Should the Houston Rockets trade up in the draft?

General Manager Neil Olshey of the Portland Trail Blazers speaks with General Manager Rafael Stone of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
General Manager Neil Olshey of the Portland Trail Blazers speaks with General Manager Rafael Stone of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets
Stephen Silas of the Houston Rockets (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets are set to have three first-round picks in the 2021 NBA draft. Where one of them will land is still at the mercy of the NBA draft lottery and a potential swap with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the other two are set in stone as the 23rd and 24th picks.

Historically, the 23rd and 24th picks turn into players that spend most of their career as bench players. The Rockets, after a season where they endured a historic amount of roster turnover, would definitely benefit from a more well-rounded bench, but the franchise, after having the worst record in the league, also really needs talent. Should the Rockets trade these picks and go for quality, or keep them and go for quantity?

Houston Rockets: What are the 23rd and 24th picks worth in a trade?

Regardless of their decision, the Rockets should kick the tires on what a package of the 23rd and 24th picks can get them in the draft. Which raises the question, what could those two picks together net the Rockets? Well, that depends on how you look at it.

Dating back to the 1976 NBA draft, players drafted with the 23rd and 24th picks, on average, will be expected to produce a combined 39.3 career win shares. That total is close to the average career win share total of the ninth pick at 41.8 win shares and puts it in the tier of picks six through ten.

However, it is far more valuable to get 39.3 win shares from one player as opposed to two. Also, the 23rd and 24th picks have outperformed the general trend of draft order production.

Career Win Shares picks 21-26

Pick:                  21st      22nd      23rd      24th      25th      26th

Career WS:     17.4      13.4        18.2       21.1      11.5       12.9

As more and more data comes in, it’s likely that the 23rd and 24th picks will level off and settle in around 15 career win shares. If that’s closer to their actual value then the pair won’t come close to sniffing a top-10 pick through trade.

It’s likely that a trade package of the 23rd and 24th pick could land anywhere from the 12th to the 16th pick in the draft. Historically, picks 12 through 16 go on to have roughly the same careers.

Career Win Shares picks 12-16

Pick:                12th      13th      14th      15th      16th 

Career WS:    22.0      29.8       23.0      21.3      19.5

This means that if the Rockets want to move up in the draft they should give the San Antonio Spurs (12th pick), the Indiana Pacers (13th pick), the Golden State Warriors (14th pick), the Washington Wizards (15th pick), and the Boston Celtics (16th pick) a call to gauge their interest. It should be noted that all of these teams control all of their future first-round picks, except the Warriors and Wizards.

Because of this, It’s unlikely that the Spurs, Pacers, or Celtics would move off of their first-round picks for two picks in the 20s. However, that shouldn’t be the case for the Wizards or Warriors who have more use for young cost-controlled role players.

If the Rockets want to move up in the draft then they’re looking at landing a pick in the teens. Here’s if they should pull the trigger and move up close to ten spots in the draft.

Next: Why the Rockets should move up in the draft

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