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.