With the Houston Rockets on pace to finish with the NBA's worst record for the third consecutive year, the focus has shifted to the NBA Draft, at least for the fanbase. This is especially the case with just 16 games remaining in the Rockets' 2022-23 season.
Granted, losing was always going to be in the cards the moment the Rockets began stripping down the roster, as you almost never get equal value for a quintessential superstar such as James Harden. In addition, the Rockets were the second youngest team in the NBA entering the 2022-23 season (average age 23.58, behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder) and that spells, well, room for growth and maturation.
If there was a year to be bad, this is certainly the year, as this could very well be the most important lottery of the Rockets' rebuild, with a loaded draft class featuring the likes of French big man Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson, who would be the prized jewel of the class, were it not for the aforementioned Wembanyama. There is also talent in the draft class outside of Henderson and Wembanyama, such as the Thompson twins and Alabama freshman sensation Brandon Miller.
Latest mock draft spells doom for Houston Rockets
In other words, the Rockets will be okay if they don't land the first or second pick (although that could be a tough sell for Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who has admittedly been praying for Wembanyama, along with just about every other NBA owner). Fertitta would likely put in a prayer request to ensure that the latest mock draft by Kevin O'Connor of The Ringer doesn't come to fruition, as O'Connor not only has the Rockets drafting fifth overall, but he has them not drafting any of the aforementioned jewels of the draft class.
Instead, O'Connor has the Rockets drafting Jarace Walker of the nation's top ranked University of Houston men's basketball team. Granted, Walker can play in his own right (11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds for the AAC Rookie of the Year), and is a tenacious defender (Walker holds the fifth-best defensive rating in the country), which the Rockets could certainly use, make no mistake about it. Walker was also the eighth-ranked player in the nation as a high school senior, which is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
But after having their sights set on either Wembanyama or Henderson at #1 or #2, walking away with Walker and the fifth pick would be quite a disappointment, as they were hoping for one of the best two players in the draft overall. O'Connor has Wembanyama going to the San Antonio Spurs and Henderson going second to the Chicago Bulls.
With the Rockets' second first round pick, which O'Connor has landing just outside of the lottery at 17, the Rockets select Jett Howard out of Michigan. The 6-foot-8 Howard is the son of former Rockets forward and current Wolverines coach Juwan Howard and is averaging 14 points on nearly 37 percent shooting from long distance.
Fortunately the draft lottery is several months away, which will give a good glimpse of who the Rockets will be in position to land. But in the meantime, we'll have to continue to rely on mock drafts.
Hopefully the next several ones will be better than O'Connor's. Let's all pray for it.