What should the Houston Rockets do if they land a top lottery pick?

If the Houston Rockets got lucky, would they draft Alexandre Sarr?
If the Houston Rockets got lucky, would they draft Alexandre Sarr? / COLIN MURTY/GettyImages

When a good NBA team lands a high draft pick, it's one of the true blessings they could receive. It represents an incredible opportunity. This team is already competitive: and now, they get to add a blue-chip prospect to the fold.

Alternatively, they could trade the pick. Even in a weak draft, a top pick has considerable value. This is a foolproof opportunity, isn't it?

We wouldn't go that far. Do you remember Darko Milicic? Your answer to that question probably depends on your age. Our younger readers won't remember Milicic at all. Our older readers will remember him as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history.

The Detroit Pistons selected him with the second overall pick in the legendary 2003 NBA draft. They could have added Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade to a core that had just made an Eastern Conference Finals run. Instead, they added a player who'd never average 10 points per game at the NBA level.

It feels like the Pistons overthought it. They seemingly decided that they could take a chance on a project given their success. It didn't stop them from winning the 2004 NBA title, but it could have stopped them from forming the league's next great dynasty.

How can the Houston Rockets avoid the same fate if they land a top pick?

What should Houston Rockets do with top pick?

On May 12, we'll know the Rockets' lottery fate. They're projected to land the ninth pick. Let's imagine a world where their pick lands in the top 3.

Their situation will not be perfectly comparable to the '03 Pistons. Again, that team had just made the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rockets are a .500 team.

Still, there's a parallel. The Rockets are a competitive team. Should they take a risk on a long-term project player, or use that pick to improve their short-term outlook?

Should Houston Rockets trade top pick?

Trading the pick is certainly an option. It's likely to be an enticing one for Rafael Stone. Is it the right move?

As always, it depends on the available deal. We recently turfed an idea that would have the Rockets selling the farm for Mikal Bridges. Still, something centered around moving the first pick for Bridges could be tenable.

For what it's worth, this is perceived as a weak draft. That will negatively impact the value of a top pick in this draft. It could also impact Stone's thinking. What are the odds that anyone in this class will be as productive as Bridges?

Trading for Bridges (or a comparable player) isn't the only option. Suppose Stone doesn't see a gulf between a player like Alexandre Sarr and a player like Kel'el Ware. The Rockets could trade far down into the draft, get their guy, and pick up valuable future assets in the process.

Is that the move?

Houston Rockets should draft best player available

It would be a defensible decision. It's not what we'd do.

With the first overall pick, we'd draft Sarr. His offense looks raw, but if he can function like Victor Wembanyama, Chet Holmgren, and Evan Mobley on the defensive end, the Rockets will have a similar weapon as their future playoff rivals.

Can he play with Alperen Sengun? We're not sure. If one or the other can develop their three-point shot, Sarr could be exactly the type of weakside shot blocker who mitigates Sengun's limitations on the defensive end of the floor.

Granted, that could push Jabari Smith Jr. out. Don't make the mistake of putting the cart before the horse. The Rockets should take the prospect with the most potential, and figure out how the pieces fit later.

That applies if the pick lands below first as well. Zaccharie Risacher should be able to play with anyone. There are concerns about his inconsistent shooting, but in theory, he looks like the type of 3-and-D wing who can bring cohesion to any lineup.

Granted, we're the ones putting the cart before the horse now.

Houston Rockets likely to pick lower

After all, we know that the Rockets are expected to pick ninth. This is probably much ado about nothing. Right now, it's just fun to think about.

There will be intriguing prospects available no matter where the Rockets are selecting. There should be some worthwhile deals on the table as well. The Rockets will have opportunities:

Hopefully, they don't squander them on a Darko Milicic.