It’s deja vu. Again. The Rockets are picking 14th in the NBA Draft. Again. They are trying to trade up in the draft. Again.
The Rockets are a complex equation right now and we don’t have a single fixed value to work with. We don’t know their direction with absolute certainty (and frankly, they may not yet either). Anything can change. Trade Courtney Lee and you could use a two-guard. Ship out Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson and true fours come into view.
But we do know they’re trying to trade up. One source said the Rockets feel better about their chances to move up this year than any previous draft under Morey’s helm. So with so much uncertainty about where Houston is picking, here are seven prospects, projected to go anywhere from top 3 to the mid teens, that I think could be have an impact playing with the current Rockets squad.
|Enes Kanter||6′ 11″, 260 lbs, Turkey|
|I understand Enes Kanter has bust potential. He has hardly played in two years and for a 19-year old prospect, that’s significant. But this kid has good size, very good hands, range extending out to 18+ feet and he isn’t afraid to bang inside. I view him as a bigger version of Scola. Defensively he’s challenged so he’s not the shotblocker the Rockets could really use, but if he’s truly 19, he could eventually become a fantastic post scorer and rebounder. My hunch is any pursuit of the 2nd pick would be to get Kanter.|
|Jonas Valanciunas||6′ 11″, 240 lbs, Lithuania|
|Measuring at 7 feet tall with an over 7-foot-4 wingspan, Jonas Valanciunas (pronounced YO-nahs vah-lahn-CHEW-nahs) looks to be more the prototypical center than does Kanter. The developing Lithuanian has some bulk to add so he’s not NBA ready, and even if he was ready he wouldn’t be coming over next season due to buyout/contract issues, but in a Houston trade-up scenario, this could be a great draft-and-stash pick by the Rockets. You get your future center and you leave the short-term window open for a Yao Ming comeback.|
|Bismack Biyombo||6′ 9″, 240 lbs, Congo|
|If you strapped Jordan Hill to a Captain America Super Soldier machine, he would emerge as Bismack Biyombo. There are plenty of question marks about Biyombo — his true age and lack of offensive skills being the biggest — but his physical gifts are not in doubt. He exploded onto the scene after his eye-opening performance at the Nike Hoops Summit (12 points, 11 boards, 10 blocks). It will take some time (foul trouble will be a concern), but he has the potential to be the rim-protector the Rockets need. This is the pick that really interests me.|
|Kawhi Leonard||6′ 7″, 225 lbs, San Diego State|
|A big man is the Rockets’ most pressing need, but an athletic, defensive-minded small forward would certainly fill a gap in Houston. Kawhi Leonard has very long arms (7-foot-3 wingspan), cartoonishly big hands and a constantly running motor, which help make him strong on the defensive end. I absolutely have concerns about his offense and limited range (just 29.1% from distance as a sophomore last year), but he doesn’t turn 20 until later this month. The Rockets would have an athletic, defense-minded three-four combo in Leonard-Patterson for the future.|
|Chris Singleton||6′ 9″, 230 lbs, Florida State|
|Chris Singleton may actually check out better than Leonard as far as measurables go. He has legit size, coming in at 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, and a 37″ vertical jump. Like Leonard he has some growing to do as an offensive player and that may keep him from being a starter, but I think this guy has a chance to be a lockdown defender in this league, a player you can eventually throw out there against hot scoring guards, wings and some fours. That’s something the Rockets have lacked since losing Ron Artest and Shane Battier.|
|Nikola Vucevic||7′ 0″, 260 lbs, USC|
|For the last several weeks I’ve been hoping the Rockets could snag Nikola Vucevic at #23, but that no longer looks likely. Vucevic is not a high flyer so he won’t be going all DeAndre Jordan on you anytime soon, but the USC product averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 boards as a junior, showing nice range for a big man (34.9% from distance). Like Yao Ming, both of Vucevic’s parents were basketball players — his father, Borislav Vucevic, played professionally in Europe for 24 years.|
|Donatas Motiejunas||7′ 0″, 220 lbs, Lithuania|
|I’m almost scared off by Donatas Motiejunas. Reportedly lacks passion for the game. Poor rebounder. Weak defender. But here’s a guy standing a legit seven feet with terrific offensive skills and he’s starting to add some bulk. He’s excellent from distance (nearly 43% last year in the Italian League), underrated as a passer and he’s only 20. I’m not doing cartwheels if this is the pick at 14, but would love to see him in Houston at the cost of 23 or somewhere inbetween via trade.|