With the Rockets acquiring a first-round pick in Wednesday’s NBA Draft earlier this week, it’s hard to gauge the team’s thinking.
Are they planning a rebuild with plans of moving on from James Harden and Russell Westbrook, or are they looking for a complementary piece who could hopefully help Harden almost immediately?
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Mock drafts seem to have focused the Rockets on three players, all really young and just one year out of high school.
The Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen, as well as Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Yahoo Sports, all have the Rockets taking 6-foot-5 guard R.J. Hampton, who turns 20 in February.
Hampton was a star on the Texas high school basketball circuit, playing at Little Elm High School just north of Dallas. Hampton was the state’s player of the year as a junior and graduated early so he could forgo his senior year and play professionally for the New Zealand Breakers in Australia’s National Basketball League, which is the same league where lottery pick LaMelo Ball played last season. In 15 professional games, Hampton averaged 8.8 points and shot 40.7 percent from the field.
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 09: RJ Hampton of the Breakers (R) in action during the round six NBL match between the South East Melbourne Phoenix and the New Zealand Breakers at Melbourne Arena on November 09, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
Graham Denholm/Getty Images
Hampton, who is one of the most physically gifted guards in the draft, is an outstanding scorer both on and off the ball, who was thought to be a sure-fire Top 10 pick before falling a bit off the radar when he didn’t blow anyone away overseas.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and NBC Sports has the Rockets taking Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey, who was another Texas high school star, playing at South Garland High School before his one season in college. The 6-3 Maxey, who just turned 20 this month, also is a combo guard with a lot of upside. Maxey may not be an option for the Rockets, because several mock drafts have him going in the 13 to 15 range.
LEXINGTON, KY – FEBRUARY 04: Tyrese Maxey #3 of the Kentucky Wildcats dribbles the ball during the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Rupp Arena on February 4, 2020 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Another ESPN mock draft has Hampton off the board before the Rockets pick, leaving them to take Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa, a 6-9 power forward. Achiuwa, who spent one season at Memphis, has an NBA body and is a strong defender, but his offensive game needs work. Of course, if the Rockets hold on to Harden and Westbrook, they don’t need much help offensively.
CINCINNATI, OH – FEBRUARY 13: Precious Achiuwa #55 of the Memphis Tigers blocks out during a game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena on February 13, 2020 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Memphis 92-86 in overtime. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
The Athletic has the Rockets going big on upside, taking 18-year-old Serbian Aleksej Pokusevski, who is a 7-footer, but has the handles and shooting ability of a wing. It seems unlikely that Pokusevski would be much of a contributor right away, but this would be a big swing from the Rockets, hoping he develops into a star.
ATHENS, GREECE – MARCH 19: Aleksej Pokusevski, #20 of Olympiacos Piraeus competes with Derrick Williams, #23 of FC Bayern Munich during the 2018/2019 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 27 game between Olympiacos Piraeus and FC Bayern Munich at Peace and Friendship Stadium on March 19, 2019 in Athens, Greece. (Photo by Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images)
Panagiotis Moschandreou/Euroleague Basketball via Getty