Houston Rockets score 4th straight top-4 draft pick, benefiting from James Harden trade

ByMatt Guillermo KTRK logo
Sunday, May 12, 2024
Tap for ABC13 Houston 24/7 Live Stream
Watch Eyewitness News and ABC13 originals around the clock

CHICAGO, Illinois (KTRK) -- The Houston Rockets gained the right to select in the NBA Draft's top-four for the fourth straight year, benefiting from the James Harden trade that set off seasons of futility but steady improvement.

On Sunday, Houston head coach Ime Udoka represented the team in Chicago, the 2024 NBA Draft Lottery's site. The Atlanta Hawks, who entered the event with the second-lowest odds to jump into the prized top-four positioning, won the No. 1 pick.

Meanwhile, the Rockets entered the day with the possibility of earning two top-four selections. They held the Brooklyn Nets' unprotected first-round pick, an asset acquired in the 2021 trade that sent the franchise's former cornerstone player. The Nets, who missed the playoffs, held the sixth-lowest odds of entering the top four. Houston also had its own pick, which would convey to the Oklahoma City Thunder as part of the 2019 Russell Westbrook trade if it didn't land between the first through fourth picks.

After the lottery process, Houston landed at No. 12 to fulfill its end of the swap with OKC. However, the Nets leaped from their projected No. 9 positioning to earn the No. 3 pick, which, you guessed it, automatically became an asset that Udoka, Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, and general manager Rafael Stone can use or leverage in a trade.

The No. 3 pick follows a string of post-Harden era selections that landed high in the draft order. In 2021, Houston landed the No. 2 pick, the first of three in the first round. In 2022, the Rockets picked up the third pick, one of two selections in the first round. And last year, Houston cracked the top four with one other first-rounder.

As it stands, the No. 3 pick is Houston's only first-round selection this year.

Who may land in Houston?

Unlike the 2023 draft, no clear-cut, transformative top prospect dominates the conversation.

But, like last year's Victor Wembayama draft, a French teen is this year's overall top prospect, according to ESPN.

France could go first and second - ESPN's Jonathan Givony projects frontcourt players Zaccharie Risacher and Alex Sarr, both teen phenoms overseas, will head to Atlanta and No. 2-picking team Washington.

Who would be left for Houston?

Givony sees University of Kentucky guard Reed Sheppard as Houston's pick.

"Houston could look at plug-and-play options with this pic, considering the youthful roster construction. Shooting will likely be a priority this summer, and the dynamic shot-making versatility of Sheppard -- who made over 50% of his 3s this season -- could be attractive with this pick, along with his feel for the game and defensive instincts," Givony wrote for ESPN+.

UConn center Donovan Clingan could also get a look as Alperen Sengun's backup, Givony added.

Rockets' first-round selections since 2021


  • No. 2: Jalen Green, guard, Overtime Elite
  • No. 23: Usman Garuba, forward/center, Turkey
  • No. 24: Josh Christopher, guard, Arizona State

Rockets acquired No. 16 pick Alperen Sengun, drafted by Oklahoma City

SEE MORE: Welcome to Houston! Rockets introduce Jalen Green and their 2021 draft class


  • No. 3: Jabari Smith Jr., forward, Auburn
  • No. 17: Tari Eason, forward, LSU

Rockets acquired No. 29 pick TyTy Washington, drafted by Memphis

SEE MORE: Houston Rockets' NBA Draft night nets them 3 SEC stars headlined by Jabari Smith Jr.


  • No. 4: Amen Thompson, guard, Overtime Elite
  • No. 20: Cam Whitmore, forward, Villanova

SEE MORE: Houston Rockets go with Amen Thompson at No. 4, Cam Whitmore at No. 20

Who will land in Clutch City? Would Houston trade out of this pick, potentially on draft night? Find out when the 2024 NBA Draft airs live in a two-night event on June 26-27 on ABC13.