What to do at No. 2?
It’s the latest dilemma facing the Houston Rockets after the NBA Draft Lottery concluded on Tuesday night (June 22). After aiming for the No. 1 pick since the All-Star Break, the Rockets found themselves just a spot below when the ping-pong balls finally stopped moving.
For only the second time in franchise history, the Rockets will have the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft. The last time they picked No. 2? They picked future Hall of Famer Rudy Tomjanovich in 1970 who would later lead the team to its first two NBA titles in 1994 and 1995 as well as an Olympic gold medal with Dream Team II in 1996. It’s the highest selection for the Rockets since 2002, when they took Yao Ming with the No. 1 overall pick.
Now, it’s about finding the next generational talent to lead the team back to the upper echelon of the league.
“The goal is to find a star player,” general manager Rafael Stone said during a video conference. “When you bring in young players especially, you’re really looking for star potential. I wouldn’t use the word ‘expect.’ I don’t want to put that pressure on a player. I do think we’re likely to get somebody really, really talented if we pick the pick.
“We do have three first-round picks (with the 23rd and 24th selections from deals with Portland and Milwaukee) and we do expect to come away with a more talented roster.”
The Rockets next goal? Determining who said star player is. With presumptive No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State likely headed to Detroit, the Rockets could opt to draft USC big man Evan Mobley or two talented guards in Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs or G-League star Jalen Green who bypassed playing college basketball to become the first player to play for the NBA’s G-League Ignite squad. Bypassing college gave Green a “basketball internship” as he would sign a one-year deal with the Ignite worth $500,000 to sharpen his skills against other potential pros.
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After trading James Harden early in the season, the Rockets “reward” after an injury-plagued year was to potentially land a top 4 pick. With the No. 2 pick secure and the avoidance of having to give it away to Oklahoma City due to the aftermath of the Chris Paul/Russell Westbrook trade, the Rockets are back in good shape to succeed again.
But what to do with No. 2?