It seems like it was just two years ago that the Houston Rockets were in the second-round of the playoffs and were sitting comfortably in the top half of the Western Conference standings. (Checks notes) Oh wait, it was just two years ago. After former MVP, James Harden, requested a trade in 2020 with the hopes that it would lead to greener pastures, the Rockets’ future was in question.

However, after bottoming out of the league during the 2020-2021 season, Houston had a chance to draft their next franchise cornerstone with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 draft. With that pick, the Rockets selected guard Jalen Green. Green’s explosiveness on the offensive end and ability to score at all three levels made it a fairly easy selection after they had lost Harden the previous season.

Green appeared in 67 games his rookie season, averaging 17.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 on 42.6% shooting. He closed the season in promising fashion, averaging 28.1 points on 48.6 shooting, giving Rockets fans a sign of what’s to come.

Alperen Şengün was another rookie who showcased his talent last year, just at a lesser degree. Center Christain Wood was ahead of him on the depth chart, which led to limited minutes for Şengün. However, with the Rockets trading Wood to the Mavericks this off-season, Şengün is set to step into a larger role.

Per Şengün’s 36 minutes last season, Şengün averaged 16.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 steals on 47.4% shooting. His defensive versatility will be another added bonus for the team, and as a whole, the team should be better on that end next season.

Promising Draft Picks

For the second year in a row, the franchise finished with the worst record in the NBA. Their 20-62 finish gave them the No. 3 pick in this year’s draft, and leading up to the draft, it looked like they would draft Duke forward Paolo Banchero. However, the Orlando Magic had other plans.

Leading up to the draft, the consensus was that the Magic would select Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. with the No.1 pick, but in hindsight it was a smokescreen even though they had the top pick. Almost five minutes before the draft even commenced, it became clear that the Magic were going to select Banchero.

It threw a bit of a wrench in the Rockets’ plans, but they still came away with Smith, who many considered to have one of the highest ceilings in the draft. At 6-foot-10, Smith is a great perimeter shooter, shooting 42% on 5.5 attempts per game in college. He also provides good on-ball defense that the Rockets are in need of. Smith is still a fairly raw talent, but he has the tools and the frame to realize that talent eventually.

To go along with their No. 3 pick, the Rockets came away with two other first-round picks in forward Tari Eason and guard TyTy Washington. Eason is a 6-foot-8 forward that has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, and should make an immediate impact by creating havoc on the defensive end. He still has several areas that he needs to work on offensively, like his shooting form and shot creation, but he’ll have plenty of time to build on those areas.

To improve at the point guard position, the Rockets traded with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire Washington. Washington was regarded as one of the best point guard prospects in this year’s draft and should provide them with playmaking when Green isn’t on the floor.

The Rockets are not nearly in the same position that they were in just a couple of years ago, but their last two draft classes have the potential to take them back to the top of the league.

 


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