Houston Rockets must keep an open mind in 2024 NBA Draft

The Houston Rockets need to look beyond conventional options like Reed Sheppard in the draft.
The Houston Rockets need to look beyond conventional options like Reed Sheppard in the draft. / Andy Lyons/GettyImages

It's widely held that the 2024 NBA draft is bad. Here's a question: when did we last see a truly "bad" NBA draft?

Some will point to 2013. Excuse us? The draft that featured Giannis Antetokoumnpo, Rudy Gobert, Victor Oladipo, and CJ McCollum? The 2013 draft wasn't bad - it was poorly projected.

Anthony Bennett was picked first. He barely had an NBA career. Antetokoumnpo was picked 15th, and Gobert was selected 27th.

We saw the same story in the next draft. Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were picked 1st and 2nd overall. The Sixers got it (mostly) right by taking Joel Embiid at 3. Perhaps someone should have considered Nikola Jokic before the Nuggets snatched him with the 41st pick.

To find a class that truly lacked in top-end talent, you've got to go back to 2000. Michael Redd or Mike Miller would be the best players from that class - yikes.

Now, it feels like there's too much young talent around the world for any class to be truly "bad". The 2024 class is likely to unearth some diamonds - they just may not be the players we expect.

Should the Houston Rockets keep that in mind?

Houston Rockets should keep an open mind on draft day

The Rockets have the third pick in the draft. As of this writing, they're typically linked to one of two prospects.

Some outlets have them selecting UConn big man Donovan Clingan. In a class that's perceived as weak, Clingan feels safe. He's likely to be one of the league's better drop coverage rim protectors.

What else can he do? That's the pressing question with Clingan. Is he a specialist? If so, he's never going to usurp Alperen Sengun in the starting lineup. Why would the Rockets pick a long-term backup at 3?

Even if they have a philosophical preference for a defensive big man, drafting one to replace your best player feels counterproductive. The Rockets could plan on trading Sengun some day, but drafting his replacement without a deal in place would be putting the cart before the horse.

Otherwise, the Rockets are frequently linked to Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard. He's interesting. Sheppard is the best shooter in this class, and he's got a knack for stealing the ball.

He's also listed somewhere between 6'1" and 6'3". Sheppard has a high ceiling - they said Steph Curry was too small - but his median outcome is probably as a high-end role player.

Finally, French prospect Zaccharie Risacher sometimes lands in Houston in mock drafts. Like Clingan, his appeal is in his safety. Risacher looks like a reliable 3-and-D, but his ceiling feels lowered by his limited on-ball creation.

Any of these options are fine. None of them are inspiring. Could the Rockets take another route?

Houston Rockets could trade down for upside reach

The Rockets don't need to make a choice at third. They could trade down with a team, pick up some additional assets, and pick a high ceiling / low floor prospect.

What about Tidjane Salun?

The Cholet Basket wing has a lot of potential. Salun is 6'10", and can shoot, defend, and handle the ball. His decision-making has been scrutinized, but the Rockets could slow-burn his development by stashing him in the G-League.

How about Kel'el Ware of Indiana? He's a 7-footer who can space the floor and defend on multiple parts of the floor. There are questions about his motor, but perhaps Ime Udoka could get him working harder.

Tristan da Silva? Isaiah Collier? There are a lot of intriguing names in this class. The broader point is this:

It feels like there's probably a star player or three hiding in plain sight here. The Rockets should, if nothing else, leave no stone unturned. Sure, they could justify walking away from this draft with one of Clingan or Sheppard:

But if they leave a Giannis Antetokoumnpo on the table, they'll regret it.