Houston Rockets: Grading Houston's 2012 NBA Draft Decisions
The Houston Rockets had one of the more interesting drafts, to say the least. The franchise didn't actually assess any of the glaring holes in the roster, but instead decided to take the best player available approach. While the team did acquire some fantastic talent, their draft choices do raise the question of if the franchise was caught off guard due to not completing their ultimate goal: acquiring a star.
Houston has been desperately searching for a superstar to lead this depth-laden roster. The team obtained Kevin Martin a few years ago to see if he would develop into the superstar the brass has been coveting. Sadly, that experiment has failed due to Martin's constant injury problems and one-dimensional game. That isn't the only avenue to add a franchise-altering player that has gone awry.
In the past two years, the team has tried to add both Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol, but to no avail. The organization came close to bringing Gasol to Texas until David Stern vetoed that infamous Chris Paul trade.
Nonetheless, the Rockets were up to their old tricks again, as the team made two deals to help make a package for a star more enticing. Despite adding a draft pick and moving up to the 12th spot, Houston was unable to convince another franchise to give them their franchise cornerstone.
So without another moment's notice, let's take a look back at Houston's 2012 NBA draft decisions.
Trade with Minnesota Timberwolves (June 26, 2012)
Earlier this week, the Houston Rockets shipped small forward Chase Budinger, who was struggling to find a consistent role in the rotation, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 18th pick and the draft rights for Lior Eliyahu. It wasn't the blockbuster deal Rockets fans were looking forward to, but it was a great deal for Houston.
The 18th pick made it possible for the brass to draft one of the two second-tier centers in the middle of the first round. Last season, the Rockets utilized the tandem of Samuel Dalembert and Marcus Camby at the center position. While both were effective, the miles on their respective legs won't allow them to play five more seasons at a high level. A big man prospect would have been surely welcomed on the roster.
Despite not executing and drafting a center, the team did put themselves in the right zone to fill a need. They also made it more likely that they were going to complete a deal for a superstar player after sweetening a rather weak offer.
Additionally, the hole left by the Minnesota-bound Budinger will barely be noticed. Even though he was a solid contributor during the truncated season, former Florida star Chandler Parsons outplayed him for most of the season, beating him out for the starting small forward slot.
Trade with Milwaukee Bucks (June 27, 2012)
On Wednesday, the Houston Rockets shipped their lone established center under contract, along with the 14th overall pick, to the Milwaukee Bucks for the 12th overall pick, Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman and Shaun Livingston.
This deal showed that the Rockets were going to make a strong push to land that franchise-altering player that the team has so desperately wanted. The Orlando Magic's disgruntled Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks' troublesome Josh Smith were speculated to be pursued by this all-in Houston Rockets.
While this deal did put them in an ideal spot to make a trade, it also made a glaring hole on the roster even more daunting to fix. If the season started today, either lanky forward Patrick Patterson or the undersized Luis Scola would have to start at center. Yikes!
Obviously, the team has some searching to do once free agency opens on Sunday.
No. 12, Jeremy Lamb, SG, UCONN
With Meyers Leonard and Austin Rivers off the board, Jeremy Lamb was one of the better selections the Rockets could possibly make. Despite having a fantastic sophomore season last year at the collegiate level, Lamb didn't come into the NBA draft as a highly sought after prospect, which is somewhat surprising.
There are very few flaws in this shooting guard's game. He has a knack for putting the ball in the basket and can score in a multitude of ways. Whether it be from beyond the three-point line or penetrating the defense, Lamb is a threat to score whenever he is on the court.
In addition, Lamb has the athleticism and size to excel at the professional level. At 6'5", the swingman has been compared to the likes of Rudy Gay and Joe Johnson. While he may have to put on some muscle, his explosiveness and scoring prowess at his size will be quite the force for the Rockets.
The greatest part about this acquisition for Houston is that Lamb is only 20. Don't expect Lamb to become a star right out of the gates, but instead have a rookie season much like Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. Fifteen to 17 points per game should not be out of the question in his first year in the Association.
No. 15, Royce White, F, Iowa St.
This is where the Rockets' selections become interesting.
Small forward Chandler Parsons excelled in his rookie season last year. His 6'10" frame coupled with his point guard-esque skill set made him the point-forward the Houston roster needs. The former Florida standout may never develop into a star, but he has the intangibles to be a staple point of Houston's team for years to come.
So, why select a player with an almost identical game?
Selecting Royce White wasn't just a reach, but it was puzzling. This is a player with not only character concerns, but no actual position in the NBA. Sure, he is talented, but he is too slow to play the small forward and too small to compete at the power forward.
Additionally, White likes to play the point-forward and have the ball in his hands the majority of the time. In fact, that is the only way he is allowed to showcase his unique game. If no trade occurs, expect White to ride the pine unless Parsons falls out of favor in coach Kevin McHale's rotation.
It is ironic, however, that a player scared of flying is selected by the Rockets.
No. 18, Terrence Jones, SF, Kentucky
This is it.
The Rockets will finally select a center or point guard to complete their roster.
"With the 18th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, the Houston Rockets select forward Terrence Jones from the University of Kentucky."
If you are a Houston Rockets fan, the sentences above could and should have been what you were thinking when the franchise decided to draft Terrence Jones. The low grade isn't a testament to the skill level and potential of the former Kentucky star, but the Rockets didn't need to take another forward.
With Chandler Parsons and Royce White already on the roster, why does the team need a third point-forward?
Don't expect the trio of White, Parsons and Jones to all remain on the roster. In fact, I would put Jones on the trade block immediately. He has lottery talent and many expect him to develop into a Lamar Odom-esque player. Plus, he is an explosive athlete who excels in transition, two qualities NBA franchises are always in search of.
The only reason this night wasn't a colossal failure for the Houston Rockets was the selection of shooting guard Jeremy Lamb. The organization did not achieve their main goal of acquiring the next face of the franchise and they came away with some puzzling selections.
Even coach Kevin McHale is upset over the absence of a blockbuster deal.
“There were a lot of things in the hopper, I could tell you that, a lot of different things we were looking at,” coach Kevin McHale said. “Ideally, it would’ve been nice to be able to pull off a trade that really would’ve helped the team, pretty much immediately. But when those (trades) kind of fell through, we took the players we felt were the best there and we’re really happy with the draft.
Now, the team has two glaring holes at point guard and center. Then when you factor in the fact that the team still possesses the upset Kyle Lowry, this team may be falling down the wrong path.
It would come as a surprise if the Rockets, barring a trade, make a strong push for a playoff berth.