Houston Rockets draft preview: 5 NBA Draft targets, including Amen Thompson

The Houston Rockets are closing in on starting year four of their rebuild, and if they hold on to their picks in the 2023 NBA Draft, the team’s front office needs to strike gold with their two first-round selections in June.

After 14 straight seasons of competitive play and several teams that were considered NBA title contenders, the Houston Rockets decided to break it all down and start from scratch in 2020-2021. In the years since they have tried to invest in young talent and aimed to develop the next face of their franchise.

Related: NBA Draft rumors – Latest information leading up to the 2023 event

While 2021 second-overall pick Jalen Green has shown the potential to be a star in the league, other first-round selections like Kevin Porter Jr., Alperen Sengun, and Jabari Smith have delivered mixed results and have not quite proven they can be long-term pillars of the organization’s return to prominence.

That is why there have been rumblings for weeks that the Houston Rockets intend to be major players in NBA free agency this summer, and could also be aggressive in the trade market to ensure they are a playoff team again next season.

There is a real possibility that picks four and twenty in June’s event could be used in potential blockbuster deals in the offseason. However, if the Houston Rockets do decide to hold on to the selection, let’s take a look at the players they could target with their pair of picks in the opening round of the 2023 NBA Draft.

Houston Rockets picks in 2023 NBA Draft

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Here are the Rockets’ draft picks for the annual event in Chicago on June 22.

  • 1st round, 4th pick 
  • 1st round, 20th pick (via Clippers) 

Houston Rockets targets in NBA Draft 2023

Amen Thompson, Guard/Forward, Overtime Elite

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Many NBA Draft observers believe that French phenom Victor Wembanyama will be the first pick overall, and then G-League star Scoot Henderson and Alabama’s Brandon Miller will be the next two picks. That is why most experts expect Overtime Elite product Amen Thompson to land with the Houston Rockets at four.

On a pure talent level, Thompson’s abilities jump off the page because he is a fantastic athlete that is well-rounded and can do a little bit of everything. He has the talent to be a superstar, but his shot is why he is not expected to go in the top three. However, if he can develop that part of his game to be effective and consistent, he could be a steal at four.

Brandon Miller, Forward, Alabama

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Due to Thompson’s upside, it is not impossible that when the draft arrives on June 22, he ends up moving into the top three on draft boards. If that does happen, that would likely mean Brandon Miller could fall to four and still be a worthwhile selection for the Rockets.

Miller has an offensive game that is ready-made to make him a contributor in the NBA right away. He can beat defenders of various sizes, has a rock-solid jumper, and has good range. Furthermore, he isn’t too bad defensively and could be coached up to be an impact wing on both sides of the ball.

Like most NBA Draft prospects, consistency in his scoring will be his biggest issue. He could be a strong third or fourth option on most teams, but his potential is to be a high-level scorer in the league akin to a player like DeMar DeRozan.

Rayan Rupert, Guard/Forward, New Zealand Breakers

New Zealand Breakers star Rayan Rupert is likely to be one of the next international players taken off the board after Wembanyama. The 19-year-old is very much a project with a major upside, which may not thrill Rockets fans. But late in the second round, it could be a worthwhile risk for the team to take.

On offense he has a way to go to reach the peaks of his potential, however, from day one he will be an impact player on defense. At 6-foot-6, he has a shocking 7-foot-3 wingspan and has the athleticism to guard multiple positions at the next level. If the team did sign James Harden as rumored, Rupert would be a great addition to guard opposing wings that Harden or Green can’t.

Dariq Whitehead, Guard/Forward, Duke

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Dariq Whitehead entered his freshman season at Duke as one of the best high school players in the country. However, injuries severely hampered his first and only college season, which leaves certain question marks about how his game will transition to the next level. Nevertheless, he has the athleticism and shot-making abilities that make scouts confident he can be an impact player in the NBA. There is a good chance he will still be on the board when the Houston Rockets are on the clock again at 20.

Nick Smith Jr., Guard, Arkansas

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If Arkansas star Nick Smith Jr. were to fall to the Houston Rockets at 20, that would be a major win for the franchise. The team needs more scoring, especially off of the bench, and if there is one thing Smith Jr. can do, it’s drop points in large amounts.

He has a great handle and can beat defenders with the ball, but he is also a dangerous player without the rock in his hands. Furthermore, it does not take him much to get red-hot on any given night. He is a multi-level threat and is a player Rockets fans should cross their fingers and hope to get with their second selection in the opening round.

2023 Houston Rockets mock draft

  • 1st round, 4th pick – Amen Thompson
  • 1st round, 20th pick (via Clippers) – Rayan Rupert
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