Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has the opportunity to enjoy a unique view of the NBA Draft on Thursday night that most front offices never get to experience. He might get to watch it like the rest of us; the Houston Rockets are off the draft board this year.
There is still the possibility that Houston could trade back into the draft. There are certainly teams in the draft that have now built up a huge number of picks in their pockets. After a trade on Tuesday, Minnesota has six picks on the board. Portland has five picks, with four of those in the second round. The Rockets have been holding workouts with draft-eligible players, so the team has not abandoned the whole draft yet.
Houston likely won’t make the big move for a first-round pick, but it could make a play to grab a pick in the second round. The Rockets have had a lot of success with picks outside of the lottery lately, adding Aaron Brooks late in the first round and Carl Landry was a second-round pick by the Sonics that Houston ended up trading for on draft night (which would usually mean the Sonics drafted him at the request of the Rockets).
However, the Rockets, as they are currently built, are not a team that has been constructed by the team’s own picks. Of course, Yao Ming was a lottery pick by the team, but most of the other players came to the team via trade or free agency. Because Houston has typically made the playoffs and then been bounced in the first round, the team picks have historically been in the mid-first round, which is prime bust territory for draft picks.
If the Rockets do get into the draft, they likely will be looking to add some depth and be willing to take a player that could be a project and not productive for a couple of years. The team drafted Joey Dorsey last year and continues to work with James White. Both players have potential but need time to reach the point where they can contribute to a team that each year looks to make a run deeper into the playoffs.
Of course, there is always the potential that the team could end up adding a young player through means other than the draft. Chuck Hayes, whose play elevated when Yao went down with injury, went undrafted and has worked his way onto the team. Although far from an All Star, he is a key contributor to the team each night and is a force on the boards.
Depth at center is a concern looking at the team’s current roster due to Yao’s injury history and Dikembe Mutombo’s career-ending injury in the playoffs. It is always a bad sign when both of the centers on your roster are wearing suits during a playoff game. Depth is also a concern at the guard positions, with Tracy McGrady becoming increasingly injury prone.
Personally, I hope the Rockets don’t continue to trade away future picks, as they have in the past. The team does have a good stable of forwards that could serve as a source of pieces when trading into the draft this year.