The Rockets took Jalen Green with the second pick in the draft.
The Rockets have not had a first round draft pick since 2015 and have not drafted in the NBA lottery since 2012. You have to go all the way back to 2002 to find a choice in the top five — Yao Ming — but they got back in the swing on Thursday night when they picked four times including the No. 2 pick. Only one played college basketball and all of them are 19 years old. Quite a change for a team that planned to play a bunch of veterans at the start of last season.
With three picks already in their possession to start the night, they added pick 16 by trading a pair of future protected first rounders to Oklahoma City. It was the first time the Rockets have chosen four times in the first round in franchise history. While this team might not win a ton of games next season, they are going to be awfully fun to watch.
Let's take a look at the choices.
2. Jalen Green, G
This was the choice many predicted. Green bypassed college to play in the NBA developmental league and excelled. A freakish athlete and stellar offensive player, the Rockets hope they can pair him in a young backcourt with Kevin Porter, Jr. for years to come. Green will need to improve his defense, but he has all the athleticism to do it and has said that is his primary focus coming into the NBA.
Perhaps most intriguing is his work ethic. Scouts have compared his practice approach to that of legends like Kobe Bryant. He lives in the gym and the weight room. There were many who believed he should have been the No. 1 pick and the Rockets are thrilled he fell to them at number two. With a big smile and a ton of charisma, he could quickly become the face of a young, emerging franchise.
16. Alperen Sengun, F/C
Besiktas, Turkish Super League
The Rockets moved up to No. 16 without giving up any picks in this draft to select the MVP of the Turkish Super League in Sengun (pronounced shen-goon). You don't get to be one of the best players in a European pro league at the age of 18 without having some serious skills. In his case, Sengun has those skills in spades, particularly on the offensive end.
Some have compared him to Nikola Jokic-light. He has outstanding footwork and an improving three-point shot. He's also an excellent passer, particularly from the post. He was also the most highly ranked player in the draft among analytics experts for his offensive efficiency. Like many European players, he will need to improve his defense and he isn't the off-the-charts athlete you might want in the modern NBA, but he appears to have loads of upside (a theme for the Rockets in this draft) and plays a physical game which could help him contribute right away even at such a young age.
23. Usman Garuba, F
Real Madrid, Spain
Arguably, the best defender in the NBA draft, Garuba has a relentless motor and a 7'2" wingspan. He already has four years of pro experience in Spain and has excelled as a defensive big. Fans will love this guy because he plays hard 100 percent of the time, which will give him an opportunity to play. Opponents will likely be driven crazy by his energy and his offensive rebounding.
Admittedly, he is an offensive project. He's not a good shooter and has virtually no post game. He has worked on his distance shooting, but is more likely a pick-and-roll guy than a three-and-d player. He can get up and down the floor and has explosive athleticism to get to the rim. He gives the Rockets another option at the defensive end of the floor where they need to improve.
24. Josh Christopher, G
Christopher is the only player with college hoops experience taken by the Rockets in this draft. He is another hyper explosive athlete at 6'4" with decent handles and the ability to score at all three levels. His three point shooting improved dramatically before he was injured and he's a high percentage free throw shooter.
He will need to improve his shot selection and get better on the defensive end of the floor. He has the athleticism to be better defensively, but no doubt the Rockets will work on his court awareness and put him in a position for catch-and-shoot opportunities. Christopher, who was a teammate of Green's on the Vegas Elite youth team, could start the season in the G League, but have the chance to get into this very young rotation at some point next season.