Houston Rockets could pull off Shai Gilgeous-Alexander blockbuster during NBA Draft

Boasting the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets have been the subject of several trade rumors.

Most recently, reports suggest that general manager Rafael Stone and Co. are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to trading up with the Detroit Pistons for former Oklahoma State standout Cade Cunningham.

As of right now, it appears that the top pick is off the market with Detroit pretty much locked in on Cunningham. While Houston could end up standing pat and taking wing Jalen Green at two, there’s now talk that the team might end up swinging a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder for a package surrounding star young guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Numerous general managers and player-agents spoke to NBA insider Chad Ford recently about Oklahoma City’s willingness to move Gilgeous-Alexander. There’s one common theme that came up. The Thunder might be looking to get away from having to extend the young guard next year given that they are still in the initial stages of a rebuild.

Houston obviously came up as a potential destination after the Pistons turned down a package surrounding Gilgeous-Alexander and the sixth pick for the No. 1 overall selection.

“They won’t be giving up Cade, and the Rockets may decide the more assets the better,” one agent told Ford. “Shai and Kevin Porter Jr. could play together. They have Christian Wood. They still get the sixth pick, maybe someone like [Jonathan] Kuminga or [Scottie] Barnes. That may be more reasonable.”

For the Houston Rockets, this might actually make a ton of sense. The idea would be to move down from the second selection to No. 6 while acquiring one of the better young guards in the NBA. Prior to going down to a season-ending injury in late-March, Gilgeous-Alexander was putting up some terrific numbers for a bad Thunder team. That included him averaging 23.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists on 51% shooting from the field.

How would a Shai Gilgeous-Alexander trade to the Houston Rockets look?

houston rockets trade for shai gilgeous-alexander
BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN via Imagn Content Services, LLC
  • Houston Rockets get: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, sixth pick, 16th pick
  • Oklahoma City Thunder get: Second pick

This would obviously be akin to the Thunder paying a bounty to move up just a handful of spots in the draft. Unfortunately, it’s something general manager Sam Presti might have to consider after the lottery ping-pong balls did not bounce in a direction favorable to Oklahoma City.

The Thunder are not far a long in their rebuild phase. It’s by design with Presti and Co. looking to stockpile draft picks rather than assets in player form over the past couple years.

Oklahoma City could now use these excess of picks to entice the Rockets in a trade-down scenario. Remember, there’s four NBA Draft prospects seen as legitimate franchise cornerstones. That includes Cunningham, Green, Evan Mobley and Jalen Suggs. Teams looking to move into the top four would be paying a premium. For Oklahoma City, that might include moving up for Mobley.

“This isn’t just a move up in the draft. This is also finding a way of getting off of paying Shai next year. I could see them doing this for Evan Mobley,” an agent told Ford in the above-linked report.

From the Houston Rockets’ perspective, this might seem to be a no-brainer following a disastrous 17-55 performance in 2020-21. Gilgeous-Alexander would form a solid young trio with Kevin Porter Jr. and Christian Wood in Houston. The Rockets would then have the sixth selection to add another franchise cornerstone-type player while still boasting three more first-round selections. Talk about Rafael Stone having options.