NBA Draft 2012: 4 Can't-Miss Prospects for the Houston Rockets
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With the 14th pick, the Houston Rockets have a multitude of avenues the brass could pursue in the upcoming draft. While forward is not a spot of concern for the organization, as the roster already possesses numerous competent players at the specific positions, both guards and centers will be heavily scanned through by the Rockets to see if there is a player who is a perfect fit.
The following slides will examine players who look as if they may fit that very bill.
After a 1-7 slide late in the truncated season, the Rockets, who were once favorites to lock up the sixth-seed in the West, were officially knocked out of the playoff race. While major alterations are not a necessity, as the team almost captured their first playoff berth since the days of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, the organization needs to be searching for ways to improve their immediate and distant future outlooks.
With depth at nearly every position and a plethora of quality, young prospects, the Rockets are absolutely on a path back to playoff relevancy. However, the lack of a star player and low-post scoring threat has kept the franchise from establishing themselves as elite in the competitive Western Conference.
So, what modifications should the Rockets' brass pursue? Well, this changing phase starts with their 14th pick in the upcoming draft.
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Name: Meyers Leonard
Attributes: 7'0", 245 pounds
2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Due to missing the playoffs, the Rockets will find themselves picking in the upper-lottery range. Sure, many potential superstars will already be taken by this point, but the list of prospects who are projected to be still available is nothing to scoff at. In fact, this may be the deepest draft of the past five years.
The Rockets have no major roster needs at the moment, but will probably want to draft a center due to current big men Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby being on the wrong side of their respective careers.
The Rockets have a few options if they want to explore this specific path.
Illinois sophomore center Meyers Leonard is my favorite choice for Houston. In a league that lacks quality seven-footers, Leonard would be an intriguing prospect for the Rockets. While he does scream "bust" with his raw offensive game, his 7'1" frame, mixed defensive presence and major upside may be too much to pass up.
Leonard will most likely not be ready to contribute from the beginning. However, the big man has the potential to develop into one of the best big men of this deep class.
Meyers Leonard's stock is almost solely based on his ridiculous potential. His athleticism, size and intangibles will allow him to have the possibility to become a starter-quality center. However, the 7'1" Illinois product still has a far way to go earn this title.
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Name: Tyler Zeller
School: North Carolina
Position: Power Forward and Center
Attributes: 7'0", 250 pounds
2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 16.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1 assist
If a team wants to draft a center who can develop into the next great big man in the Association, Tyler Zeller is not their man.
If a team wants to draft a center who can develop into a solid role player off the pine, Tyler Zeller is most definitely their man.
His polished offensive game, NBA-ready body and great work ethic will allow the seven-footer to contribute immediately.
The Rockets look like a solid option for Zeller.
The 7'0" center has fantastic size for the NBA. In addition, he possesses a decent low-post game and solid footwork in the paint. On the defensive side of the floor, he has the ability to alter and swat shots at an effective rate.
The solid Zeller would be a perfect complement to their explosive power forward duo of Patrick Patterson and established veteran Luis Scola
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Name: Austin Rivers
Position: Point Guard and Shooting Guard
Attributes: 6'4", 200 pounds
2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists
The Houston Rockets possess depth at every single position, but lack a true superstar.
While selecting a center could prove to be a wise move for the Rockets, a chance to acquire a star may be too good of an opportunity to pass up.
Austin Rivers will most likely be around during Houston's selection with the 14th overall pick. He is an offensive juggernaut, with the ability to score in a multitude of ways, and also the only remaining prospect with star potential.
Sure, his lone season at Duke was considered a disappointment, but there is no doubt that Rivers has the skill and athleticism to develop into an elite scorer.
Name: Dion Waiters
Position: Shooting Guard
Attributes: 6'4", 218 pounds
2011-2012 Per-Game Stats: 12.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists
With Kevin Martin's production rapidly declining, the Houston Rockets would be making a great investment in drafting a replacement for their star shooting guard. Syracuse shooting guard Dion Waiters instantly comes to mind, as he is a scorer capable of putting up huge numbers.
While he doesn't have the best range, Waiters is still capable of knocking down an open three-pointer, though a majority of his points will be off of penetration. This past college basketball season, Waiters averaged nearly 13 points per game on a stacked Syracuse team.
However, Waiters' stock has been on the rise lately and the high-octane scorer may not be on the board when the Rockets receive the opportunity to select a prospect. Experts are even comparing the guard to Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat. Sure, Waiters doesn't possess the incredible athleticism or wingspan of the perennial All-Star, but he does have the potential to become a superstar.
"There are really only two potential superstars in this draft. One is a sure thing -- freshman Anthony Davis. The other one is Waiters. He can be an electric scorer in the NBA. There's some Dwyane Wade in him."