OKC Thunder stick with Josh Giddey in Rookie Wire 2021 NBA draft redo

The Thunder makes the same selection once again in this re-draft.

The 2021 NBA draft class turned a year old this summer, which means every player from it has a season under their belts.

The Rookie Wire’s Cody Taylor decided to redo the draft and have a 2021 NBA redraft a season later. For the Oklahoma City Thunder, they selected No. 6 overall in this class and ended up choosing Australian guard Josh Giddey.

In this exercise, that remains the same.

Giddey dazzled in one season in the National Basketball League and continued that display in the NBA. From his highlight-reel passing to his ability to get others involved, Giddey had a strong season with the Thunder before a hip injury shut him down in February.

He earned Rookie of the Month honors in the Western Conference four times and became the youngest player to record a triple-double. Giddey was also the second rookie to register three consecutive triple-doubles, and tied Luka Doncic for the most by a teenager (4).

Giddey lost his new running mate, Chet Holmgren, but looks to improve upon a strong rookie campaign this season. He still has some holes to fill in his game, but Giddey would likely go sixth once again in a redraft.”

This is a solid selection and if the Thunder were in the same situation, would likely re-pick Giddey. It seems both sides are quite pleased with the other. Giddey looks to improve his shooting over the next several seasons; that is really the only huge hole in his offensive game.

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2021 NBA Re-Draft: Cade Cunningham remains the No. 1 pick in re-draft

Rookie Wire took a look at the 2021 class and re-drafted the players based on what we know after one season.

As the NBA is set to welcome a new rookie class into the league for the 2022-23 season, observers are still raving about the previous group that saw great success on the court.

The players were highly touted entering the 2021 NBA draft with several notable names projected to be selected near the top of the board. The class had such depth that teams had the opportunity to draft impact players late in the first round, and even into the second round.

Throughout the year, the class was touted as one of the best in recent memory as many even believe it has the potential to go down as one of the best in history. The top picks proved worthy of their selections, while others showed that they should have been drafted higher.

With that in mind, we took a look at the players and re-drafted the class based on what we know after one season. Other factors, such as potential on the court and long-term outlook, were also considered in this early look back at the class.

Who CBS Sports has the Thunder taking in 2021 NBA draft redraft

CBS Sports recently released a redraft of the 2021 NBA draft. Here’s who they have the Thunder taking at No. 6:

CBS Sports writer Kyle Boone published a redraft of the 2021 NBA draft on its one-year anniversary.

The 2021 NBA draft took place on July 29 — a weird date — as part of the NBA’s effort to get back to a normal schedule after a couple of COVID-19 years.

For the Oklahoma City Thunder, the pick at No. 6 remains the same: Josh Giddey.

“Does OKC take Wagner or Jonathan Kuminga if the board fell as it did a year ago, over Giddey, whom they selected here? Maybe. Definitely maybe. But Wagner is off the board in this redraft — and I still think Giddey goes over Kuminga given OKC’s belief in his connective abilities as a passer and playmaker. The only question with Giddey is the shot — and they just hired Chip Engelland, one of the most respected shooting coaches in the league, which in time may be just the prescription to get him right.”

Considering the No. 6 pick has recently lacked excitement, Giddey’s rookie season was above reasonable expectations. The 19-year-old won Western Conference Rookie of the Month honor four of the five times it was handed out. The only month Giddey didn’t win was March/April, when he missed all but one game after the All-Star break due to a sore hip.

This selection seems about right. Both the Thunder and Giddey are happy with their relationship one year in. All of the players that the Thunder could’ve seriously consider taking over Giddey were already gone in this redraft by the first five picks.

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Bleacher Report awards A grade to Houston’s 2022 rookie class

Bleacher Report grades the 2022 rookie class (A) for the Houston Rockets: “The quantity alone is impressive, but the quality is what should have Space City jazzed about the future.”

The strong work put in over the 2021-22 season’s final months by Houston Rockets rookie Jalen Green — winner of the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award for March/April — didn’t go unnoticed.

In a lengthy story at Bleacher Report grading the rookie classes for all 30 teams, Zach Buckley gave the Rockets an A for their 2022 rookie class. To no surprise, that’s one of the highest grades for any team, and it reflects strong scouting work by general manager Rafael Stone and his staff.

While Buckley notes Houston’s extreme overall quantity of rookies — they had four first-round draft picks (Green, Alperen Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher) and later signed Daishen Nix and Trevelin Queen — it’s the quality that stood out the most. His analysis:

The quantity alone is impressive, but the quality is what should have Space City jazzed about the future.

Green took a while to get going — he was also a 19-year-old, No. 1 option for a bad offense — but once the light bulb clicked on, it had a brilliant shine. After the All-Star break, he posted centerpiece-caliber stats, including 22.1 points per game on 47.6/38.7/75.6 shooting (overall field-goal percentage, 3-point percentage, and free throws).

Sengun, meanwhile, impressed early and often with soft touch, activity on the glass and some of the most creative passing you’ll see from a center not named Nikola Jokic.

Those two are the headliners and the ones who most impacted the letter grade. But Christopher had moments as an athletic energizer with a powerful scoring punch, and Nix impressed with his playmaking (usually at the G League level, but still). Queen might not be a keeper, as he is already 25 years old, but Garuba absolutely could be; he just had his rookie season largely kept in check by injuries.

Buckley appears lowest on Queen, which is understandable, given age factors. And yet, Queen was still quite dynamic in the NBA G League, earning regular-season MVP and Finals MVP honors.

Though Houston finished 2021-22 with the league’s worst record, that fact may further bolster their long-term outlook — since they are now guaranteed another top-five draft pick to add to that young core.

The future is bright, even if the very recent past was not.

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Jalen Green reflects on first season in Houston, sees team growth

Jalen Green on the Rockets and his first NBA season: “I think we got a lot better. You’ve seen where our heart was at, and how we approached every game these last seven or eight games.”

HOUSTON — Media members were huddled around the microphone at the Rockets’ practice facility, still laughing about rookie Alperen Sengun’s disclosure of his favorite English phrase (“FaSho,” meaning for sure) learned during his first year in the United States. Another young man walked in with a massive smile, greeting everyone in his presence.

That humbleness and smile have become a mainstay for Jalen Green during his rookie season in Houston. Even through the adversity he experienced this season, dealing with an injury that kept him out from late November to late December — or the mini-slump he went through as a shooter in late January — Green never stopped smiling and remained confident that he would overcome those types of issues, in time.

That attitude, along with his obvious athletic ability, has general manager Rafael Stone and head coach Stephen Silas excited about the future.

“He can be a very good basketball player, for sure,” Silas said of Green in his exit interview on Monday afternoon. “He will get stronger and more experienced. He will get better than he was this year, so that adds up to being a very good basketball player.”

Most fans and teams got a good look at what the No. 2 overall draft pick from the 2021 first round can become if he stays on the course he showed after February’s All-Star break. It was especially evident in March and April, when Green averaged 22.6 points, 3.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 48.4% overall and 39.5% on 3-pointers.

Those numbers were outstanding and helped Green earn the Western Conference Rookie of the Month award, as announced by the NBA.

Green, 20, knows that he has the talent to succeed in the league. The 6-foot-6 guard recognizes that his stretch of scoring 30-plus points in six out of Houston’s last seven games, including a career-high 41 points versus Atlanta in the season’s final game, is something to build on as he heads into the 2022 offseason. Yet, his unselfishness and his yearning for success at a team level will drive him to work harder.

“I think we got a lot better,” Green said of the Rockets’ approach as a team. “You seen where our heart was at, and how we approached every game these last seven or eight games.”

In a season in which Houston (20-62) finished with the league’s worst record, general manager Rafael Stone made it clear in his comments that growth by young players was the biggest priority to the team. With Green as the headliner, the Rockets were largely successful on that front.

As Houston’s rookie class consisting of Green, Sengun, Usman Garuba, and Josh Christopher graduates to become second-year veterans next season, one player in that group has already removed the “rookie” label.

“I really didn’t look at myself as a rookie, I felt like me going to the G League put me in the sophomore class,” Green said with a smile. Green, of course, used the NBA’s newly established G League professional pathway after graduating from high school in 2020. The program allows talented prospects to bypass college basketball and prepare for the NBA by playing and learning for a year in a professional environment.

Known as a very hard worker, Green does have one personal award that would solidify his first NBA season — and that’s being selected as a member of the 2021-22 NBA All-Rookie First Team.

“It would mean a lot,” Green said about the honor. “That would make me very happy and show that the work has been working and how much I have improved from the beginning (of the season) to the end.”

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Recent growth by rookie Jalen Green gives Rockets hope for future

Rockets rookie Jalen Green has bounced back from a January shooting slump with the most efficient month of his young NBA career. “I think I just locked in,” he says.

The Houston Rockets will resume play Friday when they travel to Orlando to begin the last stretch of their 2021-22 season. With the playoffs effectively out of reach in a rebuilding year, most fans are primarily focused on the No. 2 overall pick of the 2021 NBA draft, Jalen Green.

Over the last 10 games before the All-Star break, Green averaged 15.9 points while shooting 43.6% from the field and 37.7% on 3-pointers, and he scored in double figures in all of those games. The numbers are even better in Green’s eight February games, with the 20-year-old shooting 46.4% overall and 41.2% on 3-pointers for the month.

Those are some very efficient numbers by Houston’s top rookie compared to the shooting slump he was in the previous three games — where he scored a combined 17 points and 6-of-40 from the field, including a game at Golden State where he missed all 11 shots that he attempted.

“I think I just locked in,” Green said of his recent improvements. “All my extra work. Getting up shots. I think those were the main things. I just got right back to work, and it transferred over.”

Green doesn’t want to be viewed as a player who excels only on offense, and he has worked hard to be a better defender in his rookie season. That is an area he knew he had to improve on coming into the NBA.

“Knowing the spots and anticipating the actions,” Green said of his defensive emphasis. “Locking in when we watch film helps and makes it easier for me when I step on the floor. Knowing when to be the low man, knowing when to be the X, has helped out a lot.”

After a rough road trip before the All-Star break, with three games in four nights in three different states, the Rockets will now get some travel relief — as they play 15 of their final 24 games at home.

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Interview: Rockets rookie Josh Christopher ‘addicted to getting better’

In his rookie season, Josh Christopher tells Rockets Wire’s Brian Barefield: “When work pays off, it makes me want to do more. I am addicted to getting better.”

PHOENIX — As I waited near the baseline at Footprint Center for Rockets rookie Josh Christopher to finish his post-practice shooting session, one thing I quickly noticed was that I would be waiting a long time.

The No. 24 overall pick from the first round of the 2021 NBA draft was going through a rigorous spot-to-spot workout with assistant coach Barbara Turner, who constantly shouted out different game-type scenarios every time he moved to a different location on the court.

Once he finished all the drills, I headed over to the sideline to speak with Christopher. I thought the 6-foot-5 guard was finished for the day, especially since he had a game to play that night. Before I could take one step, I heard Houston’s rookie scream out, “Let’s do it again!” 

That is not unusual for anyone who has met the young shooting guard out of Arizona State University, since he has had this type of work ethic dating back to his middle school days in California.

“Josh is one of those guys you have to run off the court sometimes, or he would never leave,” said Turner, who had a similar mindset during her WNBA playing days. “We constantly have conversations about him just working through the process, and being ready when his number is called.”

Christopher said he has figured out early in his young NBA career that hard work and dedication is the key to success. He told me:

As for me, being able to play and earn my spot and earn my minutes in the rotation, just to stay loyal to the grind as I have always been, and to be able to see improvement. I am all about results. You can’t get results if you are not putting the work in. When your work pays off, it makes me want to do more honestly. I am addicted to getting better. I just have to keep working.

In 50 games so far, Christopher is averaging 7.4 points (45.2% FG, 32.2% on 3-pointers), 2.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 16.5 minutes, and he also brings a much-needed spark and intensity to the team on defense.

One may wonder where Christopher’s positive attitude comes from, and how he can handle adversity at such a young age. It starts at home with his father, Laron Christopher, who has always taught Josh to keep his head up and push through the tough times.

“My son has always been one of those people who thrive through adversity,” the elder Christopher said after Houston’s last-second loss at Phoenix. It was an impressive showing for the young Rockets, since the Suns own by far the NBA’s best record. “He knows that tough times don’t last, so he just works harder and harder when things seem difficult.”

Christopher, 20, has had his fair share of ups and downs this season. He was sent down to the team’s G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, to work on being a better ball handler and facilitator since the Rockets planned on using him at the point guard position on the second unit. He excelled there and returned to the team, ready to handle everything his head coach Stephen Silas put on him.

As his minutes grew, his coaches and teammates could see how hard he had worked, including getting extra shots after games in which he shot poorly. In early February, he scored a career-high 23 points in a loss at San Antonio. Still, adversity struck again when Houston traded with Boston to bring in veteran point guard Dennis Schröder. Christopher’s playing time decreased over the next two games, leading to a combined 21 minutes in those contests and his first scoreless outing in 10 games.

Yet, Christopher is not letting that deter him from the ultimate goal of helping the Rockets (15-43) improve and put together some victories over the next 24 games to end their 2021-22 regular season.

“I am a natural two guard, like I have said before,” Christopher said in Phoenix. “Having a player like Schröder here will allow me to be more versatile. So. I can play the one or the two, allowing me to be all over the floor. Everything has slowed down for me. I have improved my jump shooting, and my confidence is higher. I think I have gotten better as an NBA ballplayer, in general.”

Houston has a demanding schedule following the All-Star break, as six out of the next seven opponents they face are currently in playoff contention. The lone exception is Friday night in Orlando, which is the first game for Christopher and the Rockets after the All-Star hiatus.

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Celtics reportedly had their eyes on Houston’s Alperun Sengun in 2021 draft

Boston had evidently had eyes for the Turkish big man before dealing away the pick used to draft him.

Don’t look now, but word is the Boston Celtics had their eye on Houston Rockets big man Alperun Sengun in the 2021 NBA draft according to new reporting from Heavy.com’s NBA insider Steve Bulpett.

The Celtics did not have a pick to work with in that draft after having dealt it away as part of the trade that sent veteran point guard Kemba Walker to the Oklahoma City Thunder for old friend Al Horford and Moses Brown to kick off the 2021 NBA offseason. But before that had happened, Boston evidently had had eyes for the Rockets big man as a potential draft prospect.

And in an interesting twist of fate, Houston felt the same and ended up using that pick to trade for Sengun in a draft-night deal via the Thunder.

Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo impressed by Alperen Sengun

“He’s a good player,” said the former two-time NBA MVP. “Takes his time; nothing can speed him up. He might be slow in the post, but he’s effective.

Houston Rockets forward Alperen Sengun received one of the biggest on-court compliments Friday night against the 2021 NBA Finals Champion Milwaukee Bucks. The praise wasn’t verbal, but it spoke volumes to Sengun’s progression in his rookie season thus far.

While Bucks’ superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo had his way on the offensive side of the court in the 123-114 win over the Rockets to end their seven-game winning streak, it would be his defense that saved Milwaukee from losing back-to-back games. The former Defensive Player of the Year was called upon to slow down Sengun, who was wreaking havoc on the Bucks frontcourt.

Early in the fourth quarter, Milwaukee head coach Mike Budenholzer switched Antetokounmpo to the center position in a desperate move to stop Sengun. It isn’t a move the coach likes to make, but it was the only adjustment to prevent the Rockets from winning their eighth game in a row.

The switch also caused havoc on the defensive end of the court for the Rockets as the Bucks ball movement forced Sengun to be matched up against Milwaukee’s quicker frontcourt. With the defensive rotation out of synch, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas had to take Sengun out of the game.

“That’s a first-team all-defensive, defensive player of the year guy that our 19-year-old rookie had to play against,” said coach Silas when asked was the switch a sign of respect to Sengun. “They made an adjustment for him (Antetokounmpo) to guard him. That’s a sign of respect to me for sure.”

Sengun, who was selected with the 16th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, also received high praises from Antetokounmpo for his performance on the court, finishing the game with 15 points and five rebounds:

He’s a good player. Takes his time; nothing can speed him up. He might be slow in the post, but he’s effective. He’s playing well. He’s playing a lot of minutes off the bench, gives energy to his teammates. He rebounds the ball well. He’s being aggressive, sets good screens. I think the sky’s the limit for him.

While Antetokounmpo was giving the rookie compliments during his postgame press conference, Sengun was also paying his respect to one of the best players in the NBA at the same time.

“I watched him all of the time,” Sengun said after the game. “I watched him in my childhood, long years. It’s giving me really big hope when I play against him like tonight. He is an amazing player. He is unbelievable. I was really happy because I played against him. I was really excited before the game.”

Houston will travel to Memphis on Saturday to take on the Grizzlies to start their three-game road trip.

NBA Twitter reacts to first Jalen Green, Cade Cunningham showdown

Top rookies Jalen Green and Cade Cunningham each broke 20 points in Wednesday’s Rockets-Pistons showdown, and fans loved the intensity.

In a nationally televised showdown involving the top two overall picks from the 2021 NBA draft, it was Detroit’s Jerami Grant who stole the show as the Pistons won at Houston on Wednesday night, 112-104 (recap). Grant’s season-high 35 points sent the Rockets (1-10) to a ninth straight defeat while giving the Pistons (2-8) their second win of the season.

Nonetheless, prized rookies Cade Cunningham and Jalen Green each made a very positive impression. Green led the Rockets with 23 points in 38 minutes, including a memorable dunk after blowing past Cunningham. Meanwhile, Detroit’s No. 1 pick scored 20 points and made 4-of-8 shots (50.0%) from 3-point range, which helped lift his team to the win.

While the two rookies did face each other during 2021 NBA summer league action, this was their first regular-season game versus one another — and the intensity certainly felt like something that could develop into a legit rivalry as the years progress. Here’s a look at highlights of Wednesday’s duel; a sampling of the real-time reaction by fans, media, and players; and details on a looming rematch next month.

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