The Houston Rockets are no doubt on route to getting another top prospect this year after a lackluster first half of the season for the young Rockets. The biggest positive to losing this many games and having a terrible season is better odds in the NBA Draft Lottery. Last season the Rockets secured the 2nd overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft Lottery and eventually drafted Jalen Green.
There’s no doubt that Jalen is going to mature into a star and is oozing with potential at the moment. There’s hope the Rockets can cash in on another top 3 pick and also hope the pick they hold from the Nets stays as low as can be. The 2022 NBA Draft is anticipated to be more top-heavy than previous years so securing a top 3 pick would be ideal for the Rockets of course. Which top prospect fits best? Who is the 1st overall pick? What is the plan for the Brooklyn pick?
This year’s draft doesn’t have a consensus 1st overall pick; it’s a 3-man race for the top spot. You’ll get a different top 3 from almost anyone that you ask and it’s understandable. The top 3 are all modern bigs that give you a different skill set in each prospect. You really can’t go wrong with any of the 3 but the team with the 1st pick gets to choose for fit also. I’ll look at the best qualities from each prospect and why the Rockets should draft them if they have the 1st pick.
Smith is a 6’10 forward prospect that can shoot the lights out and has the potential to become elite on defense. Smith is averaging 16.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.8 APG and is shooting 43% from the field and 42% from 3. Whether it’s a low post touch, a high post face up or a dribble pull up Jabari has a deadly jumper. His handle still needs to improve but at 6’10 he can handle with the best of them. Jabari’s most valuable skill is his defensive versatility, he can switch out on guards easily.
One of the weaknesses that the young Rockets have is their shooting. There are only two decent shooters on the Rockets: Eric Gordon and Garrison Matthews. Jabari would bring consistency in terms of shooting from every spot on the floor. Smith has a very polished turnaround jumper and a high release allowing him to get his shot off over everyone. Where he can dominate and take his game to an elite level is from the high post. His underrated playmaking and ability to hurt the defense with a dribble-drive makes Smith an interesting fit on the Houston Rockets. If Alperen Şengün pans out to become the Rockets center for the future pairing him with Jabari would be a deadly high-low threat in the frontcourt.
Beyond the smooth jumper or the nasty pull-up 3s on the break, Jabari has that mentality that can push him to become elite. You can tell he wants to be great on and off the court. Jabari Smith Sr. has done a great job giving his son the opportunities to become great, he has no weaknesses in his game. No matter the pick the Rockets eventually end up with, they need to take Jabari Smith Jr. every day of the week. The Rockets could potentially have 3 absolutely generational players to go forward with into the future. Pairing the young prospect with Jalen Green and Alperen Şengün as the base of the future no one can be mad at that.
Chet is a 7-foot unicorn to put it simply. The combination of ELITE rim protection and fluidity on the perimeter shows that he could become the best big man prospect ever. Holmgren is averaging 14.4 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 3.6 BPG this season at Gonzaga. The shooting splits for the young big man show his potential versatility on offense, 72% from inside the arch, 44% from 3, and 62% overall is not bad for the freshman.
The biggest weakness for the Rockets is interior defense and it’s not even close. As stated in a previous article the baby Rockets’ average height is 6’4. The Rockets have the worst defensive rating this season, but it gets even worse once you look deeper into the numbers. Numbers don’t lie but basketball is unpredictable. The league’s worst defense is also last in OPP PTS OFF TOV, OPP PTS FB, and OPP PTS Paint. Having no interior defense and being a small team doesn’t help one bit. Chet’s best asset is by far his ability to be a gamechanger on defense. Chet does have the obvious frame issues but once he has an NBA diet there’s no doubt, he’ll bulk up at least a little once in the NBA.
Chet has the most upside in the draft plain and simple. If Holmgren taps into 100% of his potential, he is an automatic multi-All-Star, DPOY, and 1st Team All-Defense. The desperate need for a rim protector and the potential to become one of the GOATs is a solid case for the Rockets to draft Chet. If the Rockets want to fill the hole in the middle of the defense, they need to take Chet. Having the most upside tells most people that Chet is the best prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Paolo is a 6’10 athletic point forward prospect that is the epitome of versatility. Banchero can get it done from any spot on the floor and play any of the forward or center spots seamlessly. Paolo is averaging 17.7 PPG, 7.7 APG, 3.1 APG this season at Duke. Banchero’s shooting splits aren’t the best, but he has the potential to improve over time. Shooting 46%from the field and 32% from 3 isn’t bad but it’s understandable if scouts expect better numbers from a top prospect.
Paolo has been the best player on a loaded Blue Devils squad this season, but the team has somewhat disappointed losing 5 games. For the majority of the season, Banchero looked like the conscious number 1 pick and his game has only improved over the course of the season. Versatility is the most important factor for Paolo, and he could definitely help the Rockets in more than one area on the court. Having a solid 6’10 frame allows the young prospect to be able to play the 4 or 5 position while also having the lateral quickness to defend on the perimeter. Being able to handle the ball like a guard allows Paolo to get his shot off anywhere on the court. Being able to fit like a glove in any position will absolutely help the young Rockets.
Out of the 3 young guys in the running for the 1st overall, Paolo may have the most polished game as a draft prospect. The one-dribble pull-up, the playmaking potential, or a deadly transition threat. Paolo can do it all and if the Rockets are looking for a prospect that can affect winning immediately, they should look at the young man as the 1st overall pick. The Rockets may eventually cut ties with big man Christian Wood, Paolo would be the perfect replacement as a versatile big. Banchero is not a finished project by any means but is by far the most NBA-ready of the top prospects.
The Houston Rockets have the worst record in the league but have the most promising future in terms of young talent. If the Rockets do in fact end up with the 1st overall pick, there’s really no wrong choice. Having a budding backcourt and solid pieces to build around in the 1st full season of the rebuild shows how far along the Rockets are in terms of rebooting a contender. The ultimate decision will be made by GM Rafael Stone and his team, he has drafted very well so there’s proof he’ll make the correct decision. No matter what lottery pick the Rockets end up with they’ll be able to add legit talent to an already great young squad.
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