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Monday, June 20, 2005

A Look at the Rockets' Draft

The obvious needs for the Rockets heading into 2005-2006 are three:

(a) younger, quicker point guard play
(b) athleticism at the 2/3 spots
(c) banger at the 4 to complement Yao.

With the Greek guy (Spanoulis?) apparently on the verge of making a training camp appearance, (a) may be less of a focus than (b) or (c), but since I know nothing about European players, I won't consider him an option in my preview, nor will I mention any player with an excessive number of letters in his last name (a pretty good way to filter Euros from your draft preview).

Looking at NBA.com's draft site, here's some names that jump out at me with regard to those needs:

(a) Jarrett Jack - This guy's likely not going to be around at the Rockets current #24 slot in the first round, but I will guarantee you that he's going to be a solid contributor for a winning team in the NBA for the next 12-15 years. He's gone up against top-notch ACC and other competition for the last 3 years, and his numbers have tremendously improved each of those 3 years. He's unselfish, tough, athletic, and he plays through pain. I would love to see the Rockets move up to get this guy.

Filiberto Rivera - I'd love to see the Rockets use their 2nd-round pick on this UTEP Miner. He was sensational in the WAC tourney and in the NCAA tourney, and he's got a total package (size, passing ability, scoring, quickness) with a less-recognizable name.

Nate Robinson - This is the fuse that powered the explosive Washington Huskies over the past two years. He's only 5'9", but he's thick and athletic (originally signed to play football at UW) and can absolutely get to the rim. I see a more powerful version of Earl Boykins and an excellent 2nd-round opportunity for the Rockets when I look at Robinson.

(b) Brandon Bass - The 2005 SEC Player of the Year is a ridiculous inside-out talent and more of a 3/4 than a 2/3, but I put him here nonetheless. He's 6'8" with a big frame and can crash the boards, block shots and take his man off the dribble. If he played in the ACC, he'd go in the lottery, and the Rockets should jump on him if available.

Julius Hodge - This former ACC Player of the Year is a seasoned college veteran and versatile player. He was somewhat the victim of unreasonable expectations at NC State and wound up having a stellar career. He's long and lean, can play defense and get to the rack, which are features that the Rockets desperately lack.

Ryan Gomes - All-American, 2-time All Big East first teamer Ryan Gomes is the total package. His Friars had a disappointing conference season in 2005 which removed his name from the national headlines, but at 6'7", 250 lbs. and armed with a successful inside-out game against a power conference over the last 3 years, this guy should be on the Rockets' radar at #24.

(c) Andray Blatche - Late blooming underclassman making himself eligible for the 2005 draft. Blatche did not play organized basketball until high school, and he's 6'11", 235 lbs. with good leaping and athletic ability. He was part of a winning prep program and has played very well in various high school all-star gatherings. The Rockets don't need a polished post scorer (Yao and Juwan Howard can provide plenty of that), but they do need a big, young, powerful body who can rebound and block shots, and Blatche, despite his inexperience, can certainly provide that.

David Lee - Despite my unabashed hatred for the Florida Gators and all that they represent, David Lee would be an excellent pick at #24 for the Rockets. He's a rebound/defense-oriented big who is athletic and unselfish. His numbers at Florida were underwhelming, which is more the result of never seeing the ball (Walsh, Roberson, DuPay, etc.) than an inability to contribute. As a lefty, he has a good knack for getting to the rim and will certainly be strong enough to hang on the blocks in the NBA.

Lawrence Roberts - His name doesn't seem to get the ink that May or Simien get when so-called experts pontificate about the Rockets' draft, but I know from watching plenty of SEC basketball over the last two years that this guy has the ability to dominate a basketball game. He put up 17 points and 10 boards each of the last two seasons while being the focus of opposing defenses all across the country. He more than held his own against the object of Packer and Vitale's affection, Sheldon Williams, when the two met in the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney in March, and he think he'd be a good fit for the Rockets at #24.

Notes: I think that Simien and May will never approach the level of success in the NBA that they did in college, and I think that Chris Taft will follow Eddie Griffin's career path... Michael Harris of Rice would certainly be a great pick in the 2nd round for the Rockets, despite his lack of size. Any guy who consistently puts up 20/20 in D-I deserves a draft selection. .. Rashad McCants obviously is blessed with amazing talent, but frankly, I'm scared of him and would never hand him $1 million in guaranteed money... Channing Frye reminds me of Loren Woods, and Raymond Felton reminds me of Ed Cota...


Daniel Ewing (Willowbridge HS)
- A good, not great college player, I see Daniel being drafted in the 2nd round and never contributing to an NBA team.

Gerald Green (Gulf Shores Academy) - Wouldn't know him if he asked me out to dinner, but anyone who commits to play basketball for Oklahoma State obviously has character issues (pardon the editorial). Apparently he does it all, and judging by the mock drafts I've seen, he'll be a high lottery pick.

Bracey Wright (The Colony HS) - Gifted player amongst non-gifted others at IU (and playing for an incompetent coach), causing him to get lost in the national picture. I see Bracey as a late 1st-round, early 2nd-round pick who will certainly make a roster.

John Lucas (Bellaire HS) - Clutch, competitive point guard with an ex-NBA dad who is a likely 2nd-round draft pick. I'm not convinced that he does anything well enough to last in the NBA (not super quick, not a super shooter, not a super defender, etc.), but he'll certainly get his name called sometime on draft night.

C.J. Miles (Skyline HS) - A commitment to Texas may not hold up, as I've seen his name listed on several mock drafts in the first round. That would be disappointing for Rick Barnes, but very good news for CJ and his wallet.

Antoine Wright (Texas A&M) - Antoine's draft stock is apparently rising, and I think he's going to be a solid pro. I predict Antoine will go between 12 and 18 on draft night, allowing him to legitimately don that obnoxious NBA-logoed headband and socks.


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