The Houston Rockets are division champions for the first time in over twenty years, but while last night’s Pelicans win was a boost to the Rockets’ present, it came at a small price to their future.
The Rockets hold the 18th pick and the 32nd pick of the 2015 NBA Draft. Had the Pelicans lost to the Spurs, Houston would have been the fifth seed and faced Portland, but would have almost assuredly moved up four spots in the draft to #14.
The Rockets acquired the Pelicans’ first-round pick last summer in the Omer Asik trade. The pick was protected so that it had to be between 4 and 19 to be conveyed. Daryl Morey often called the pick a “guaranteed lottery pick” but it didn’t work out that way.
With the Oklahoma City Thunder suffering massive losses due to injury down the stretch, Anthony Davis and the Pelicans squeezed in to the final playoff spot. That dropped their first-round pick to 18th overall. Had they lost that game, the Rockets would have had a 98.2% chance of picking 14th overall.
The teams that leapfrogged the Rockets are the Thunder, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks. On the positive side, none of those teams would appear to need a point guard (a Rockets need), but that doesn’t mean much.
Overall, this was a good deal for the Rockets — it could have been amazing with the pick, but that was a risk worth taking given the West landscape. Asik was leaving this summer anyway and the Rockets netted long-term assets in the #18 pick and Trevor Ariza (sign-and-trade) in the deal. They also flipped Alonzo Gee and Scotty Hopson (received from the Pelicans in the deal) for Jason Terry and two second-round picks. The Pelicans now have to make an interesting financial decision on keeping Asik, who will be a free agent in July.
When Morey went through his breakthrough overhaul in the summer of 2012, he agreed to a rather small sign-and-trade of Marcus Camby to the Knicks, netting two second-round picks (2014, 2015) and Toney Douglas to help the Knicks work their cap. New York imploded, Camby was back on the Rockets a year later and now those draft picks are making an impact.
The Rockets took Nick Johnson last year with one of those picks and now they will receive the 32nd pick from the Knicks this summer. The top picks of the second round can be very valuable as contracts are not guaranteed in the second round like they are in the first round. Only the Minnesota Timberwolves at #31 will have a better second-round pick.
And to top it off, the Rockets have New York’s second-round pick next season as well, which came via trade with the Kings for taking Jason Terry.
The Rockets will not have their own first- or second-round picks in the 2015 Draft.
Houston’s own first-round pick, which will be #27, was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers last July to get them to agree to take Jeremy Lin off of the Rockets’ hands. The second-round pick that the Rockets also sent the Lakers (from the Clippers) needed to be between 51 and 55 to be conveyed, but it will be 57 or 58, so the Lakers got nothing there. Given how Lin played for the Lakers and his enormous salary (and sizable cap hit), this proved to be a very good deal at the cost of a very late first-rounder (guaranteed contract on the books). The Rockets also used the trade exception created by that move to land Corey Brewer.
The Rockets traded their own second-round pick, which will be #58, to Philadelphia in December in the move to acquire Alexey Shved.