Draft Banter: Houston Rockets

Team: Houston Rockets

2011 Draft Assets: 1st (#14 & #23), 2nd (#38)

2012 Draft Assets: 1st (NYK – Top 5 protected), 2nd, 2nd (Det)

DraftExpress Mock Selection(s):

#14 – Bismack Biyombo (PF/C) – Baloncesto Fuenlabrada (Profile)

#23 – Iman Shumpert (PG/SG) – Georgia Tech (Profile)

#38 – Malcolm Lee (SG) – UCLA (Profile)

Chad Ford’s Mock Selection(s):

#14 – Jonas Valanciunas (C) – Lietuvos Rytas (Profile)

#23 – Dontas Motiejunas (PF) – Benetton Terviso (Profile)

#38 – Darius Morris (PG) – Michigan (Profile)

Roster Analysis:

UFA’s of Significance: Chuck Hayes, Yao Ming

RFA’s of Significance: None

The Rockets are one of the most well run organizations in the league and their roster reflects it. They have no deadweight contracts and a nice collection of young talent. Kevin Martin is an efficient scoring machine at the 2 while Kyle Lowry blossomed last season into a top 15 point guard. Talented prospects like Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, and Patrick Patterson provide the flexibility for Houston GM Daryl Morey to either move forward with his youth or perhaps package together some assets for another star to pair with Martin.

Needs: Size. Shot-blocking. Defense in the frontcourt and on the wings.

–BK

“Safe” scenario: With three picks in the draft, Houston has themselves in a position to continue to stockpile young talent around its veteran core of Luis Scola, Martin, and Lowry. Both mock drafts present somewhat of dream scenarios for the Rockets, particularly Chad Ford’s prediction that Valanciunas falls all the way to #14.

Should that not happen, players like Nikola Vucevic (USC), Chris Singleton (FSU), and perhaps one of the Morris twins make some sense here as well. But if the Rockets want safe, they’ll likely consider Markieff or Marcus Morris, the twin Jayhawks that have been slowly rising up draft boards since the beginning of the college season.

The easiest way to explain the Morris twins is to look at where DraftExpress sets their respective ceilings: Marcus draws comparisons to David West, while Markieff resembles Rasheed Wallace. It boils down to where and how they get their points. Marcus, after playing a complementary role early in his career, emerged as a star last season, ranking as the third most efficient scorer in this draft class and arguably the most efficient low post scorer in the country (1.18 points per possession according to Synergy Sports). He displays an advanced skill set on the block complete with excellent footwork, a soft touch and the necessary comfort to turn over either shoulder or face up. Few defenders are capable of handling him at the college level, but there are questions as to how he will fair against NBA players. At just a shade under 6-foot-9 in sneakers with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, Marcus isn’t a physical specimen, but he is tough and smart enough that he should contribute as a rookie. He has made steady strides in improving his jumper as well. Overall, he is the more versatile of the two, but may be a bit behind in terms of physical ability.

Markieff is the shooter in the family, connecting on 43% of his jumpers last season and capable of connecting on open looks from the perimeter. At this point in his development he looks the part of a viable pick-and-pop player at the pro level, while also showing that he can finish at the rim consistently even if his post-up game is not as developed as his brothers. Physically Markieff has an advantage, standing one-quarter inch taller with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and looking more explosive overall. He doesn’t have the same feel or polish that Marcus does, but has shown enough progression in his game to think he can be a rotational big man in the NBA. In many ways the differences between the two Morris twins closely resembles where the Lopez twins were when they first entered in the league, with Brook proving more skilled and Robin a better athlete. Both have developed into solid players at the next level, something that isn’t out of the question by any means for the Morris’s.

With so much youth already on the roster and a flood of “stashable” European talent projected to be available around #23, it make sense that Houston takes a long look at players like Motiejunas, Davis Bertans (Union Olimpija), and Nikola Mirotic (Real Madrid). Allowing those players to develop on someone else’s dime while Houston sorts through their own in-house batch of youngsters seems like a solid course of action. Houston could also be a bit bolder and take a flier on Jeremy Tyler (Tokyo Apache), who’s European experiment didn’t quite pan out like Brandon Jennings’ did, but has the size that the Rockets sorely need. –JW

“High-risk” scenario: Two players whose names have been bandied about in various trade rumors are Andre Iguodala and Chris Kaman. Both players are intriguing fits for a Houston roster that needs both size and defense at the wings. Kaman seems to be the more natural fit given Houston’s depth on the wings, but the potential of a Martin-Iguodala pairing is hard to ignore. While one can argue that AI9 is slightly overpaid given his production, it’s hard to say his slashing, defensive-orientated game and strong passing skills wouldn’t augment Martin’s perfectly.

If Houston agreed to send out Jordan Hill, Hasheem Thabeet (as either a prospect or expiring contract), Courtney Lee, Terrance Williams, Memphis 2013 #1 (Top 14 protected) and the #14 pick, would Philly be swayed to part with their star wing? Given that Jrue Holiday seems to be the centerpiece of the Sixers’ future, acquiring younger players with more economical deals makes the most sense. Throw another pick this year in the Top 16 and Philadelphia would be overflowing with young talent.

For Houston, the hole at center would still exist and the opportunity to plug it with a young player at #14 would be gone. Having such a duo on the wings still probably leaves them a piece away from serious title contention. But the combination of Martin and Iguodala on the wings might be as fearsome as any in the league outside those two guys living in obscurity down in Miami, and that’s not a bad place to start. –BK

Twitter: @BKoremenos; @JoeyWhelan

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