The Rockets own three first-round picks in tonight’s draft, which marks the latest step in a rebuilding project that began when James Harden was traded 17 months ago, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Instead of seeking immediate contributors in the Harden deal, Houston opted for a package from the Nets that was heavy on draft picks, including the 17th selection this year.
Another reported option was an offer from Philadelphia centered around Ben Simmons, but the Rockets’ front office decided Simmons wasn’t a player they wanted to build around. Instead, they made what Patrick Fertitta, son of owner Tilman Fertitta, calls a “hard and, at the time, very unpopular decision” to undergo a complete rebuild.
“There wasn’t an equally attractive alternative at the time,” general manager Rafael Stone said. “Not even close from our perspective. I am a big believer in going all-in. Whether it is to go all-in to rebuild or all-in to win a championship.”
There’s more from Houston:
- The Rockets are sold on Jalen Green as the centerpiece of their future, but there are concerns around the league that backcourt partner Kevin Porter Jr. may not be reliable enough for a long-term commitment, MacMahon states in the same story. Porter, who is eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer, improved as a defender and three-point shooter last season, but there are questions about whether he should be the starting point guard or a sixth man. “He is not a finished product,” Stone says. “He just turned 22. He needs to grow and improve, on and off the court, but we are excited about him and his trajectory.”
- Houston is also facing a decision on Eric Gordon, the last veteran remaining from the Harden era, MacMahon adds. The 33-year-old guard could be moved if the Rockets get a first-round pick in return, but the front office likes having him around to mentor the young players. “It’s a tough situation,” Gordon said. “When you’re doing a rebuild, it’s a long-term type thing. Guys have to know that this is a long-term plan. If it’s a long-term plan for these young guys, then I have to know there’s a long-term plan for me, too.”
- MarJon Beauchamp remembers when the Rockets were the only team to send a scout to watch him play at Yakima Valley College, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Beauchamp worked out for Houston a few weeks ago and appears to be a candidate to be selected at No. 17 or 26.