Roll out 12 overachieving role players and sprinkle in a little myopia from the front office, and the Houston Rockets are in the exact same spot for the third straight season — holding the bag on the final (14th) seed in the NBA Draft Lottery. As a result, Chandler Parsons, representing the Rockets at tonight’s lottery, should be able to clock out fairly quickly when the results are announced.
The first pick called is 14th. There is a 98.2% chance it will be the Houston Rockets. If they call out the Phoenix Suns or any other team, then the Rockets are in the top 3 and it’s time to party like it’s 2002.
That’s a ridiculous long shot, but while the Rockets’ night should be quick, there will still be plenty of intrigue remaining as to how the order shakes out, especially when it comes to potential trade partners. From a Rockets perspective, the least damaging result would likely be the three worst teams in the league (Charlotte, Washington, Cleveland) landing the top three picks, but that’s never the case. Given that no team in the league would likely trade the #1 pick (Anthony Davis), we have to root for a handful of teams to not land the top prize… so here are five teams the Rockets should be keeping a close eye on tonight.
Due to an ill-advised trade for Gerald Wallace, the Nets only keep their lottery pick tonight if they are a lottery winner and get one of the top three picks. The odds of that happening are 25.2% (though conspiracy theorists adjust the odds to around 100% when taking into consideration they’re moving to New York and their owner has more money than most governments).
The Nets and Rockets are two franchises in the same boat — both are in desperate need of a superstar right now. Landing a top 3 pick could seal the deal for Brooklyn if Dwight Howard gets traded or put them in the firm lead for any star player that comes on the market on draft night next month. Outside of their own paltry shot of a leap from 14 to a bronze, silver or gold, there is no more important ping pong ball result for the Rockets than the Nets being shut out of the top 3 tonight.
Sacramento was my early favorite as a potential trade partner for the Rockets: They sorely need a point guard and leader, they have made multiple trades with the Rockets in the past and the last thing they need is another immature young player.
However, rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas came on strong in the second half of the season, though at just 5-foot-9, he may not be the long-term starting point they need. I also think it’s just as likely that the Kings could give up on Tyreke Evans before trading away a high lottery pick. Still, I put Sacramento, the 5th worst team, as the highest seeded team that the Rockets have a chance of trading up with.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have their own selection (11th) and could score big if the Nets come up short of the top 3, landing a pick that could be as high as 6th. If fortunate enough to secure those two picks, they will likely try to do some trading up of their own, but this is a team that was severely disappointed after rolling out (literally) Ray Felton last year at point guard. Floor general is their top need.
They will likely use their potentially $20M in cap room to chase Deron Williams, Steve Nash or our own Goran Dragic, but if I could throw out this proposal for a moment: Kyle Lowry + the 16th pick for the 6th pick — which team says no to that?
Rockets fans will root against the Jazz in just about everything, so one would think the last thing Houston needs is for Utah, a young up-and-coming team, to jump up ahead of them in the lottery, but there’s a 27.55% chance of exactly that happening. As if two top 3 picks wasn’t enough compensation in the Deron Williams trade, Utah also has the top 7-protected pick of the Golden State Warriors, who, interestingly enough, are the 7th seeded team tonight.
Utah fans will tell you what their team needs most is a point guard, and they are an organization that historically has had trouble luring free agents, making a trade a more realistic option. Utah coming away with the 8th pick wouldn’t necessarily be good news, but it does create a potential trade partner for the Rockets.
There probably isn’t a more realistic trade partner out there for the Rockets than the Toronto Raptors, seeded 8th in tonight’s lottery. Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun writes that the Raptors are “extremely high on Lowry” and he fully expects the Raptors and Rockets to discuss the possibility of a deal.
The 8th or 9th spot in the draft is probably not what the Rockets have in mind initially when talking about trading up. After all, their top targets of the past two drafts (DeMarcus Cousins and Jonas Valanciunas) ended up going 5th. But if there is a player that the Rockets really want that starts to slide, Toronto makes a lot of sense… and besides, after his self-serving comments last week, what self-respecting Rockets fan doesn’t want to overnight ship Lowry to Canada right about now?