The Houston Rockets just missed out on the top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft during the lottery, but they still have the No. 2 pick and a couple other selections later in the first round.
Let’s take a look at all the Rockets’ picks and figure out which prospects they’d be best suited to take near the top in this draft preview.
Houston Rockets 2021 NBA Draft picks
- First round, 2nd pick
- First round, 23rd pick (from Portland)
- First round, 24th pick (from Milwaukee)
Houston Rockets Mock Draft
- Detroit Pistons: Cade Cunningham, guard, Oklahoma State
- Houston Rockets: Jalen Green, guard, NBA G League
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Jalen Suggs, guard, Gonzaga
Houston Rockets draft Jalen Green
Jalen Green seems to make the most sense if the Houston wants to plug in a potential perimeter All-Star instead of going the unconventional modern route with Mobley.
With 15 games of experience as a member of the NBA G League Ignite, Green went a unique route instead of playing college basketball this past season. In 247Sports’ composite rankings, Green trailed only Cunningham and was rated ahead of Mobley (No. 3) and Suggs (No. 11) coming out of high school.
Green may have the most upside other than Cunningham among the 2021 draft entrants in terms of overall scoring potential. His skills as a distributor still leave something to be desired, but he’s the most explosive perimeter athlete among the players in consideration for this pick.
When it comes to deciding whether to draft Green or not, Houston needs to decide how it wants to construct the roster.
If the plan is to build around Wall, Eric Gordon and Christian Wood, and the Rockets believe they can be competitive with that group, Green might actually be the best plug-and-play fit right now. Having established that, it seems like Wood is the only player who’s “safe” among that trio.
Green would be a solid choice for Houston no matter what the circumstances, but it feels like Mobley and Suggs may be better long-term fits.
Houston Rockets draft Evan Mobley
It’s safe to say the days of building an NBA roster around a big man are gone. That is, unless we’re talking about USC’s Evan Mobley.
John Wall still has a hefty contract on the books for at least one more season. Not to say that should prohibit the Rockets from drafting a guard early, but Mobley is too special of an all-around player to pass up.
Mobley is among the smartest, most disciplined and flat-out best frontcourt defenders to enter the draft in recent memory. Dare I say, he’s the best prospect in that regard since Anthony Davis in 2012.
What’s encouraging about Mobley’s trajectory is he still has room to fill out his 7-foot frame, yet he has excellent play strength. His outside shooting is advanced, he can back down and finish in the post and in the paint, handle the ball like a guard, and he played 33 games last season while averaging just under 34 minutes per contest.
Those are big minutes for a big man. If he’s willing to take on that kind of workload, Mobley might be the type of culture-changing force the Rockets need.
Houston Rockets draft Jalen Suggs
Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs is an excellent athlete who shot better than 50% last season, and is a crafty, authoritative finisher around the rim.
In addition to being able to score from anywhere off the floor, Suggs is an excellent passer whose floor vision is probably the best among anyone in this 2021 class. His length and toughness also make Suggs a versatile, hard-nosed defender.
Cade Cunningham may have the edge on Suggs in terms of size and 3-point shooting, but the Gonzaga star would not be a bad consolation prize at all for Houston. It’d just probably mean moving off John Wall somehow, sometime soon.
Houston Rockets trade scenario for 2021 NBA Draft
Move up to No. 1 to select Cade Cunningham
According to The Ringer‘s Kevin O’Connor, the Rockets really like Cade Cunningham and are considering a move up to No. 1 overall. The question is, what would a trade with the Detroit Pistons look like?
- Pistons get: Eric Gordon, Kevin Porter Jr. and No. 2 overall pick (Evan Mobley)
- Rockets get: Josh Jackson and No. 1 overall pick (Cade Cunningham)
The only real trade chip Houston has to play is Eric Gordon, and even if Kevin Porter Jr. is viewed as a long-term buidling block, he wore out his welcome abruptly with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’s a risky player to build around going forward, and if sacrificing him meant getting Cunningham, the Rockets would probably do it.
Suddenly, Detroit would have a lot more perimeter firepower on offense and could go for the versatile skill set of Evan Mobley. Going small-ball with Mobley at the 5, Jerami Grant at the 4, Saddiq Bey at small forward, Gordon starting as shooting guard and either Porter or Killian Hayes running the point would make the Pistons formidable.
Josh Jackson would give the Rockets much-needed help defending the wing, and Cunningham is a potential franchise-changing player from the lead guard spot.
Houston Rockets draft preview: 2021 class could turn franchise around
If the Rockets nail their high lottery pick and get a little lucky with either of their later first-round selections, suddenly they’d have two cost-effective players who can contribute in meaningful ways for the next several years.
Houston’s blockbuster trade centered around superstar James Harden definitely backfired in the short term last season. Unfortunately, the organization had no choice. After an NBA-worst 17-55 record, though, there’s nowhere for the Rockets to go but up.