Houston Rockets rebuild: The 48% chance
The Rockets’ chances of a swift rebuild will be dramatically altered if they can’t keep their 2021 first-round pick. The reason isn’t that the 2022 NBA draft is barren; it just means they won’t be able to pair two blue-chip prospects to form their future core.
Draft prospects don’t always pan out, which is why having multiple top-five picks in short succession will be so important for the Rockets’ future. For every Zion Williamson, there is an Anthony Bennett and the Rockets can’t afford to take their chances on having just one premium draft pick.
The Rockets won’t be left without any first-round picks if they fall out of the top-four, but they’ll have the Miami Heat’s first-round pick, the Trail Blazers’ first-round pick, and the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick. While that amounts to three total first-round picks, they all will likely land in the 20s.
In this scenario, the Rockets would have a few options to consider. The first option would be to package all of these picks to move up to land a better player. On paper, this is an appealing option, but outside of the first five picks, this draft does not appear to have any impact players.
The next option would be to trade a few of these picks for future picks. A move like this likely won’t net the Rockets much but it could end up landing them a more valuable pick in the distant future.
The final option is for the Rockets to simply make their selections as they come. For a franchise that hasn’t drafted a player in the first-round since 2015, staying the course and selecting as many young players as possible might be the best course of action.
When it comes to the draft, if you don’t have a premium pick having a bunch of bites at the apple is the next best way to find a star. The chances that the Rockets land a star in the 20s are astronomically low, but from time to time a team gets lucky.
If the Rockets can’t land a top-four pick this season then their timeline to contention will be pushed back by two to three seasons. They’ll have to hope their 2022 first-round pick ends up in the top-five and it could take until 2025 for their rebuild to start to fully kick in.
Houston Rockets timeline to contention
The best-case scenario for the Rockets is that they hit a home run in the 2021 draft, land another valuable pick in 2022, and enter the 2023 offseason armed with a ton of cap space and an up and coming core, which puts their chances at being a playoff team at around 2023 or 2024. However, if the Rockets don’t keep their 2021 first-round pick they’ll likely have to wait until 2025 at the earliest when the Brooklyn Nets’ picks value are more clear to really be able to start contending.