Happy NBA Draft Week!
We are finally here. After what seemed like an endless supply of mock drafts, expert shots, fan polls, and trading machine exercises, the defining moment is just around the corner. By Thursday night, you’ll know a lot more about this Houston Rockets team. But for now, here’s the latest information on the 2022 draft, current roster, coach search and more.
• With the draft days remaining, signs are increasingly pointing to Duke’s Paolo Banchero being selected by the Rockets, should he be on the board at No. 3, sources said. the athletic. On a related note, while some expect Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren to be taken at No. 2 by the Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s not an absolute guarantee. There have been rumors of interest in Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, with several teams highly intrigued at the electric guard, including the Indiana Pacers, and Thunder general manager Sam Presti known for making unpredictable decisions in the draft. Having made his official visit last week, Houston is most familiar with Banchero of the three names presumed to be at the top of the draft. Jabari Smith chose not to pay a visit and it is not yet clear if Holmgren will.
However, this should not be seen as out of the ordinary. It’s typical for top picks to avoid meeting with teams below where they’re likely to go. Holmgren and Smith have been teased in the top two for weeks. Regardless, there was an overwhelming amount of positive feedback about Banchero’s visit, similar to that of Jalen Green at a similar stage last year. The Rockets are rebuilding their culture and are looking for hardworking, team-first players. By all accounts, Banchero fits that bill.
Paolo Banchero on Houston: “They have a young team and they see me fitting in perfectly with my playing skills and putting myself anywhere on the floor. Getting together and trying to create something is a plan that they have.”
—Kelly Iko (@KellyIkoNBA) June 17, 2022
• In terms of ownership of the No. 3 pick itself: While teams have shown interest in acquiring it from Houston, those inquiries have been exploratory at best, and the Rockets aren’t looking to drop, sources said. the athletic. Once Thursday night rolls around, those offers could become more concrete, but there is genuine internal excitement about adding a high-quality player at the top of the draft. At the same time, while Houston would love the chance to pick No. 2 or No. 1, they’re pretty comfortable where they are.
• However, regarding selections 17 and 26, the possibilities are open. The Rockets are looking for help on the wings, targeting young players who are confident on offense and can defend multiple positions effectively. Last year, Houston drafted two bigs (Alperen Şengün and Usman Garuba) and two shooting guards (Green and Josh Christopher). There have been a lot of calls coming in about the 17th election, the sources said. the athletic, particularly from teams that don’t have first-round picks or teams with veterans who are willing to move. But all options are on the table. With the 26th pick, Houston has the flexibility to do a number of things. There are no predetermined plans with No. 26. A common notion is that teams pack multiple picks and move up, but the Rockets could also move back, move or even trade for a help guy type now that he’s already in the league.
I would expect the No. 17 pick to be more of an “on the clock” situation. Draft night can get a little crazy in the teens, with some players slipping and others going earlier than expected. Last season, the Rockets aggressively pursued that No. 16 pick once Şengün was still on the board, as they hoped he would enter the lottery. The Rockets’ course of action depends on who is still available, and who figures prominently on Houston’s board.
• A few weeks ago, the athletic reported that Rio Grande Valley Vipers head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah is a strong candidate to join Stephen Silas’ staff. Regarding Abdelfattah, the deal is essentially done, and it’s a question of when, not if, the sources said. the athletic. The seemingly long-running search for Houston has sparked some discussion among Rockets fans on social media, but the Rockets are giving Silas the time and freedom to build the exact type of staff he wants. The Rockets believe in Silas and want to make sure he has the right support around him, especially heading into a pivotal third season at the helm. This might not have been the case two years ago when Silas was initially hired and his staff was put together pretty quickly.
• the athletic also recently reported that former Hawks assistant Melvin Hunt was named as a candidate. The length of Silas’ option list is unknown at this time, but another name that has come up is Lionel Hollins, sources said. the athletic. Hollins, who last served during the 2020-21 season as an assistant to Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, is widely known and respected for his defensive acumen, dating back to his tenure as head coach of the stubborn Memphis Grizzlies. 2009-13 teams.
• Jae’Sean Tate and Kevin Porter Jr. are eligible for contract extensions now. At the start of the offseason, representation for both approached management in hopes of starting those talks, the sources said. Porter, the 30th pick in the 2019 draft, can accept a rookie-scale extension beginning July 1 and has until the day before the 2022-23 season to finalize a multiyear deal. If the two sides don’t come to an agreement by then, Porter would be headed to restricted free agency the following summer. It’s a different scenario for Tate, as he signed as a free agent in 2020. The Rockets have until next summer to close a deal for him, giving them flexibility and time for both. His top prospect will be clearer after the draft and free agency. However, the hope is that they will do something with both.
• As for his own free agents, Dennis Schröder is beloved in Houston, but is expected to have a new home for the 2022-23 season, sources said. the athletic. Schröder arrived at the February trade deadline and brought professionalism, experience and speed to a team in need, but with Daishen Nix available, as well as Porter, Christopher and Green, there is a real need to clear minutes for young developing talent from Template. Schröder is 28 years old, he is in the best moment of his career and he hopes to play big minutes and compete in the playoffs.
• There is a possibility that Christopher, Garuba and Nix play for Houston’s summer league team in Las Vegas.
• In what has become an annual tradition, there is interest in Eric Gordon, sources said the athletic. Gordon, entering his 15th season, has made it clear in the past that he wants to compete at the highest level, though he has been willing to help young players, particularly Green, develop and grow. But with a guaranteed year remaining on his contract (her money from him for 2023-24 is a team option), contending teams have been monitoring the situation, sources said. the athletic. There is no strong desire or pressure to move Gordon. He is considered a strong two-way player, one of the best, in a friendly deal with the team, and he also has value for his ability to guide Houston’s youth and his importance to Silas. The Rockets would need a first-round pick or a younger player who could now help them get away from Gordon. Conversations surrounding Gordon are a little more frequent now than they were around last year’s trade deadline, but that’s expected with this week’s draft.
• With the reality of the incoming No. 3 pick and possibly more, second-year forward Kenyon Martin Jr. recently approached Rockets management to discuss the possibility of a franchise trade, sources said. The nature of the conversation was sincere. With the potential moves after Thursday’s draft, the sudden reality is that there isn’t such a clear path to minutes for Martin in the rotation. It must be said that there is no bad blood between the two parties. Having taken Martin in the second round of the 2020 draft and helping him achieve his NBA dream, there will always be a great deal of love and respect for one another. But Martin is at a stage in his career where he needs minutes to continue to develop, something that may not be so clear in Houston anymore. There are a number of teams, including playoff contenders, that have shown interest in Martin in the past, sources said, with the combination of his age, athleticism and untapped potential considered attractive.
(Photo by Paolo Banchero: Bob Donnan/USA Today)