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Houston Rockets land third pick in upcoming NBA draft

After what can only be considered a very successful season for the Houston Rockets, in which they won 41 games, the franchise enjoyed a lot of happiness on Sunday afternoon. The pick the team owes to the Brooklyn Nets as a result of the blockbuster 2021 trade that sent James Harden to the Nets jumped from ninth in the lottery to third. Entering the lottery, the Rockets only had a 20.3% chance of that pick reaching the top four. Houston will now have had a top four pick in each of the last four drafts. In 2021, the franchise used the second overall pick on guard Jalen Green; in 2022, they used the third overall pick on forward Jabari Smith Jr.; in 2023, they used the fourth overall pick on guard Amen Thompson.

There is now speculation about what Houston might want to do with the pick. During media availability later on Sunday after the lottery results, Rockets general manager Rafael Stone stated that he felt the top end of the draft was strong, but there was no consensus. Stone added that it was very difficult to judge 18 or 19 year old players.

Earlier this week, it was reported that the Rockets could consider trading the pick. That option would likely remain on the table. Likely names at the top of the draft include center Alex Sarr, forward Zaccharie Risacher, center Donovan Clingan and guards Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham.

Houston already has a plethora of young talent with the aforementioned three former lottery picks, along with Alperen Sengun, Tari Eason and Cam Whitmore, all still under contract on their rookie scale contracts. Even before Sunday’s result, it would have been difficult to find minutes for another young prospect. Houston’s 41 wins and near play-in performances in 2023-24 make a case for trading the pick for an established player.

The Rockets’ own pick landed at 12th and will be routed to Oklahoma City as a result of the 2020 trade that sent Chris Paul to the Thunder for Russell Westbrook. That obligation had top four protection.

In a move that was widely criticized at the time, Stone opted to trade Harden for a package consisting primarily of future draft picks. Houston already used the 17th pick in the 2022 draft on Eason, who led the team in net rating among regular rotation players. Houston still has swap rights in 2025 and 2027, along with Brooklyn’s pick in 2026.

According to the Rockets’ own press release, this would be the third time in franchise history that the team has received the third overall pick. The Rockets selected Jabari Smith Jr. in 2022 and Rodney McCray in 1983. The third pick dates back to 2001 and has produced eleven future All-Stars: Pau Gasol (2001), Carmelo Anthony (2003), Deron Williams (2005), Al Horford (2007), James Harden ( 2009), Bradley Beal (2012), Joel Embiid (2014), Jaylen Brown (2016), Jayson Tatum (2017), Luka Doncic (2018) and LaMelo Ball (2020).