The first random draw of the 2021 NBA offseason involving the Rockets did not go in Houston’s preferred direction.
In Tuesday’s tiebreaker draws for draft order, Portland lost out on draws involving the Trail Blazers, Lakers, and Mavericks. All three finished with identical 42-30 records, tied for No. 21 among all NBA teams.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, only one of those teams can actually pick at No. 21, and it’s the Dallas selection — which now belongs to New York. Los Angeles will pick at No. 22, and the Portland slot — which belongs to Houston, as part of the Robert Covington trade — is at No. 23.
Houston also owns two other first-round draft slots, including Milwaukee at No. 24. That pick was acquired via the PJ Tucker trade in March, and it now means the Rockets will make back-to-back selections.
As far as Tuesday’s draw, some limited consolation for the Rockets is that the type of prospect available at No. 23 isn’t likely to be all that different than at No. 21. Thus, this draw isn’t nearly as impactful as the June 22 draft lottery, which determines if the Rockets pick in the draft’s top four (52.1%) — or if they slide all the way to Miami’s slot at No. 18, which happens if Houston isn’t among the four lottery winners (47.9% chance).
Dating back to the Chris Paul-Russell Westbrook trade in July 2019, Oklahoma City has the right to swap Miami’s 2021 draft pick for the Houston one, as long as the Houston choice is not in the top four.
Thus, in contrast to Tuesday’s draw for No. 21 through No. 23, the June 22 event has much higher stakes — since it could send the Rockets tumbling in the order while potentially giving them a lower tier of prospect.
That’s why, from Houston’s perspective, the hope is that their luck is being saved for the draw that’s still to come in a few weeks.