Rebuilding Rockets Rule 2021 Draft


A new era of Houston Rockets basketball is now in session.

Thanks to Rafael Stone and his front office, Houston emerges as one of the clear winners from the 2021 NBA Draft. With four rookies selected on draft night, the Rockets find themselves welcoming a supremely talented wave of youth onto their roster.

2: Jalen Green, 6’5″ SG, G-League Ignite

2021 per-game averages: 17.9 PTS, 4.1 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.5 STL, 46.1 FG%, 36.5 3P%

The end of the Rockets Twitter Civil War is finally within sight. “Green Gang” won out over “Mobley Mob” as the Rockets selected Jalen Green with the second overall pick.

Without a doubt, Green carries a massive amount of star potential. He’s the most athletic player in this draft class, displaying tremendous burst and leaping ability. Pair that athletic ability with his elite scoring ability, and Green could quite possibly lead the NBA in scoring one day. The 19-year-old draws comparisons to Zach LaVine and Bradley Beal; meaning Houston has found their alpha scorer for the post-Harden era.

While Green leaves something to be desired where playmaking and defense are concerned, he has a strong work ethic and can certainly develop these skills over time. This upside is especially prevalent on the defensive end, since Green possesses the physical tools to become a two-way threat.

Perhaps the best aspect of the Green pick is that he’s been battle-tested against high-level competition. After forgoing college and playing in the NBA G-League, Green has proven that he can hold his own against borderline NBA competition.

With Green set to take up the mantle as the Rockets’ franchise player, Houston is in good hands.

16: Alperen Sengun, 6’10” PF/C, Turkey

2021 per-game averages: 19.2 PTS, 9.4 REB, 2.5 AST, 1.3 STL, 1.7 BLK, 64.6 FG%

Alperen Sengun is probably the most intriguing prospect taken by the Rockets. Houston traded two heavily-protected future first-rounders to Oklahoma City for the 16th pick in order to take Sengun– an incredible value since those picks were unlikely to ever convey. The Turkish big man turned 19 years old just four days before draft night… and already has an MVP award to his name.

Sengun took the international basketball scene by storm, showing off extreme offensive prowess for a big man– even more impressive considering he’s nearly seven-feet tall and weighs almost 240 pounds. Sengun is an excellent finisher around the rim, shooting 67.9% from two-point range. He’s also a talented playmaker for a big, exemplifying great vision and passing skills.

There are two main concerns with Sengun’s game: perimeter shooting and defensive ability. On the shooting front, there’s really no reason to worry. He averaged less than one three-point attempt per game, and has expressed that perimeter shooting will be a focus in the gym as he transitions to the NBA. He also shot 81.2% from the free-throw line, so he can reliably knock down shots from a distance and an NBA training staff will help push that range even farther out.

As for his defense, Sengun put up solid defensive numbers in the Turkish League. While his instincts are an issue at times, he’s a huge body and won’t get pushed around by large NBA centers like Steven Adams. After enough time with the Rockets’ coaching staff, Sengun could become a solid defender in addition to his sky-high offensive potential.

23: Usman Garuba, 6’8″ F, Spain

2021 per-game averages: 4.0 PTS, 4.1 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.6 STL, 0.7 BLK, 50.4 FG%

Usman Garuba‘s numbers may not jump off the page, but he shows a lot of promise. In a recent Olympic exhibition between Spain and Team USA, Garuba was immediately tasked with guarding Kevin Durant. The 19-year-old did a great job on the defensive end, considering he was matched up against arguably the greatest pure scorer in basketball history. The matchup was undoubtedly a testament to Garuba’s potential as a premier lockdown defender.

While Garuba is an extremely gifted defender, his offensive skill set remains quite limited. His shooting percentages are fine, but he doesn’t look to score very often. Unless he’s under the basket or cutting towards the hoop, Garuba probably won’t ever be a scoring threat.

That’s perfectly fine, though. As Stone put it in his post-draft media session, Garuba is, “the best defender in the world outside of the NBA.” If he can excel in his role as a switchable defensive weapon, his selection at 23 will have been worth it.

24: Josh Christopher, 6’5″ G, Arizona State

2021 per-game averages: 14.3 PTS, 4.7 REB, 1.4 AST, 1.5 STL, 43.2 FG%, 30.5 3P%

The Houston-Josh Christopher pairing is almost too good to be true. Christopher played one season at Arizona State, where he wore #13 for the Sun Devils… does that sound familiar? As the highest-ranked recruit in ASU history, Christopher even received James Harden‘s blessing to bring No. 13 out of retirement.

Besides the Harden connection, Christopher played on the same AAU team and is very close with his new teammate, Jalen Green. Of course JayGup should be a Rocket.

Christopher is a guard with good size and moderate upside. He’s a gifted athlete who can get buckets and plays solid defense, what’s not to like? While there were other options on the draft board at the 24 spot, Christopher can potentially become a reliable backup guard for Houston.

Granted, playing time may be hard to come by as long as John Wall and Eric Gordon remain on the team. Despite the lack of NBA rotation minutes, Christopher will have the chance to turn the Rockets’ Summer League games into a highlight reel.

Entering the New Era

The 2021 NBA Draft truly marks the dawn of a new era of Houston basketball. While the Rockets used to be one of the NBA’s oldest teams, they’ve managed to build a strong young core bursting with potential. With these draft selections, Rafael Stone once again demonstrated his ability to scout promising young talent. Even more encouraging is that Houston looks fully committed to seeing this rebuild through in order to build a sustainable, winning culture over time.

The Rockets already had a handful of young talent with Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., K.J. Martin and Jae’Sean Tate. However exciting that young core seemed, it looks even more appealing with the additions of Green, Sengun, Garuba and Christopher.

The sun has set on draft night, but it will rise upon a new era of the Houston Rockets in the morning.

Follow us on Twitter @RocketsLead for the latest Rockets news and insight. 

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About Keagan Smith

avid Houston Rockets fan from the H, writer/social/editor at The Lead Sports Media, sports correspondent at The Orange Leader.

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