The 2022 NBA Draft is the next step in the Houston Rockets’ extreme rebuild. In 2021, the franchise selected Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher, and Usman Garuba in the first round. Green took a while to get going, but once he did, he played at a borderline All-Star level for an extended stretch. Sengun proved to be the steal of the draft, and both Christopher and Garuba flashed enough potential to offer hope. All things told the Rockets’ 2021 draft was excellent.
With three first-round picks in the 2022 NBA Draft (3, 17, and 26 via the Mavericks), the Rockets once again have a chance to bring in a cohort of talented youngsters. Drafting is difficult, but the franchise proved last season, after a half-decade sabbatical from the first round, that they still have what it takes to make the right pick. These are the three picks that would make for a (my) perfect 2022 Rockets draft.
Pick 3: Chet Holmgren (Center, Gonzaga)
Most mock drafts have Paolo Banchero going third to Houston, but if Chet Holmgren were to fall, it would make for an excellent night for the Rockets. Banchero is right behind Holmgren in my mind, and him heading to Houston would solidify the Rockets’ offense for the next decade. However, Holmgren is a unique player both on offense and defense.
Holmgren projects as an excellent rim protector with the agility to survive in space. While the two look nothing alike, his defensive role and impact should be similar to Robert Williams III of the Boston Celtics. Bigs that can be the lone rim protector and provide weakside help next to another big are the ultimate defensive building block.
His lack of weight has raised concerns about his defensive upside, but those concerns are overblown. The Philadelphia 76ers and Denver Nuggets, who employ Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, led the league in post-up attempts (where a lack of weight can be exposed), but only went to them 8.6% and 8% of their possessions. Worrying about how Holgrem will fair in 5% of possessions makes nit-picking blush.
On offense, Holmgren won’t be the go-to option, but his finishing ability at the rim and his 3-point stroke should allow him to fill a variety of roles on offense. He can be a pick-and-roll lob finisher, a pick-and-pop sniper, and act as a floor spacer capable of putting it on the deck if a defender closes out too aggressively.
The fully actualized version of Holmgren is Robert Williams on defense and Kristaps Porzingis with a handle on offense. That player can and should be in the MVP conversation. The other added benefit that Holmgren’s profile provides is extreme lineup flexibility.
Holmgren’s skill set allows him to play next to another big or as the lone center on both offense and defense. The list of players who fit this description starts with Giannis Antetokounmpo and ends with Anthony Davis, and unlike those two, Chet can shoot threes without it being a win for the defense.