One silver lining to the 1-16 start by the Houston Rockets — which includes 15 consecutive losses and counting, as of Tuesday — involves implications for the 2022 NBA draft, which takes place next June.
Unlike last season, when a top-four-protected pick swap (owned by Oklahoma City from the Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade) meant nearly a 50% probability of Houston losing its top draft pick, there is no potential swap attached to the team’s 2022 first-round selection.
In other words, barring a miraculous in-season turnaround, the Rockets are effectively guaranteed to land a top selection. It’s simply a matter of where they slide in during the NBA’s 2022 draft lottery. Should Houston maintain its current position as the league’s worst team, its lowest possible selection would be at No. 5 overall in the first round.
That’s the floor scenario, of course. The upside is that no team would have better odds than the Rockets of securing the No. 1 overall pick. And since draft forecasts have no knowledge of how the lottery will turn out, their projections are based on current records. At the moment, that would mean Houston picks first. The Rockets will also own a 2022 first-round pick from either Miami or Brooklyn, whichever is higher.
With the 2021-22 seasons now underway for college basketball and many international leagues, the first wave of mock draft projections is emerging. On Tuesday, Nov. 23, For The Win’s Bryan Kalbrosky and Sports Illustrated’s (SI) Jeremy Woo made their initial 2022 NBA draft selections, and here’s a look at who they have the Rockets taking. For complete analysis of all picks, visit the For The Win and SI websites.
Report: Rockets won’t include first-round draft pick to trade John Wall
2022 NBA Mock Draft: Predicting all picks, led by Chet Holmgren to Rockets
For The Win, No. 1: Paolo Banchero, Houston pick
Big, Freshman, 6-10 (Duke)
Bryan Kalbrosky: The Houston Rockets have loaded up on hoopers (e.g. Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr., Josh Christopher) and could add another in Duke’s Paolo Banchero, a ridiculously fluid athlete who can beat his man and shoot off the dribble even though he is 6-foot-10. During his collegiate debut against Kentucky, playing against several NBA players, it was easy to pick him out as the best player on the floor.
Sports Illustrated, No. 1: Paolo Banchero, Houston pick
Jeremy Woo: Profiling as a potential offensive fulcrum at the power forward spot, Banchero compares favorably from a skill perspective to players like Julius Randle and Blake Griffin at the same stage of their careers. He’s hyper-polished and is viewed by scouts as a safe bet to have a lengthy, productive NBA career.
While not an elite leaper or natural rim protector, Banchero is a smart positional defender with enough size and strength to hold his own and eventually add a bit of value on that end. Offensively, he’s able to compensate for his lack of explosiveness in tight spaces with his physical heft, coordination, and exceptional handle for his size.
For The Win, No. 24: Bryce McGowens, via Miami pick
Wing, Freshman, 6-6 (Nebraska)
Bryan Kalbrosky: Houston’s front office could swing for the fences with Nebraska’s Bryce McGowens this offseason because they have so many draft assets. He’s a hot-and-cold scorer who still needs more polish and consistency, but when he’s firing on all cylinders, it’s hard to stop McGowens.
Sports Illustrated, No. 24: Kennedy Chandler, via Miami pick
Guard, Freshman, 6-0 (Tennessee)
Jeremy Woo: Chandler has been touted as the top true point guard in his freshman class and has been generally effective to start the year, save for a dud game against Villanova. He’s undersized and doesn’t have much room to add muscle to his small frame, meaning his long-term success will depend on his own savvy and ability to utilize his end-to-end speed. Chandler competes defensively but won’t be a plus at his size against bigger, stronger guards in the NBA. Basically, there’s a lot riding on his ability to be supremely efficient on offense and make teammates better.
He’s off to a hot start shooting the ball and should be among the better pass-first guards in college hoops, but his upside is somewhat capped by his physical limitations, and he profiles more realistically as a second-unit floor leader in the long run. He’ll have a good platform to shake those concerns at Tennessee, which is giving him plenty of responsibility.