Draft Preview: Will Rockets try to trade up?

The Rockets will be looking to build on a strong first year under coach Mike DAntoni.

The Houston Rockets will find themselves in a familiar position in the 2017 NBA Draft.

As a result of the trade to acquire Lou Williams, the Rockets no longer have their first-round pick this year. That means they will be using the second round to find undervalued prospects.

If you ask some fans, they’ll probably tell you the trade (or Williams for that matter) disappointed in the end. On the other hand, many fans applaud the trade, especially considering Williams is under salary for next season at a very reasonable price (he will make just $7 million next season).

Regardless of your thoughts on the trade, what the Rockets do have in this year’s draft are two second-round picks, courtesy of the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers.

Those picks ended up being the 43rd and 45th picks, giving the Rockets a chance to draft potential sleepers from the college game or lesser-known international players.

The Rockets are more than used to having only second round picks to work with in the draft. Since the 2012 draft, Houston has only made two first round selections: Clint Capela (2014) and Sam Dekker (2015). However, in that same time frame (and including this year’s draft), the Rockets will have made seven second round selections.

General Manager Daryl Morey prides himself on finding undervalued prospects and intriguing international players. Some examples of Morey’s drafting in the second round include Chandler Parsons in 2011, Montrezl Harrell in 2015, and Zhou Qi in 2016.

Parsons and Harrell were undervalued players from the college game, while Qi is an 7’2″ big man from China with tremendous amounts of potential. In fact, it has been reported that Houston is looking to sign Qi to the roster for next season, something many fans are excited for.

In terms of this year’s draft, another option Houston could do is combine both picks to trade up in the draft.

However, I wouldn’t expect Morey to make such a move unless a prospect the team is extremely intrigued by is still on the board towards the end of the first and early part of the second round.

Also, it remains to be seen how high the Rockets could move up by packaging the 43rd and 45th picks. In last year’s draft, the Rockets picked at 37 and 43, so they are more than used to waiting for their selections.

Expect Morey to draft both an international player and an overlooked, seasoned college prospect. Some players that could make sense for Houston include Josh Hart, Bam Adebayo, and Frank Mason. The Rockets will want to maximize their cap space for free agency, and going this route provides the best way for them to do so.

The Rockets are in win-now mode, with almost the entire core rotation being in their prime or slightly past their prime. James Harden will be 28 before the 2017-18 season starts, and the Rockets must maximize their chances to win while he is in his prime. Other key players like Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Patrick Beverley are all 28 or older.

The Rockets would love to find a gem in the second round in this year’s draft, but their eyes are mainly set on free agency and improving their roster through that avenue. Regardless, it is always interesting to see how Morey uses the second round to find undervalued prospects, making the 2017 NBA Draft somewhat intriguing for Rockets fans.