Should the Rockets trade?

Can an article about a sports team function as a living organism? In other words, can I start writing this before I know how I feel?

The answer is yes. I’m writing and I don’t know where I stand on this issue. Should the Rockets be traded in the 2022 NBA Draft?

Really, I don’t know. If the grey areas make you uncomfortable, I’m going to recommend another one now.

I started writing an article arguing that the Rockets shouldn’t be traded. For the sake of journalism integrity, I choose to consider both sides of the issue. Now I’m somewhere in opinion purgatory.

The best I can offer is an introduction to both sides of the issue.

Reasons to trade down

Usually, there’s already a tweet that sums up the argument better than I do. I guess the 250 character limit is good.

Nathan has a point. The 2023 draft looks much stronger than this year’s crop. Victor Unbenyama has the potential to revolutionize the game of basketball. This is not a hyperbola. He’s a 7-foot-3 demigod with a step-back 3-pointer, a handle, and the mobility to run in the open. He is widely regarded as the most anticipated rookie since LeBron James.

The man, affectionately known as Winby, stands out from the class, but he’s not alone. Scott Henderson is already a top player in the NBA G League. He is 18 years old. He has the combination of athleticism and intelligence that can only be found at the league’s best point guard.

I’m not going to bore you with amateur scouting reports for every player in my class. I recommend looking for names like Amen Thompson, Austar Thompson, Dariq Whitehead, Kel’el Ware, Derrick Lively and Anthony Black. If you’re not already familiar, you might be impressed.

This is a stronger class. This is not a controversial claim. If the Rockets traded their third pick for a pick and future assets in the 4-to-8 range, it would have two ramifications. First, the Rockets got future assets. Second, and perhaps more importantly, it increases the likelihood that the Rockets will bottom out again in 2022-23.

I know “tank” is a dirty word. This is a controversial topic. Whether that’s something the Rockets have been doing is up for debate. Still, it’s frustrating to be so close to a draft featuring these prospects and fighting for a spot in the previous year.

Not that the Rockets will necessarily be there next year. No matter what teams do in the draft, playing meaningful games next season may be a pipe dream. Still, adding a putative pick in third will increase the odds of winning the game.

God bless, I know. Still, winning five more games next year could be the difference between a top-five pick and a top-10 pick in a historic draft. On the other hand, if Sharp develops after a (potentially) tough rookie season, leaving this draft with Shaden Sharp instead of Paul Banchero could pay dividends.

Drafting Dyson Daniels and Jeremy Sokhan could do the same. When the Rockets pick their second (or third, depending on what you think of Alperen Sengun and Kevin Porter Jr.) star in 2023, picking a few floor lifters will pay off.

Patience is a virtue. The Rockets have an opportunity to decide to take a step back in order to take a few steps forward in the future.

Wait a moment. Why didn’t the Rockets cut prices?

Reasons for objecting to price cuts

The argument against markdown deals is simple. The Rockets have a top-three pick. Why insist on getting a star when you have the chance to get one now?

Let’s say the team has the worst record in the league again in 2022-23. Countdown to five odds. Assuming they run out of lottery luck, they get the fifth overall pick. Are we 100% sure that Paolo Banchero won’t be the fifth pick in this draft?

Drafting is not an exact science. The NBA draft is the subject of frequent and surprisingly heated debate. Generally speaking, in my experience, the discourse among draft nerds falls into two camps.

The first seems to think that drafting Yes an exact science. They’ll tell you “we shouldn’t have picked him, he’s bad”. The second takes the opposite of the false dichotomy. Often their position is that the draft is so unpredictable that no opinion can be drawn.

As with any false dichotomy, the truth is in the middle. Outlooks are predictable to a certain extent, and any outlook can exceed or fall short of their forecasts.

In other words, Paolo Banchero has every chance of being a top 10 player in the NBA. Jabari Smith Jr.’s self-creation will never develop, and he can still prove that the 3 is the best 3-and-D wing of his era.

The number of results is overwhelming. The Rafael Stone has a certain degree of control, and only a certain degree. The Rockets could trade to seven, pick a player who will never make it to the starting level, get the fifth overall pick in the 2023 draft, and pick a player who will never be available as expected in Paolo Banchero.

Of course, it was a nightmare scenario. The Rockets could also trade to No. 5, select a future star, pick the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft, and build a dynasty.

What should the Rockets do?

Gray areas are uncomfortable. It is human nature to want a thing to end up being a thing. Sometimes we run the risk of becoming too deep, just not knowing what things are.

The NBA draft is a big gray area. It’s not completely dark, and it’s not completely clear.

I’m thinking aloud, as I promised. When I type, I tend to keep the selection. Ultimately, I tend to think that controlling your destiny too rigidly has a way of pushing it in the direction you don’t want it to go.

It could be detrimental to try to force another league-worst finish next year, and that’s from someone pro-tank. With the way player movement has developed in the league, Jalen Green’s habit of winning games in the Rockets red may have some benefits.

A look at the league’s conference finalists can reinforce that position. There is no Victor Unbenyama anymore. Of course, having the most talent puts you in the best position to win the most games. Still, the remaining teams made the best picks with the picks they had and won, because the players exceeded expectations.

Jayson Tatum was picked third when he should have been picked first. So is Luka Doncic. Bam Adebayo is doing better than expected. That’s triple (pun intended) for Stephen Curry. Draymond Green was a second-round pick. No matter which team wins this season’s NBA championship, there won’t be a player considered “the next LeBron.”

The Rockets’ first Paolo Banchero could be better. Meanwhile, I can’t be sure.

This is a grey area.

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