It's still the playoffs for the NBA, but for every lottery team, Tuesday night was the first moment of a long offseason: the NBA draft lottery. The Rockets, who could pick no worse than fifth because they ended the season with the league's best record for the second year in a row, wound up with the number three pick in the July draft a year after landing Jalen Green with the second pick in 2021.
It was a busy day for the Rockets as they also announced two assistant coaches, Jeff Hornacek and Will Weaver, will no longer be with the team after serving in their roles for two seasons. It has been widely speculated that Mahmoud Abdelfattah, the coach of the Rockets G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, would step into an assistant's role with the NBA team after high levels of success with the Vipers.
But, ultimately, all eyes were on the draft lottery. The Chicago draft combine is next as the Rockets begin evaluating their options. Most draft experts believe that Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga), Jabari Smith, Jr. (Auburn) and Paolo Banchero (Duke) will be the first three picks in the draft in some order. All three would fit with the Rockets as big men with varying skill sets.
Holmgren is considered a "unicorn" with rare defensive abilities and offensive traits, but lacks a typical NBA frame. Smith is the best shooting big man in the draft, but is not a guy who, at least now, can get his own shot. Banchero is the most complete offensive frontcourt player with a NBA-ready game, but must improve his defense.
Banchero and Smith are 19. Holmgren just turned 20.
There will be much more analysis to come on the picks — lest we forget the Rockets also have pick 17 acquired from Brooklyn in the James Harden trade — but getting a top three pick for the second year in a row is a significant boost to the Rockets hopes of a continued rebuild.