HOUSTON (CW39) – There’s always a sense of excitement the day after a draft, but on Friday at Toyota Center, there was a bit of a buzz for the Houston Rockets that was missing most of last season.
That’s because the team now has a sense of direction after getting three talented players in the 2022 NBA Draft, including a player that feels he could have been the No. 1 overall pick.
Jabari Smith Jr. was the third overall pick in the draft, but many predicted he would go No. 1. But the Rockets are glad to see him available to get him. They were also glad to get forward Tari Eason at No. 17 and got a chance to get guard TyTy Washington.
The Rockets not only introduced their picks, but also made the Christian Wood trade official. Wood was shipped to Dallas for four players and the No. 26 pick (who was Duke forward Wendell Moore Jr.), who was then traded to Minnesota for the 29th pick, which ended up being Washington.
All three players are expected to be major contributors for the Rockets and help out the team’s other young superstar players in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr.
“Last night was a super exciting night, today is a super exciting day,” Rockets general manager Rafael Stone said. “I’m happy to have them here today, but I’ll be really happy next week, when we get to see them work.”
Stone and head coach Stephen Silas both were excited to get Smith, who is not only a strong scorer, but has the size to be a good rim protector, something that Houston lacked last season.
“I’m excited, I got drafted into the NBA,” Smith said. “I don’t care if I was picked first or No. 52. Either way, I’m happy to be here and to be a part of this organization.
“Of course I’m going to use it as a chip on my shoulder, but at the end of the day, that moment is behind me and I can’t let it bother me anymore.”
Smith was a dominant player in his only year at Auburn, averaging 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game while shooting 42.9% from the field, earning national freshman of the year honors.
Another big body the Rockets got was Eason, who was a strong presence for LSU last season, averaging 16.0 points while shooting 52% from the field. But the 6-8 forward has a more polished defensive game, averaging 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks per game.
“It’s a dream come true, I’m super blessed,” Eason said. “I’m excited that a team had faith in me and I’m ready to work.”
Washington is considered by some as the steal of the draft, as he scored 12.5 points per game in his freshman year at Kentucky, in which he had some nagging injuries. He would be a good guy to add some scoring off the bench for Porter Jr. or Green.
TyTy is ready to go through the bad and good of a young Houston team.
“We’re really young, so we can go through the ugly and the good together,” Washington said. “It’s not how you start, but how you finish, so we know we’re young and going to make mistakes. It will be our job to help each other get through it at the end of the day, and with the group we have, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
The Rockets will see their new players in action in Summer League play next month in Las Vegas.