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Examining what the Rockets should do with the No. 2 pick

Nobody on this roster should be off limits. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rockets are in a good spot to help begin their rebuild by possessing the number two overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. They also have two other selections in the first round with numbers 23 and 24. While those back end picks more than likely won't pan out to be much, they could be valuable rotational players at some point in their careers. The true value lies in number two overall. That pick paid off for their horrendous season, finishing with the league's worst record. It also allowed them to keep the pick instead of the Oklahoma City Thunder taking it as part of the Chris Paul trade.

The scuttlebutt has already begun to make its rounds about which player the Rockets will pick or what other options are out there for them should they decide to trade it. I think a team in their position should keep all their options open. There are some really talented guys at the top of this draft that could help this team turn it around if they pan out. There are also several trade scenarios that could involve the number two pick that could bring back a decent haul. Let's take a look at a few options:

Drafting a player: Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, and Jalen Green are all expected to be available considering many evaluators believe Cade Cunningham is the consensus number one overall pick going to the Pistons. Mobley could pair with Christian Wood as a stretch version of the Twin Towers the Rockets had when they put Hakeem Olajuwon with Ralph Sampson in the 80s. Suggs is pretty NBA ready and tough as nails. Green is very athletic, explosive, and has a really high ceiling. Any of these guys would upgrade this roster immediately. Would they be franchise-changing the way some past number two overall picks have been? Not initially. Even draft picks this high in the NBA now are based more off potential instead of being can't-miss prospects. I'd love to see any one of them in a Rockets uniform, but the one that intrigues me most is Green. He could be the next dynamic scorer in the league à la a Bradley Beal, Donovan Mitchell, or Devin Booker. Suggs would be a nice addition, but isn't as explosive as Green. Mobley is redundant because you have Wood, but he could be Wood's replacement if he's seen as a similar talent, but on a more team friendly deal for a longer period of time (more on that later).

Trading the pick: The option of trading the pick has many tentacles. They could package the pick and other picks/players to vault the team into contention by seeking a superstar who's looking for a change of scenery (Ben Simmons or Beal), or a disgruntled star fed up with his current situation (Dame Lillard). They could even use it to trade back in this draft and pick up extra picks and/or players. For example- The Warriors are thinking about trading for Pascal Siakam. Supposedly, the number seven overall pick and last year's rookie James Wiseman would be going to the Raptors. They would then possess numbers four and seven overall. What would they be willing to give up for number two? I'd call the Warriors and see if they want number two for numbers seven, fourteen, and one of their good players. The possibilities are endless in any trade scenario. Nobody on this roster is off limits when it comes to being a part of any trade package I'd consider. Not even Christian Wood. He'll be on the second year of a three-year deal next season and has expressed his desire to be a max player for his next contract. If including him as part of a trade package that could net you a nice haul in return means parting with a potential building block, so be it. ESPN 97.5 Houston's AJ Hoffman (6/24/21, hour four) and Joel Blank have both recently commented on this, and I wholeheartedly agree.

I hope they take Green, or trade the pick. I believe Green has a really high ceiling and could be the ultimate boom or bust pick. He has the body type, scoring ability, and athleticism that could be a cornerstone to a rebuilding team. Should they trade the pick, I hope they get better value than they've gotten out of the CP3, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden deals. Trading the pick for more assets is only ideal if they can make those assets turn into reliable pieces. I'm nervously optimistic for this team. This could either be a quick turnaround, or the beginning of a long road.

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Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Even though the Astros have been in the last five postseasons and made it to the World Series in three of those, they still have some new faces on the roster this year that will be participating in their first playoff games. Three of them, in particular, could have impactful enough parts to play that they shape the entire fortune of the team in these playoffs.

Trey Mancini

Although Baltimore was in the hunt until the last weeks of the season in 2022, it took getting traded to the Astros for Trey Mancini to finally get his first taste of playoff baseball. Mancini debuted in 2016, and while his numbers have been frustrating since joining his new team, he is still a powerful slugger whom the Astros should use at times in the ALDS and beyond.

Whether they need to spell Yuli Gurriel at first or use him in the outfield, Mancini will be a good weapon for the Astros, especially if he can break out of his recent funk and string together some good at-bats. Before the trade, he was batting .268, a number much more in line with his career numbers than the low .176 he had with the Astros. With the time off between the final regular season game and his first plate appearance in the playoffs, I'd expect he'll have found a way to put the slump behind him and come through with some key hits.

Hunter Brown

One of the most pleasant surprises the Astros had this year was seeing the quality they could get out of Hunter Brown from day one in the majors. After being touted as the next Justin Verlander after his six-inning shutout start in his debut, Brown made another quality start before transitioning to the bullpen.

Now, the big caveat here is that Brown actually makes the ALDS roster, which, with Houston's depth, puts a good but challenging task in front of them to assemble the proper ratio of position players to pitchers, and within the pitchers, starters to relievers. Assuming Brown makes the cut, he could be a big difference-maker.

Brown has only allowed two hits and three walks in his last three appearances, most recently logging 2.1 innings of scoreless work to lower his ERA to 0.89. He has electric stuff and would be a great asset to have in a game where maybe one of Houston's starters can't make it past a few innings, and the Astros need someone to gap between them and the other relievers.

Jeremy Peña

One first-timer that we don't have to speculate about making the roster or getting plenty of playing time is Jeremy Peña. He'll be at shortstop and probably batting second behind Jose Altuve in the lineup. Entering the year with high expectations to take over for Carlos Correa, Peña put together an outstanding rookie campaign, including launching 22 home runs, matching Correa's rookie number, and coming in first amongst AL shortstops in defensive runs saved.

One area it may take him and others combined to replace Correa is going to the plate with the game on the line and coming through in the clutch. If Peña can come up with one of those "it's my time" moments in the 2022 postseason, he'll have completed the total takeover. In any case, it will be fun to see how the rookie does his first time on the biggest stage.

One of the most well-rounded teams in the league this year, and now in the playoffs, Houston has plenty of veteran experience that will make them a tough out in any series. Add in these three players, and it shows why the Astros are coming out ahead in most people's predictions.

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