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‘Aggressive’ Rockets GM Rafael Stone finds support from Tilman Fertitta

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With only two days left before the Houston Rockets are scheduled to make the No. 3 overall selection in the 2022 NBA draft, owner Tilman Fertitta and general manager Rafael Stone took some pre-draft questions from media at Toyota Center following the announcement of an expanded partnership between the Rockets and Memorial Hermann.

Houston will be making their second consecutive top-five pick, and although they would love for the results of a winning season to have them drafting later, Fertitta is excited to be able to make any selection..

“When you look at what we accomplished, what our basketball ops really accomplished, it’s so exciting to think we have the third pick of the draft again, and we have two other draft picks in the first round,” Fertitta said. “You have to remember, my first four years; I didn’t know what a draft pick was. I thought it was something they did in the NFL because we never had one. I didn’t know what it was like. We’re thrilled.”

The Rockets are hoping to secure another talented player like they did last season with the selection of Jalen Green at No. 2 overall.

With Houston in rebuild mode, they are looking for a player that can make an immediate impact and fit right into place with the young, talented group of players that is already on the roster.

“We are rebuilding,” Stone said. “We are rebuilding in the best way we can. We are making every decision, whether to pick it, trade it, or whatever. We are going to make the best decision we can. Tilman has made it clear to me that the job is to get to the end goal. We don’t have an infinite amount of time to get there, but as long as we think that decision is the right one at that time, then that is the way we will go.”

Most NBA mock drafts have Paolo Banchero falling to the Rockets at three. The Duke forward met with Houston during the NBA draft combine and worked out privately for the Rockets. He was excited about the possibility of playing with a young core of players in Houston.

“It went great in Houston,” said Banchero during his pre-draft media availability. “They have a young crew. They want to play fast and space the floor. They see me fitting right in with my playmaking skills and ability to be anywhere on the floor.”

Houston also has the No. 17 overall pick in the first round and potentially the No. 26 pick, once the league office approves the proposed trade between the Rockets and Dallas Mavericks. If the Rockets stick to their blueprint from the 2021 NBA draft, where they selected Green, Usman Garuba, Josh Christopher, and traded for Alperen Sengun, they could soon find themselves as one of the best young teams in the league.

Yet, Fertitta and Stone are also open to the possibility of trading this year’s picks to acquire veteran talent or more picks in the future.

“We’re going to be aggressive,” Stone said. “That’s probably the biggest commonality that Tilman and I bring. We’re aggressive people. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. We’re only going to do deals that we internally decide are good ones. But we’re going to call everybody 5,000 times, and we’re going to see if there are different options that can be found.”

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Rockets GM Rafael Stone vows to be aggressive as 2022 NBA draft nears