If defense wins championships, then the Houston Rockets 2022 draft has a chance to go down as one of the great drafts in NBA history. All it took was five Summer League games for their first two selections, Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason, to convince the NBA community that the Rockets have one of the best young defensive wing duos in the league.
Smith, the third overall pick and rumored to be the first overall pick for much of the buildup to draft night, and Eason, the 17th overall pick and a Kawhi Leonard cosplayer, took turns putting opposing offenses in a defensive torture chamber.
The pair flashed incredible on-ball defense, with Eason as a menace in passing lanes and Smith comfortably providing weakside rim protection. While most rookies struggle to make their mark on defense, Smith and Eason already look like difference makers.
However, the Rockets added a third player in the first round of the 2022 draft, selecting TyTy Washington Jr. with the 29th pick. The Kentucky guard, who slid out of the lottery and almost the first round, has quickly and quietly become the Rockets' rookie third-wheel.
The University of Kentucky basketball program has been a factory for NBA talent since John Calipari took over in 2009-10. In the decade-plus that Calipari has been in Lexington, three players have been selected first overall and three more have gone in the first five selections. Which makes it no surprise that NBA All-Star teams have been littered with Kentucky alums for over a decade.
For all of the high-end NBA talent produced by Kentucky, an interesting trend has emerged. Kentucky guards have routinely outproduced their draft slot. This raises the question; could TyTy Washington be next? And if so, what can Rockets fans expect from him?
I have one theory as to why Kentucky guards have outperformed their draft slot that relates directly to John Calipari.