NBA Mock Draft: Thunder Throw Wrench Into Rockets Plan

HOUSTON — The 2022 NBA Draft will be held Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Houston Rockets have three first-round picks entering the draft in 3rd, 17th, and 26th place. The Rockets will draft Duke’s Paolo Banchero with their best overall pick, with a significant change.

Banchero has been the consensus pick for the Rockets since the end of the season. But in this latest mock draft, completed by, Houston missed out on Banchero – who was one spot ahead of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

With the #3 pick of the fanspo mock, the Rockets selected Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. Holmgren’s pick is far from a terrible pick, but it illustrates a problem where the Rockets have third picks.

The Orlando Magic picked Auburn’s Jabari Smith with the top overall pick, leaving the Rockets to choose the latter of the top three candidates.

“I think it doesn’t matter if we pick third or swap picks, we’re going to be a more talented team next season,” general manager Rafael Stone said after the NBA Draft Lottery results on May 17. “This is an exciting time for the organization and we are very happy.

“I think you always have to play with the best player available. It’s our job to win championships.

Holmgren is a 7ft 1 unicorn whose talents would elevate the Rockets frontcourt. On the offensive end, Holmgren would give Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green a reliable big that helps them attack their opponents in pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll situations.

When the Rockets don’t use him as a screener, he remains involved on offense. Holmgren’s ball handling makes him a great player who can create scoring chances as a point center.

With his ability to score inside and outside, Holmgren can take the helm as Houston’s second goalscorer after averaging 14.1 points while shooting 60.1 percent from field and 39.0 percent from behind the arc. Holmgren is skilled in attack, but his most important attribute on the pitch is his defence.

Holmgren has the length to provide the Rockets with solid rim protection. And despite his physicality, Holmgren is a solid rebounder. His mobility of staying on a switch with smaller guards will increase the Rockets’ perimeter defenses. In 32 games with the Bulldogs, he averaged 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

He has the potential to grow into a 20 and 10 prospect. But Holmgren’s lack of strength (195 lb.) remains the only problem in his draft camp.

In Houston’s next two selections, Stone drafted LSU’s Tari Eason and G League Ignite’s MarJon Beauchamp on picks #17 and 26. The Rockets held pre-draft workouts with each prospect.

There’s a decent chance both Eason and Beauchamp will end up in Houston late in the first round, especially considering coach Stephen Silas’ desire to address the Rockets’ defensive issues next season.

The draft class trio of Holmgren, Eason, and Beauchamp could make a big contribution to the Rockets’ rebuilding efforts.

You can follow Coty Davis on Twitter @CotyDavis_24

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