Draft day is right around the corner with each team getting closer to making their franchise-altering decisions. The Houston Rockets have a massive decision to make as they hold the third overall pick. While they have been linked with Paolo Banchero for some time, there has been a push for other big names as well. One guy who has made a late surge in his draft stock is Jaden Ivey.
The springy Purdue product is an easy prospect to fall in love with. He has tantalizing athleticism and is the consensus top guard prospect in a league where the position has become increasingly important. Jaden Ivey averaged 17.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists this season. He took a massive step forward in his perimeter shooting and increased his three-point percentage from 25.8% as a freshman to 35.8% as a sophomore. Ivey drastically increased his NBA ceiling and possesses an “it factor” that is incredibly enticing. With all this being said, the Rockets must stay strong and avoid taking Jaden Ivey with the third pick.
Purdue guard Jaden Ivey (@IveyJaden) says he’s played against @JalenGreen in the past and had contact with the @HoustonRockets during the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. Says Jalen is a great competitor, who is someone he looks forward to playing in the NBA. pic.twitter.com/EZI3LMclQM
— Mark Berman (@MarkBermanFox26) June 20, 2022
The one player Rockets must avoid in 2022 NBA Draft
Fit with Jalen Green
Many people have raved about a potential backcourt of Jalen Green and Jaden Ivey. Likely there would not be as athletic of a duo across the NBA. But, the similarities could become a problem moving forward. The Rockets have already made the commitment to Jalen Green when they selected him with the 2nd overall pick in the past draft. The goal must now be to provide him with the proper supporting cast to optimize his skillset. Adding another ball-dominant guard with a similar skillset is far from the best way to do this.
In his rookie season with the Rockets, Green averaged 17.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists. He also shot 34.3% on three-pointers while attempting 6.8 per game. Green and Ivey both are at their best with floor space with room for them to capitalize on their athleticism. Each guy has plenty of room for improvement as a passer and with their overall decision-making. Pairing the duo has the potential to have more of a detriment on Jalen Green's development than it does to elevate the current team. While it could produce some scary results if the duo clicks, this is far from a certainty.
Legitimate Concerns with Jaden Ivey
He may have the most exciting highlight reels in the draft class, but that does not make Jaden Ivey the most complete player. The 6'4″ guard is somewhat turnover prone and underwhelms with his passing ability. Ivey also has given inconsistent effort on the defensive end. While this is oftentimes chalked up as the player will give a better effort at the NBA level, there are some legitimate concerns with Ivey's ability. The Purdue product gets lost when going around screens. This is especially common when guarding the ball-handler which is likely to be his role at the NBA level.
Ivey also does not have much of an “in-between” game outside of attacking the basket and shooting three-pointers. He shot just 8 for 39 (20.5%) on short and mid-range attempts this season. While this area has become increasingly underutilized in the modern NBA, it is still important to possess this ability to keep the opposing defense honest. Teams swarmed the paint to prevent Ivey's ability to attack the basket. His absence of a midrange game allowed this to occur.
As great as Jaden Ivey could be, it would be a mistake for the Rockets to draft him with the third pick. This draft class has been perceived as a three-player class for quite some time and for good reason. Houston should be comfortable sitting in the position they are in and drafting the remaining prospect out of the top three guys. Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero each possess a more surefire NBA translation to their game. They also are undoubtedly cleaner fits in the long-term future. Pairing one of these three with Jalen Green has the early ingredients of a franchise duo.
While the Rockets are not in a rush to compete now, this is not an excuse to take a higher upside swing on Jaden Ivey. Adding a legitimate long-term forward to pair with Jalen Green is best for the future of the franchise. They are in a perfect position to do so and have a chance to begin moving toward competing. Making a wrong selection at the third pick risks stopping this franchise's momentum and putting them behind. Jaden Ivey may surely have an impressive NBA career, but it would be the wrong pick for the Houston Rockets to take him third.