The Houston Rockets' youth movement continues to gain ground after some of their moves in the 2022 NBA offseason.
Although the Houston Rockets were unable to choose Duke's Paolo Banchero as many people expected, they were able to select Auburn's Jabari Smith with the third overall. That's huge because Smith was actually expected to go No. 1 in many mock drafts. They also ended up picking SF Tari Eason and PG TyTy Washington Jr. in the first round. As a result, Houston dominated this year's NBA draft and emerged as a clear winner.
— NBA TV (@NBATV) July 17, 2022
In addition, the Rockets improved their depth for the next season by acquiring Marquise Chriss, Trey Burke, and Boban Marjonovich from the Dallas Mavericks. That's even if they gave up center Christian Wood in order to get all three players. John Wall and the Rockets also reached a contract buyout agreement before he ended up with the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Rockets are still clearly among the worst NBA teams for the coming season, but they also added a ton of youthful talent via the draft. In that regard, they were successful in laying the groundwork for a solid rebuild in the next years during this offseason.
Having said that, the Rockets do have the potential to compete. The nucleus of Jabari Smith, Jalen Green, and Kevin Porter Jr is very exciting. In a few years, that young core might become a serious playoff contender.
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Full 2022 NBA offseason grades for Rockets
In the 2022 NBA Draft, the Rockets added three players in the first round, including projected No. 1 pick Jabari Smith, who surprisingly went to them at No. 3. That essentially made GM Rafael Stone look very good.
In several statistical categories last season, the Rockets were the weakest defensive club in the NBA, so Stone and head coach Stephen Silas have made defense a top goal. That justifies the enthusiasm around the selection of Smith and Tari Eason of LSU. They are two of the greatest and most versatile defenders in the draft. Additionally, Smith may be the finest shooter among this rookie class.
TyTy Washington Jr., a Kentucky guard who had been predicted to go to Houston at No. 17 in several mock drafts, was selected by the Rockets with the 29th overall choice to cap off their night. They did not expect him to fall that far, so they could not pass up the chance to snag him. The Eason pick came from the blockbuster James Harden deal in January 2021, but the Washington pick went to Houston as a consequence of the Christian Wood trade with the Mavericks.
Moving forward, these are three potential impact players for an emerging Rockets squad.
Prior to the 2020–21 season, the Rockets signed Christian Wood, which appeared like smart business. Up until then, Wood had shown a lot of promise. His skill-set also blended nicely with James Harden's and Russell Westbrook's. He was supposed to support them in their pursuit of supremacy in the Western Conference.
Instead, the Rockets were forced to enter rebuild mode when Westbrook and Harden declared they no longer wanted to play for the franchise. There's no way the Rockets would have signed Wood that offseason if they had anticipated what was to come. Now, given their new direction, it did not make much sense to keep him on the roster.
The Mavericks have long needed to get more help around Luka Doncic and they made a trade to do just that, landing Christian Wood from the Rockets.
— FanSided (@FanSided) June 16, 2022
Still, in the end, they were able to trade him for a first-round selection that turned out to be Washington. Additionally, with Wood out of the picture, another intriguing young gun from last year, Alperen Sengun, will now have a much more defined position and road to playing time.
It's a little surprising that the Rockets weren't able to get more from the Mavericks in this Christian Wood trade, but they still got a nice pick along with four potentially solid veterans (Sterling Brown, Trey Burke, Marquese Chriss, Boban Marjanovic). That means the Rockets didn't have to take on a lot of risk. They also unloaded a player who didn't make financial sense in the long run.
Free Agency: C+
Jae'Sean Tate, a promising young wing, rejoined the Houston Rockets on a three-year, $22.1 million deal. Tate was a free agent after Houston declined his $1.8 million club option. This new deal keeps him in the organization through the 2024–2025 season.
Tate, 26, left Ohio State following his senior year in 2018. He went undrafted into the NBA. Tate then played in Belgium and Australia before agreeing to a contract with the Rockets in 2020.
He made an impact right away and made the 2021 All-Rookie First Team. Last season, Tate followed it up with another strong performance. He averaged close to 12.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. He also shot just under 50.0 percent from the field and 31.0 percent from beyond the arc.
Tate's defense, though, is his calling card. Despite being just 6'4, he is sometimes assigned to play power forward because he has the strength and versatility to guard a variety of positions.
Trevor Hudgins, a Division II player out of Northwest Missouri State, was also promptly scooped up by the Rockets on a two-way contract. Hudgins will likely divide time between the Rockets and their G-League club, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He was one of the most decorated Division II players in history and should have a chance to win a roster position.
The Rockets acquired shooting, defense, and playmaking with their three first-round picks. Smith, who was the unanimous top selection up until a few hours before the draft, headlined their picks. That makes for extremely excellent back-to-back drafts for the team.
What does the Rockets’ depth chart look like after summer league?
@KellyIkoNBA sees Jabari Smith Jr. sliding into the starting lineup immediately.
— The Athletic NBA (@TheAthleticNBA) July 19, 2022
They also exchanged Wood for the Washington pick and some solid veterans. In all, the Houston Rockets are not gonna be good in terms of the win-loss record this season, but they have a potentially explosive young core for the future.