While Cade Cunningham is widely expected to be the first player drafted on July 29, there’s no established consensus about which prospect should be the second player off the board, making the Rockets‘ pick at No. 2 overall one of the most fascinating selections of the draft.
Essentially, there are three directions the Rockets could go. They could keep the pick, trade up to No. 1, or trade down.
Let’s start with the most straightforward – and probably the most likely – outcome: keeping the pick. Even in that scenario, the Rockets will face a difficult decision. You could make a legitimate case for Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, and even Jonathan Kuminga to be the second player selected after Cunningham.
With a pick as high as No. 2, a rebuilding team should always take the best player available rather than focusing on fit. But if the Rockets like Mobley and one of the other top prospects about equally, perhaps concerns about Mobley’s potential fit alongside Christian Wood in the frontcourt push the needle toward the other player.
That “other player” seems most likely to be Green, who is currently projected as the Rockets’ pick in mock drafts by ESPN, Bleacher Report, The Ringer, and others. Of all the players in this year’s draft class, Green is the best bet to rank among the NBA’s leading scorers year-in and year-out, making him a logical choice to be a centerpiece of the rebuild in Houston, where the team traded longtime leading scorer James Harden earlier in the year.
While the Rockets may be happy to stand pat and nab Green or another promising young prospect, one recent report suggested the team has been “fixated” on Cunningham. Another story said Houston has been aggressive in its efforts to trade up to No. 1.
Obviously, the question of whether the Rockets “should” trade up to No. 1 depends in large part on the price. If it’s just a matter of adding the 23rd pick to the No. 2, then sure, that’s a no-brainer. But the cost figures to be much higher than that — in order to move up for a consensus top prospect like Cunningham, Houston would likely have to include an unprotected or lightly-protected future first-rounder in its offer in order to get Detroit’s attention.
If the Rockets really believe in Cunningham’s star potential, that price may be worth it — after all, following the Harden trade, the club has no shortage of future first-round selections to dangle in trade talks.
On the other hand, if the price to trade up to No. 1 is deemed too high and the Rockets’ have no clear preference at No. 2, perhaps trading down is worth exploring. Although Houston did add a number of draft picks and swaps in the Harden blockbuster, the team has also traded away a couple of its own first-rounders and isn’t as loaded with future draft assets as rebuilding rivals like the Thunder or Pelicans.
The opportunity to move down a handful of spots and pick up a few more assets to use during the rebuild may appeal to the Rockets — especially if they’re high on a specific prospect who would still be available in the 4-6 range.
Again, the terms of a potential trade here are crucial in determining whether it’s a viable path for the Rockets, particularly since this year’s draft class has a distinct top tier. If they’re moving out of the top five and not acquiring a ton of assets for their trouble, the Rockets likely won’t be interested. On the other hand, if they’re just trading down a spot or two and receiving a couple valuable future draft picks, that would be much more intriguing.
We want to know what you think. Will the Rockets trade up or down, or will they stay put? If they keep the No. 2 pick, will Green be the pick? Should he be the pick, or would you like to see Houston go in a different direction?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in!