Houston — The Houston Rockets finished with the league’s worst record for the second consecutive year, but the organization’s rebuild could be further along than their contemporaries.
Most teams that entered the draft lottery Tuesday night went in hoping to receive a pick that could result in obtaining a cornerstone player. But the Rockets received their pristine franchise player a year prior with the draft selection of Jalen Green.
A prosperous 2021 draft class that features Alperen Sengun, Josh Christopher and Usman Garuba could reduce the intensity that comes with scouting prospects.
But there is still a sense of urgency for general manager Rafael Stone to replicate the success of finding a franchise cornerstone ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft in June.
“I think you always have to go with the best player available,” Stone said. “It’s our job to win championships. When picking this high in the draft, the goal is to find someone who can be the cornerstone of your franchise.”
Houston received the third selection of the draft following the results of the lottery in Chicago. The Rockets will have a chance at either Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren or Jabari Smith — three prospects who have established themselves as the consensus top three picks.
Each player plays a position that could leave Houston’s frontcourt crowded. But Stone isn’t concerned about whether or not a player taken in the draft fits Houston’s current roster.
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Stone believes all talented basketball players can play together regardless of roster construction.
His philosophy would take on a new meaning should the Rockets take Holmgren, who plays the same position as Sengun. The potential pairing between Holmgren and Sengun could work.
Holmgren is a scoring big who can benefit from playing alongside Sengun’s attributes as a facilitator in the frontcourt.
“There are super talented players in this draft,” Stone said. “It will be up to us to weave through to find the very best guy we can get. There are players on this roster we feel good about moving forward. People can adjust to one another, especially when considering the age of most of our guys I think we are still in a position to get one of the most talented players.”
Holmgren played one season at Gonzaga where he averaged 14.1 points on 60.7 percent shooting from the field, 39.0 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Holmgren would give the Rockets a significant boost on the defensive end. He averaged 3.7 blocks while pulling down 10.0 rebounds across 32 games.