Houston Rockets: How to trade up to no. 1 in the 2021 NBA Draft

Oregon State v Oklahoma State
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Cade Cunningham, NBA Draft
Oregon State v Oklahoma State / Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It has been reported that the Houston Rockets are aggressively pursuing the number one pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft. With the second overall pick in the draft, the Rockets won't have to give up the farm to move up a spot but the Detroit Pistons know that other teams are looking to move up to the top of the draft too.

The Rockets' desire to move up in the draft is motivated by their belief that Cade Cunningham has what it takes to be an NBA superstar. The 6'8 point-forward has long been considered the number one prospect in the 2021 NBA draft due to his combination of shooting, shot creation, playmaking upside, and length.

At his peak, Cunningham could have no weaknesses on a basketball court, which is a tantalizing talent to build around. However, the second pick isn't going to be some future benchwarmer, so the question for the Rockets is, how much is the first pick worth?

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Houston Rockets: How much if the 1st pick worth?

To start things off, the Rockets will need to trade the Pistons the second overall pick to get the first overall pick. From 1976 to 2010, the first pick in the NBA draft, on average, has produced 78.5 career win shares compared to 54.4 for the second overall pick.

While that 24.1 gap in career win shares is massive, it should be noted that the third pick, on average, has produced 64.3 career win shares. What this all means is that the first player drafted tends to be worth at least ten more win shares over the course of their career, which is coincidentally the career average win shares of the 31st pick.

Houston Rockets: What it'll take to trade up to no. 1

If the Rockets just want to use draft capital to move up, then a trade where they send the second pick and the 23rd pick and the 24th pick should easily be enough to satisfy the Pistons. However, if the Rockets want to add players into the deal then things could get dicey.

Since both teams are in a rebuild, they're both actively trying to stockpile young, inexpensive, and high upside players. Would the Rockets want to part with one of Kevin Porter Jr, Jae'Sean Tate, or Kenyon Martin Jr, plus the second pick and maybe more to move up one spot?

If the Rockets are serious about moving up to snag the first pick they have the ammunition to do so. They'll have to give up a lot, but if Cunningham proves to be the type of prospect that he has been made out to be, then it'll be well worth it in the long run.

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