Rockets general manager Rafael Stone sat down for an extended conversation with Kelly Iko of The Athletic as the team heads into a major offseason, looking to continue a massive roster overhaul.
In the interview, Stone discusses a variety of topics, including how he and his front office team are prepping for what could be a loaded 2021 draft, the way he and his staff evaluate talent in an effort to land under-the-radar depth, and what he projects as the futures of two of the team’s priciest veteran players.
The full story is well worth a read, as Stone also touches on his relationship with team owner Tilman Fertitta, how the team dealt with COVID-19-related challenges during the 2020/21 season, his chemistry with Silas, and more.
Here are some highlights:
On taking an open-minded approach to talent in the upcoming 2021 draft:
“I’m definitely not geared towards any one type of player; we’re just going to try and find the player or players that we think have the potential to be the best. We’re not a team in our iteration that should be focused on this position versus that position, A. But B, I don’t know that any team is generally doing that in the draft. I think the draft is where you’re trying to find just good talented basketball players, I think, where you start thinking about real positionality and holes is more free agency.”
On Houston’s scouting process:
“It’s definitely a collective effort. It’s not just me, I’d say I do my best to use as many different sources of information as I can… I watch a ton. I try to watch them in different situations, I try to envision how they’ll look in our system, both offensively and defensively… My way of thinking about it is you try to funnel. If you can get people who think about basketball differently excited about the same guy, then maybe that’s an interesting guy. When you get to undrafted free agents, or the end of the second round in some respects, you can take a little bit more risk.”
On pricey point guard John Wall‘s long-term fit with Houston:
“John was great… Highly competitive guy who’s nice, super high basketball IQ. We were talking to our young guys the other day, and they were laughing about how John looks like he’s half-listening, and then they’ve got questions and he’s walking them through A, B, C through quadruple Z. He’s been around long enough now. He understands his position, he understands his teammates’ positions, he understands what the defense is doing. Having guys around like that, that’s just about what a pro is supposed to do; you’re supposed to get the whole thing… It’s great for young guys to see that because that’s the level of knowledge that you should attain. You’re not going to have that as a rookie.”
On talented swingman Kevin Porter Jr.:
“His ballhandling is exceptional. That’s not a secret. His passing is really good, too. It did seem like he was miscast playing off the ball. So maybe we were a little more excited about him because we thought that we could maybe unlock a higher upside by moving him onto the ball. We might have been more excited about him than other teams. I’m not in their room, I don’t know what other teams were doing, so I have no idea. But we really liked him.”