We're Number Two! Rockets Land Second Spot in the Draft Lottery

Hakeem Olajuwon represented the Rockets at the Draft Lottery.
Hakeem Olajuwon represented the Rockets at the Draft Lottery. Screeenshot
It was one of the more consequential moments for the Houston Rockets in many years, so much so they entrusted the moment to the greatest Rocket of them all, Hakeem Olajuwon. And when the ping pong balls finished bouncing at the NBA Draft Lottery on Tuesday night, they bounced the Rockets way. After finishing 2021 with the worst record in the NBA, the Rockets will draft second in this year's draft behind the Detroit Pistons, netting them a bonafide young starter to put alongside Christian Wood, Kevin Porter, Jr., K.J. Martin and Jae'Sean Tate.

The last time the Rockets drafted first, they took future Hall of Famer Yao Ming.

Nothing was certain when the interminably long lottery began. The Rockets had roughly a 50-50 chance of drafting in the top four or drafting fifth, the lowest pick they could get. The problem is that the Rockets agreed to swap picks with Oklahoma City if they were fifth or lower as part of the dreadful Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook trade. They could have gone from potentially the best pick in the draft to pick 18. The Rockets undoubtedly believed they would still be playing with James Harden and Westbrook fresh off a great season or even a title, thus rendering a swap relatively worthless.

By landing the second spot in the draft, the Rockets avoided dropping to 18 and put them in line for one of the top picks in what is widely considered to be a top-five-heavy draft.

The consensus number one is Cade Cunningham, a 6-8 guard/forward from Oklahoma State. After Cunningham, players like big man Evan Mobley, point guard Jalen Suggs and swing man Jalen Green are considered the next three depending on the needs of the teams picking them.

There will be plenty for the Rockets to think about between now and the draft on July 29. Will they keep the pick or package it for a young, established talent? How will another young player fit with their core?

Fortunately, these are questions the Rockets will happily answer as they inch closer to the draft, knowing full well it will be difficult to swing and miss with a draft pick this high in a draft this deep. It could have been much worse. It might be one of the few times the Rockets will ever be more than happy to come in second.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke