and opt to move up and get their guy at No. 2.

Firstly, why Charlotte and not Portland, who sits at No. 3? The main reason for it is that the Trail Blazers, despite the lackluster 2022-23 season, are looking to get back up to championship contention in 2023-24 in what could be the last attempt to win with star guard Damian Lillard.

Because of Portland’s mindset, it would be less inclined to be enticed by future draft capital in a deal. When you look at Houston’s current roster there is also not a player the Rockets can include in a deal that would instantly jump the Trail Blazers into the contention conversation.

While Jalen Green, Jabari Smith and Alperen Şengün could be impact players for Portland, the Rockets likely don’t want to trade anyone from that group of players either, at least its pairing of Green and Smith.

So the focus now turns to the Hornets. Charlotte has a perennial star in LaMelo Ball on its roster already, but the team is in much more dire need of adding as much talent as possible.

The non-negotiable that will need to be included in the deal is Houston’s No. 4 overall pick. That is a no-brainer. The Rockets also own the Los Angeles Clippers’ pick (No. 20 overall) that could also be included in a potential trade with the Hornets.

While the Rockets no longer control their own draft picks in 2024, 2025 and 2026 due to the Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul trade in 2019, they do own the Brooklyn Nets’ 2024 and 2026 first-round picks.

A package of the No. 4 overall pick, the No. 20 overall pick in 2023 and either Şengün, Kenyon Martin Jr., Jae'Sean Tate or one of the Nets’ 2024 or 2026 first-round picks should be enough to get the Hornets’ attention.

In exchange, the Rockets can add Henderson, who averaged 16.5 points, 6.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game in the G League last season. They can also take Miller, who put together 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per contest for the Crimson Tide in college.

While it is a hefty price to move up, the Rockets would have secured its core of three players in Green, Smith and whoever they take at No. 2 in this scenario, and they can add on from there in the future through free agency and trades.

If Houston believes the final piece to its core is available at No. 2, then no price is too big. With the Rockets set on phase two, the flexibility they have is an interesting luxury.

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Astros defeat the Orioles, 5-1. Composite Getty Image.

Ronel Blanco pitched seven strong innings and Chas McCormick homered twice to lead the Houston Astros to a 5-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

Yordan Alvarez added a two-run shot to help Houston extend its winning streak to four games.

Blanco (8-2), who threw seven hitless innings in his last start, allowed four hits and a run with three strikeouts for his third straight win.

Alvarez put the Astros on top with his 16th homer, which came off Corbin Burnes (8-3) in the third, and McCormick made it 4-1 in the fifth. McCormick got his fifth career multihomer game when he connected again in the eighth.

Burnes allowed five hits, including a season-high two homers and a season-most four runs in seven innings to snap his career-best streak of 10 consecutive quality starts. He was 5-0 in seven starts since a loss at Washington on May 7.

Jordan Westburg homered in the second for the Orioles, who set a franchise record with 21 straight games with a home run to surpass the 1998 squad's 20-game streak.

Baltimore had troubled stringing hits together Saturday after scoring 28 runs combined in the last two games. The top four batters in their order combined to go 1 for 13 against Blanco and Houston's bullpen.

Ryan Pressly threw a scoreless eighth before Josh Hader struck out two in a perfect ninth to end it.

Westburg connected off Blanco with one out in the second to put the Orioles up 1-0.

Yainer Diaz opened Houston’s second with a triple on a line drive to right field. The Astros tied it when he scored on a sacrifice fly by Mauricio Dubón with one out.

McCormick singled with no outs in the third and the shot to center field by Alvarez came with two outs to put Houston on top 3-1.

McCormick’s home run to the seats in left field extended the lead to 4-1 with one out in the fifth.

Cedric Mullins tripled off the wall in center with one out in the seventh. Colton Cowser hit a sharp line drive, but was robbed of a hit when shortstop Jeremy Peña made a leaping catch for the second out. Blanco then retired Ramón Urías to end the inning and leave Mullins stranded.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Astros: RHP Jake Bloss, who made his major league debut Friday night, was placed on the injured list with right shoulder discomfort.

ROSTER MOVES

Astros: RHP Nick Hernandez was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land on Friday night. ... LHP Bryan King was selected to the MLB roster and RHP Luis Contreras was recalled from Sugar Land on Saturday. … RHP Alex Speas was designated for assignment.

UP NEXT

Houston LHP Framber Valdez (5-5, 3.91 ERA) opposes RHP Albert Suárez (3-1, 2.05) in the series finale Sunday.

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