Houston Rockets: What the Rockets need to prioritize in the draft

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 03: Johnny Juzang #3 of the UCLA Bruins shoots a free throw in the first half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the 2021 NCAA Final Four semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 03, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 03: Johnny Juzang #3 of the UCLA Bruins shoots a free throw in the first half against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the 2021 NCAA Final Four semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 03, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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John Wall #1 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
John Wall #1 of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

It’s no secret what has torpedoed the Houston Rockets’ season. The roster’s complete inability to hit a jump shot has been the main culprit for the franchise’s league-worst record.

To fully capture the Rockets’ shooting woes one only needs to look at their field-goal percentage ranks by distance from the basket.

Distance in feet:   0-3    3-10    10-16    16-3PT   3PT    FT%

League rank:       15th   27th     30th         30th    30th   27th

With all of these bricks, the Rockets could have built a brand new stadium and practice facility. Needless to say, for the Rockets’ to begin the long trek back to relevancy they’re going to need players who can actually hit a shot.

If the Rockets had converted all of their shots at a league-average rate, based upon where they took them, they would go from averaging 107.8 points to 115 points per game. That jump of 7.2 points would take them from 24th in the league into a virtual tie with the Los Angeles Clippers in 6th.

Doc Rivers wasn’t wrong when he said the NBA was a, “make or miss league,” and the old adage that you can never have too much shooting still rings true. The Rockets will have three picks in the first round of the 2021 draft and above all else, they need to prioritize shooting.

The Houston Rockets draft starts at the free-throw line

The best harbinger for NBA shooting is college free throw shooting. The best example of this statistical quirk is Derrick Williams who was selected with the number two overall in the 2011 NBA draft.

In Williams’ final collegiate season he shot an absurd 56.8-percent from 3-point range but only an average-ish 74.6-percent from the free-throw line. When he was drafted his 3-point shooting was thought to be a plus.

By 27-years-old Williams was playing professionally in Germany and had ended his NBA career shooting 30-percent from 3-point range and 71-percent from the free-throw line. The Rockets shouldn’t simply draft based on free-throw shooting but it should be a key statistical priority with all of their picks.

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With that being said, if the Rockets do land a top-four pick they should take the best available player, regardless of their jump shot. However, they will still have two more first-round picks, likely outside of the lottery, and instead of going for high upside players, they should look for prospects with the most reliable jumpers.

The New Orleans Pelicans are enjoying a superstar season from Zion Williamson but find themselves with a losing record and slim chances of making the playoffs. The Pelicans have one of the league’s most dynamic young scorers but their offense is held back by their 25th ranked 3-point shooting attack.

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The Rockets’ offense already prioritizes the right types of shots as they take the third-most 3-pointers and sixth-most shots at the rim as a percentage of their overall shots. To get their sputtering offense back on track the franchise needs to draft players capable of hitting their shots, and that skill starts at the free-throw line.

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