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Rockets Prime Candidates for Trade at No. 3 in NBA Draft

There are two clear favorites in NBA odds to go first and second overall in the 2024 draft. Alexandre Sarr is favored at -200 to go to the Atlanta Hawks first overall, followed by Zacharie Risacher, who has his odds set at -140 to go second to the Washington Wizards. Both players have the second-best odds to go in the reverse order, making them the most likely pairing at the top of the draft.

The No. 3 overall pick is where things get complicated. The Houston Rockets have that pick, acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in the 2021 James Harden deal. There is no clear favorite, mainly because the Rockets’ roster doesn’t have a lot of glaring needs and is filled with young talent. This makes the Rockets an ideal trade target for a team wanting to move up in the draft.

Rockets Prime Candidates for Trade at No. 3 in NBA Draft
Jalen Green #4 of the Houston Rockets - Tim Warner/Getty Images/AFP

The Rockets already have a solid young core, led by Alperen Sengun, Jalen Green and Jabari Smith Jr. There are also solid young role players in Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore and Tari Eason. All six players have been drafted in the first round since 2021, and each will likely have NBA success. The roster is also bolstered by veterans Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks.

In addition, the Rockets finished the 2023-24 season with a 41-41 record, finishing in 11th place in the Western Conference. They missed the playoffs but improved considerably after winning 22 games the prior season.

The two positions the Rockets could need if they don’t trade the third overall pick are a rim protector or second ball-handling guard behind VanVleet, who will be a free agent after the 2025-26 season.


Does Reed Sheppard Go Third Overall?

The odds for the third overall pick are difficult to bet on because it is hard to predict what the Rockets will look for in the draft. The player with the lowest odds to go at No. 3 is Reed Sheppard at +125.

When looking at Sheppard’s one season at Kentucky, it is hard to see him as the third overall pick. He only started five games but averaged 28.9 minutes, 12.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals.

It is almost shocking that he didn’t start more. He is an elite outside shooting threat, connecting on 52.1% from 3-point range on 4.4 attempts per game. Furthermore, despite measuring slightly under 6 feet, 2 inches, Sheppard is a capable defender, as shown in his steals per game.


Immediately, there is a lot of love for Sheppard, with the potential for him to improve like Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns. Booker came off the bench for Kentucky in 2014-15 and was an elite 3-point threat. Sheppard is not the same size as Booker but has a similar feel and shooting ability, possibly leading to a comparable NBA future.

Last season, the Rockets ranked 23rd in 3-point percentage, and Sheppard will be able to improve that immediately. While he probably won’t start, he can be the sixth, seventh or eighth man off the bench, being able to run the offense when VanVleet is resting and always being a threat to shoot from deep.

Selecting Sheppard makes a lot of sense. He does not have to have a massive impact immediately and probably won’t get the touches to put up big numbers. But Sheppard can still be a scoring threat off the bench, improving the Rockets’ 3-point shooting and being able to get his shot off in many different ways.


Donovan Clingan a Winning Player

While Sheppard answers one possible hole for the Rockets at the guard position, Donovan Clingan fills the other. Currently, the Rockets do not feature a shot blocker or defensive anchor, and the two starting bigs, Sengun and Smith, are not great defensively. Clingan is the best defensive center in the draft. He is also a proven winner, winning back-to-back national championships with UConn, giving him odds at +250 to go third overall.


The 7-2 Clingan got little playing time his freshman season, averaging 13.1 minutes, but he still showed that he could grow into something. He averaged 6.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks while coming off the bench in his freshman season. Clingan became a much bigger factor in UConn’s second national title run. His started 33 of 35 games, averaging 22.5 minutes, 13.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks while staying out of four trouble.

The Rockets’ defense last season was alright, with the ninth-lowest defensive rating, but adding Clingan would be an immediate upgrade. He has shown the ability to stay in front of perimeter opponents while locking down the paint, blocking shots, and grabbing rebounds. A big part of that is because he has a 7-foot-8 wingspan.

The question then is about the offensive end and the overall fit on the roster. Clingan is not a threat outside of the paint offensively but demolishes opponents on screens, which is a skill for pick-and-rolls or dribble hand-offs.

The Rockets need that skill on their roster, but it would be at the expense of Sengun or Smith minutes, which is complicated. Sengun turned into a near All-Star last season while Smith was selected third overall in 2022. The Rockets may not risk lessening either of their roles for the sake of Clingan.


Honorable Mentions: Stephon Castle Lurking

The honorable mentions for the third overall pick make a lot of sense. They are Stephon Castle, with odds at +600 to be selected third overall, and Nikola Topic at +700. A big reason is that if the Rockets trade the pick, it is hard to tell what that team might be looking for. Both Castle and Topic are listed as two of the top players on most analyst draft boards. That makes them the likely options for a team to trade up for.


Best Bet for No. 3 Overall Pick

Betting on the third overall selection in the 2024 draft is difficult for NBA picks. For one, the Rockets could trade the pick, making it extremely hard to predict. Furthermore, if the Rockets keep the pick, they will make their selection based on team fit, not the best player available. It makes sense to side with Sheppard, given that he is a seamless fit right now because of his shooting, but he can also replace VanVleet down the line.



Odds and information are accurate at the time of writing. Please check with official sources for the latest updates before placing any bets.


Questions of the Day

Should the Rockets trade their third overall pick?

This Rockets seems ready to make the jump into the playoffs, or at least the play-in, and trading this pick for a veteran who can help the team now makes a lot more sense than selecting a rookie.

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