The Rockets have lost an incredible 43 of their last 48 games, will finish the season with the NBA’s worst record, and will only have a 52.1% chance to keep their first-round pick, which is top-four protected. However, team owner Tilman Fertitta tells ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that he remains bullish on the future of the franchise.
“I never thought I could feel this good after winning only 16 games,” Fertitta said of his 16-53 club. “I never thought I could feel this good when I’ve been so upset about losing. But when I look at all the draft picks that we have and the future, I’m just happy. I know it’s unusual to feel this good with your coach (Stephen Silas) and your general manager (Rafael Stone), but I do.”
If the Rockets’ 2021 first-round pick falls outside of the top four, they’ll have to send it to the Thunder in exchange for Miami’s first-round selection. Houston also owes two more future first-rounders to Oklahoma City, in 2024 (top-four protected) and 2026 (top-four protected).
However, the Rockets have acquired several other first-round picks and swaps in various trades, including the James Harden blockbuster — they’ll have Portland’s and Brooklyn’s first-round picks this year, as well as first-rounders from the Nets, Pistons, Wizards, and Bucks in future drafts. Fertitta expressed a willingness to be patient waiting for those extra selections to pay dividends.
“It could be 2027 that we get a top-five pick that ends up being the next greatest player,” Fertitta told MacMahon. “We don’t know, but my people have shown all they’ve done so far is made the right decision, and I’m proud of all of them. I’m proud of the basketball ops people and I’m proud of Silas, because they keep showing me they’re doing the right things.”
Fertitta specifically credited Stone for the acquisitions of Christian Wood and young building blocks like Kevin Porter and Kenyon Martin Jr. He also praised Silas for the work he has done dealing with adversity this season and developing those young players. The Rockets’ owner added that he doesn’t have a specific timeline in mind for the club becoming a legit contender again.
“I can tell you this: I’m going to be patient,” Fertitta told ESPN. “I know my basketball guys know what they’re doing. We’re not going to go do something stupid to try to get into the playoffs next year that then will prevent us from competing for a championship in a couple years. … I think we’ll be much better next year and we’ll be much better the following year and then we’ll be much better the following year.”