Our Top 25 Draft Prospects for the Houston Rockets

I really like this draft, and that’s why I love that Chase Budinger trade.

There are several players in tonight’s draft that could make that trade for the 18th pick a steal for Houston — I’d say 20-25 that I think are well worth the price of Budinger — and to illustrate that, what better way than to just put them in order of who I like the most for the Rockets.

This wasn’t easy and it’s guaranteed to make me look like a fool a year or two from now, but let me be clear — I’d be pretty happy with just about anyone on the top 20 or so of this list. So here’s my personal top 25 for the Rockets in the 2012 NBA Draft.


1 Anthony Davis
6’10″, 19-year old PF, Kentucky
I know… shocker. As crazy as this sounds, one individual with the Rockets told me they grade Anthony Davis in the 2012 NBA Draft higher than LeBron James entering the 2003 Draft. Major score for New Orleans.


2 Bradley Beal
6’5″, 19-year old SG, Florida
With Beal, there are a lot of similarities to Brandon Roy, who was Daryl Morey’s first trade-up mancrush in 2006. He can shoot, score, rebound and defend — he could be your two-guard into the 2020′s. Get this man an IPad — no question I’d be willing to pony up in a trade up for Beal.


3 Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
6’7″, 18-year old forward, Kentucky
It doesn’t look like MKG has the complete skills package of a star — at least not yet — but he’s relentless on both ends of the floor and has a winner/leadership quality that appears unique. Small forward is the last of Houston’s needs, but he could be a real weapon for McHale. I’d be content with a trade up for MKG.


4 Andre Drummond
6’11″, 18-year old C, Connecticut
Just one question: Will he work hard? If the answer is yes, this is a risk worth taking. He can’t shoot and you’re looking at a 2-3 year project, but his combination of size (legit 7-foot-6 wingspan), athleticism and mobility is incredibly rare. The payoff down the line could be tremendous if the Rockets and Drummond are willing to put in the work. Definite trade up target in my book.


5 Harrison Barnes
6’8″, 20-year old SF, North Carolina
At 6-foot-8 and chiseled, Barnes has an NBA-ready body. I’m not confident he will ever reach the superstar status he seemed destined to hit when he first went to North Carolina, but I think he could really impress as a shooter. I prefer he pushes someone else down to the Rockets as far as paying for a trade up goes.


6 Damian Lillard
6’3″, 21-year old PG, Weber State
He can really shoot it while taking good care of the ball — that combo is not as common as you may think for a point guard. I’d love to have Lillard, but while he has real potential at the one, I have a hard time seeing the Rockets go through a major trade-up fuss to fill a point guard spot. Never know with Morey.


7 John Henson
6’10″, 21-year old PF, North Carolina
Love John Henson for the Rockets. He didn’t test out athletically like I had hoped, but he’s got long arms, long legs and seems tailor-made to block some shots. Will definitely have to put on some bulk to be a big minute four, but long-armed freaks have to stick together — I could see McHale really liking this pick.


8 Thomas Robinson
6’9″, 21-year old PF, Kansas
Crazy, right? Here’s where I’d scoop up Robinson. I think Robinson is going to be a very good player, but I just don’t think the Rockets can invest highly in an average-sized power forward that doesn’t block shots, especially one that was Marcus Morris‘ backup last season, which, by the way Thomas, is not the first resume item I’d focus on in your Toyota Center interview.


9 Dion Waiters
6’4″, 20-year old SG, Syracuse
I’ve been a fan of Waiters since he was originally expected to go in the late teens. His stock has soared and I’m not surprised — he strikes me as a player who doesn’t fear anything. Reminds me of an athletic version of 80′s sixth man extraordinaire Vinnie Johnson.


10 Tyler Zeller
7’0″, 22-year old C, North Carolina
While Drummond is the physical freak that could take a few years to develop, Zeller is plug and play, the center version of Luis Scola. He’s a 7-foot senior out of a big time program, runs the floor and hits his free throws — that hits just about every key point on Morey’s checklist.


11 Meyers Leonard
7’1″, 20-year old C, Illinois
Like Drummond, I think it will take some time for Leonard to develop, especially offensively where he’s raw, but his combine measurements (over 7-foot-1 in shoes, 5.7% body fat) are impressive. Rockets have sorely needed a center and this is one you can groom to be your starter.


12 Jeremy Lamb
6’5″, 20-year old SG, Connecticut
Lamb’s offensive gifts are very tempting and I got to say he could very well prove to be a special player, but he also will need to add some strength. Tough call — I’d certainly give a thumbs up to a pick of Lamb — but I think I prefer that someone else takes the decision away from us.


13 Terrence Ross
6’7″, 21-year old SG, Washington
I like Terrence Ross a lot for the Rockets. Passing is not a strength, but he’s 6-foot-7, great size for a two guard, and he can really shoot and defend. Not much I don’t like about Ross.


14 Austin Rivers
6’5″, 19-year old SG, Duke
SUCH a hard player to project. The debate last year was who was the better player coming out of high school — Rivers or Anthony Davis — so you know he has the pedigree. He also has the mentality and confidence of a superstar. Little undersized for a “star” two and seems to be a “me, me, me” kind of guy on the court, but at a minimum, Rivers would be a threat to shoot and score in bunches for the Rockets.


15 Perry Jones III
6’11″, 20-year old PF, Baylor
I would absolutely roll the dice with Perry Jones. I want to rank him higher, but motor questions (never a good sign) and some predicting he’s more of a small forward bumps him down a bit. If you think this guy can project as a four and get better in the post, then he could be a gift in the middle of the first. Take him. Very good size, skillset, range, athleticism and footwork. You’re just going to have to ride him to bring out more.


16 Jared Sullinger
6’9″, 20-year old PF, Ohio State
Yes, he’s undersized and yes, he plays like his feet are nailed to the floor… but can Daryl Morey really resist this guy if he falls to the teens? Great rebounder and outstanding shooting touch and form. I don’t know how severe the back issues are and he’s not my ideal pick, but could be a good value. Preference? He goes before the Rockets, but at 16 or 18, I’m not complaining.


17 Royce White
6’8″, 21-year old PF, Iowa State
Is there a more unique player in this draft than Royce White? He reminds me of Anthony Mason — he’s packing 260-plus on a 6-foot-7 frame and was very impressive as a point forward for Iowa State. Very good passing and penetration skills.


18 Arnett Moultrie
6’11″, 21-year old PF, Mississippi State
Moultrie strikes me as a taller, rebounding version of Carl Landry. He’s very quick and has a good first step going to the basket. No inside info on this, just a hunch he might be a Morey sleeper pick.


19 Moe Harkless
6’9″, 19-year old SF, St. Johns
He’s built like Trevor Ariza, moves like Trevor Ariza and unfortunately shoots like Trevor Ariza, and Morey once loved him some Trevor Ariza. But he’s only 19 — could he shed the Arizaness? Broad shoulders — great frame for the position.


20 Terrence Jones
6’9″, 20-year old PF, Kentucky
He could make this look really bad later on — certainly a better player than this ranking suggests. Jones is built like a sleek tank and when he’s on, he’s impressive. But unless Patrick Patterson or Marcus Morris are traded, I don’t see the Rockets needing another undersized 3/4 tweener. Ideally he would go before the Rockets pick at 16 and 18, pushing someone else down.


21 Kendall Marshall
6’4″, 20-year old PG, North Carolina
Not super athletic or all that impressive taking it to the basket, but Marshall is a very gifted and smart passer and has kind of leadership qualities you like to see in a point guard. He’d step right in and fill that backup point spot behind a re-signed Goran Dragic.


22 Fab Melo
7’0″, 22-year old C, Syracuse
Morey always wanted Melo and went hard after a Brazilian center, so why not go after both in one package? Fab Melo is big and can really block some shots. He’s only been playing for six years and has real defensive potential. There are other centers I like ahead of him, but Melo would be a solid late first as a backup center that can be developed for the Rockets.


23 Evan Fournier
6’7″, 19-year old SG, France
If the Rockets are unsuccessful in trade-up or trade-out scenarios, Fournier makes a great “Eurostash” pick in that he doesn’t take up a roster spot and can be groomed overseas, similar to what they’ve done with Donatas Motiejunas and Sergio Llull.


24 Marquis Teague
6’2″, 19-year old PG, Kentucky
Jeff Teague’s brother, Marquis was a highly touted prospect that may have been overshadowed a bit by the star-studded Kentucky lineup. When you watch his highlights, he reminds me a little of a young Steve Francis before Franchise started downing protein shakes.


25 John Jenkins
6’4″, 21-year old SG, Vanderbilt
He can shoot lights out (43.9% from three-point range as a junior) and that’s a skill that is always in demand.

 

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