While the Dallas Mavericks spent Tuesday preparing for their Western Conference Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors, the other two NBA franchise in Texas learned when they would be selecting their next potential stars to compete their in-state rivals.
The Houston Rockets, owners of the worst record in the NBA this past season, were awarded the No. 3 in Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery.
The San Antonio Spurs didn’t have the same luck as the Rockets, but the ninth overall pick will be their highest draft selection since 1997.
Orlando was the big winner on Tuesday, winning the lottery and the top overall pick. Oklahoma City will pick No. 2 overall.
The NBA Draft will be held on June 23.
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Three Players Fit Rockets’ Rebuilding Plan
Houston missed out on the top overall pick in this year’s draft, but the No. 3 pick still figures to deliver an impact player. The incoming college star will join guard Jalen Green, who was the second overall pick by the Rockets last season.
Most draft experts predict the top three picks to be Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Auburn’s Jabari Smith, and Duke’s Paolo Banchero. Any of the three will fit in well in Houston’s rebuilding plan.
Smith would likely have been the Rockets’ pick had they won the lottery. In his one season at Auburn, Smith averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a game. Along with his ability to score in the post, Smith also shot 42% from 3-point range.
However, Smith is highly likely to go with one of the first two picks, leaving Holmgren or Banchero for the Rockets selection.
Banchero might be the most NBA-ready player in the draft, averaging 17.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in his one season with the Blue Devils. His offensive game, teamed with Green, could make Houston one of the most exciting offenses in the NBA.
Holmgren is considered by many as the top player available with his versality and defensive potential. While he has to bulk up a lot at the next level, the 7-foot post player can possibly develop into a Rudy Gobert-type impact player.
Houston also owns the No. 17 selection acquired from Brooklyn as part of the James Harden trade in 2020.
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Can Spurs Find at Star at No. 9?
At 4.5%, the Spurs had their best odds at the No. 1 pick in the draft since the 1997 lottery. That year they won the top pick and selected Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan. That turned out to be quite the fortunate bounce of the ping pong balls.
Lady Luck was not on San Antonio’s side this year, with the Spurs remaining in the No. 9 position following the lottery. Still, it’s the highest pick they’ve had in 25 years.
Unlike the Rockets and Mavericks, the Spurs don’t have a clear-cut franchise player to build around. Can they find that potential star at No. 9? That could be a difficult feat in this year’s draft.
Duke forward Adrian Griffin, Memphis center Jalen Duren, and Arizona guard Bennedict Mathurin are likely targets for the Spurs. All three players feature different strengths, giving San Antonio plenty to think about.
If the Spurs feel like taking a bigger risk, France forward Ousmane Dieng or G League Ignite guard Dyson Daniels. Playing in New Zealand the past year, Dieng has the potential to be an elite passer and defender at the next level. Daniels, an Australian native, averaged 12 points, 7.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists for the Ignite.
AP Photo/Butch Dill