The Rockets had a very full roster at the conclusion of the 2020-21 season, even utilizing two rare “hardship exceptions” to replace injured players that they did not want to outright release. As a result, many around the league have wondered if Houston — which owns three first-round picks (No. 2, 23, and 24) in the NBA’s 2021 draft — will actually use all three on players who are available to play in the 2021-22 season.
In June, general manager Rafael Stone said he was confident that he could make room for three first-round rookies on the roster, if that’s what makes the most sense to the team. But if he’s having second thoughts, or if that earlier statement involved some posturing, it appears that several teams are open to working a trade for one of the latter two picks.
As of Thursday, here’s what Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports:
Outside of the prospect of getting the No. 1 pick, Houston isn’t expected to trade out of the second slot, barring some substantial offer. That scenario is more likely for one of their late-round selections, having picks 23 and 24. Over the past few weeks, Houston has fielded dozens of calls from around the league with teams trying to get their hands on one of the back-to-backs, per sources.
In particular, teams without a first-round pick have called Houston about sneaking in, offering proposals like a second-round pick and a player. This past weekend, Houston discussed a number of these internally to see if any proposed move makes sense for them.
Another option, of course, could be using one of the latter two picks on a foreign player who might play overseas for at least a year. In that scenario, the player would not take up a 2021-22 roster spot.
Unless it involves the other team paying a premium, no trade seems likely to happen until the night of the draft on Thursday, July 29. After all, if the board falls Houston’s way and at least two prospects they like fall to No. 23 and No. 24 overall, it makes sense for a rebuilding team like the Rockets to acquire the best young talents that they possibly can.
On the other hand, if Stone finds the board somewhat underwhelming, it’s an option worth keeping in mind as the 2021 first round evolves.