2024 NBA mock drafts: January’s first-round projections for Rockets

With 14 losses in their last 17 games, the 2023-24 NBA season is increasingly looking like a lost one for the reeling Nets (16-24). That’s potentially very good news for the Houston Rockets, who own Brooklyn’s 2024 first-round draft selection as part of the blockbuster James Harden trade from January 2021.

Entering Thursday, Jan. 18, the Nets were at No. 8 in the NBA’s pre-draft lottery standings, and only a game behind Memphis at No. 6. As things currently stand, that would lead to a 26.3% chance of a top-four lottery selection and a 6.0% shot at No. 1 overall.

Those probabilities could rise even more, of course, if the Nets continue their on-court struggles and lose more games.

In turn, that should boost the expected value of that 2024 draft asset to the Rockets and general manager Rafael Stone — who could also potentially dangle that pick as trade bait in the weeks leading up to the NBA’s 2023-24 in-season trade deadline of Thursday, Feb. 8.

Though the Rockets (19-21) are likely to lose their own first-round draft pick to Oklahoma City as part of the 2019 Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade, it’s worth noting that unlike the Harden-Brooklyn deal, the conveyance of Houston’s pick is top-four protected.

Thus, if the Rockets miss the 2023-24 Western Conference playoffs, they will actually have multiple chances — both with their own pick, and the one from Brooklyn, which they will receive no matter what — at securing a top-four pick in the first round 2024 NBA draft.

And if Houston loses its pick to the Thunder due to not winning the lottery, it’s becoming increasingly likely that the pick they receive from Brooklyn would be higher in the first-round order, anyway.

With that in mind, here’s a look at who draft experts have going to Houston (with the Brooklyn pick) in the latest wave of mock drafts. Keep in mind that the projected pick slot varies based on the exact date of each mock’s publication, since the standings change daily.

The Rockets are also currently slotted to have three draft selections in the 2024 second round. Further details are available here.

No. 9 pick: Kyle Filipowski, Duke

Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report: Kyle Filipowski, Duke (7-foot-0 center, 248 pounds, 20 years old)

(Projection made as of January 18, 2024.)

Analysis by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman:

Games like Duke’s previous two will keep teams from nitpicking at Kyle Filipowski’s shooting percentages. He’s buried eight of nine 3-pointers over his last 67 minutes, when he combined to score 56 points playing inside and out at 7’0”.

Regardless of how good of a shooter he really is, Filipowski clearly has shotmaking range to stretch the floor to go with his open-floor ball-handling, excellent passing and effective mix of strength and touch around the basket.

And while he doesn’t come off as a high-upside defender, he’s improved his block rate significantly while delivering encouraging sequences of lateral foot speed guarding in space.

Even if Filipowski isn’t the dominant scorer he is in college, he checks too many boxes with skill and mobility to doubt his effectiveness at the next level.

Updated player statistics via Tankathon

No. 8 pick: Reed Sheppard, Kentucky

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation: Reed Sheppard (6-foot-3 guard, 187 pounds, 19 years old)

(Projection made as of January 18, 2024.)

Analysis by Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation:

Reed Sheppard looks nothing like a one-and-done superstar when he walks into the gym, but at this point his play is too impressive to ignore. Sheppard doesn’t even start for Kentucky, but he’s currently putting together one of the greatest freshmen seasons in recent memory, with a box plus/minus that trails only Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis, and Michael Beasley.

Sheppard is the best shooter in the class: he’s making 54.1% of his 3-pointers on 61 attempts, and he’s 84% from the foul line. He has a super quick release, deep range, and a willingness to fire them in transition. Sheppard is also a major playmaker defensively: he has magnets for hands to rack up steals and blocks, and is always giving second efforts to finish plays. More under the radar is Sheppard’s skill at hit ahead passes, which have led to so many easy transition buckets for Kentucky this year.

So what’s the catch? Sheppard is small6’2 with a 6’3 wingspan — which brings questions of just how much utility his defense will have in the NBA. While he’s a quick ball mover and smart passer on the perimeter, he doesn’t generate much rim pressure to bend a defense as a lead ball handler.

Sheppard will get overpowered in some matchups, but he’s so good as a shooter and defensive playmaker that teams should be willing to overlook his shortcomings. There hasn’t been a better freshman in college basketball this year.

Updated player statistics via Tankathon

No. 9 pick: Isaiah Collier, USC

Jonathan Givony and Jeremy Woo, ESPN: Isaiah Collier, USC (6-foot-5 guard, 210 pounds, 19 years old)

(Projection made as of January 11, 2024.)

Analysis by Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman:

The early hype around Isaiah Collier is fading as his shooting percentages keep dipping, his turnover rate remains high and the USC losses continue to pile up.

Rather than picturing a franchise point guard to build around, it’s starting to look wiser to view him as a rotational guard who can help put pressure on the defense and rim and add some opportunistic playmaking.

While his shooting and decision-making have been problematic, his shiftiness, physical drives, tough finishes and passing flashes could still translate to effective offense in the right NBA role.

Updated player statistics via Tankathon

No. 8 pick: Kyle Filipowski, Duke

Tankathon: Kyle Filipowski, Duke (7-foot-0 center, 248 pounds, 20 years old)

(Projection made as of January 17, 2024.)

Analysis by Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation:

Filipowski was projected as a potential first-round pick in last year’s draft but made the decision to return to Duke for his sophomore year. A lottery run isn’t out of the question if he can sustain his All-American level play to start this season.

A 7-foot, 250-pound big man, Filipowski is highly skilled as a short roll playmaker, post scorer, and occasional pick-and-pop threat. He’s an excellent decision-maker with the ball in his hands, reading the floor well and finding open shooters and cutters as the hub of Duke’s offense.

His shot has been somehow hit-or-miss since he entered college, but going 4-for-4 from three against Pitt and 4-of-5 against Georgia Tech helped bump him up to 41.2% on the year. He also only shoots 68.4% from the foul line.

Filipowski is never going to be an explosive athlete, but he does look a little quicker this year. If a team drafts him this high, the hope will be that he can be a plus passer and shooter for a center while being an adequate system defender if not someone who will clean up mistakes. Given how many teams try to play five-out these days, Filipowski will probably have a lot of fans around the league come draft time.

Updated player statistics via Tankathon

No. 8 pick: Ron Holland, G League Ignite

NBA Draft Room: Ron Holland, G League Ignite (6-foot-6 wing, 204 pounds, 18 years old)

(Projection made as of January 17, 2024.)

Analysis by Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report:

Ron Holland’s sales pitch remains the same as it did when he was a strong No. 1 overall candidate. He possesses unteachable burst attacking downhill and defensive quickness, while signs of ball-handling and shotmaking (at 18 years old) hint at room to improve as a scorer and shooter.

However, those signs haven’t flashed enough this season. He’s at 21.4% from three, he’s struggling more lately inside the arc, and the 61 turnovers to 47 assists highlight limited playmaking and erratic decision-making.

Natural talent and age still have to play into the equation, as Holland figures to give a team an injection of speed in transition, rim pressure and defensive energy at the least.

He’s just making it difficult for teams to realistically picture a wing who’ll offer any creation or reliable shooting anytime soon.

Updated player statistics via Tankathon

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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire