How the Houston Rockets move forward after missing out on top pick
Heartbreak. Pain. Disappointment. Letdown. Hurt. Pissed. Whatever adjective you want to use would be appropriate to describe how just about every Rockets fan felt when learning the team got the fourth overall pick in the NBA's Draft Lottery. Everybody and their momma wanted to win the draft lottery. Myself, I simply wanted a top three pick. That's why coming in fourth was ulcer-inducing.
First off, let's come to a realization. Drafting at number four overall isn't a death knell. This team still has cap space (about $60 million dollars). They also own the Clippers' first rounder this year. Oh, and this roster has a few key pieces already in place. Hiring Ime Udoka as head coach is a step in the right direction. That direction? Clearly it's time to start competing for playoff spots.
Secondly, if they decide to stay at number four overall, they are in a position to still draft a really talented player that can help this roster. Amen Thompson, Ausar Thompson, Jarace Walker, and Cason Wallace are among the candidates for that slot. There may be a couple others in the running. Opinions will vary on whom most see as the next best candidate. This will largely depend on how they view the roster moving forward. Making use of the cap space to bring in a high dollar free agent will only add to what's already here. Finding the right prospect will be more difficult in this position.
Another option out there is trading the pick. Packaging this pick, along with anything else, to lure a superstar player here would be ideal. Teams will undoubtedly have interest in not only the number four overall pick, but there are a few nice players on this roster other teams would love to have as well. Figuring out who you're willing to part with in order to bring in another player can be tricky. It'll be well worth it if the team can attract the perfect fit for the pieces they keep.
The other trade option would be pulling a “Caserio.” A “Caserio” is when you shock the system and trade up into a draft when people don't really see it coming. Take number four and pair it with the Clippers pick and other assets to get the number two or three pick. Hell, I'd be okay with adding future picks to make it happen. The Spurs WILL NOT trade number one and the chance to draft Victor Wembanyama! Scoot Henderson and Brandon Miller are the clear-cut numbers two and three (in whatever order you feel). Either one of those guys would be a great addition and well worth the risk.
Going into the draft lottery, a top three pick was where my head and heart merged. Getting number one overall was a lost cause. The Rockets have had more shots over the last few years and have never gotten it. Last time, it was 2002 when they got Yao Ming. Prior to that, it was 1984 and Hakeem Olajuwon. Somehow, the Spurs have won the draft lottery three times (1987, 1997, 2023). The fact that Wemby is French and fellow countrymen (and HOFer) Tony Parker is a former Spur isn't lost on me. Neither is the fact that I still believe the NBA is sort of shadow-penalizing the Rockets for Daryl Morey's China outburst.
Tilman Fertitta didn't become as successful as he is by luck. He's a very shrewd businessman who doesn't like losing. These past few seasons have been tough. The hiring of Udoka was a sign that the process is going into the next phase: winning. Securing the number four overall pick will be seen as an annoyance more than a hindrance if everything else is executed properly. I don't know about you guys, but I'm still excited. Moderately upset, but still excited.