The Houston Rockets have only the No. 34 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. They'll need to use the second round selection wisely to bolster a potentially franchise-shifting free-agency period.
Just a year ago, the Rockets had three first-round choices in their arsenal on draft night, eventually landing Royce White, Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Jones. Although Jeremy Lamb became part of a package deal that landed James Harden in Houston, the Rockets lost their gamble on White, and Jones played in just 19 games during his rookie season.
Despite being limited to one second round choice, GM Daryl Morey hopes to advance the Rockets' title dreams by selecting a future star. Although it is a bit less common, finding gold deeper in the draft is possible. Just ask Dennis Rodman, Manu Ginobili or Carlos Boozer.
Heading into draft day, the Rockets owe guaranteed salary to Omer Asik, Harden, White, Jeremy Lin, Thomas Robinson, Jones and Donatas Motiejunas. Even with their seven contracts looming, the Rockets fall under the salary cap limit of 58.5.
Much talk regarding the Rockets' offseason has been set to the tune of bringing in Dwight Howard. Whether or not Morey can ink the big fella remains to be seen. Completing such a signing would likely involve parting ways with rising small forward Chandler Parsons.
Until then, the front office has to at least multi-task and plan for a quality selection on Thurdsay, June 27.
The way I see it, the Rockets need to add serious depth at the small and power forward positions. Let's see who will be available when David Stern calls out Houston's choice for his last time as NBA Commissioner.
Tony Snell, PF, New Mexico
Tony Snell's biggest weakness in the eyes of the Rockets has to be that he appears to be more of a hybrid two than a typical NBA small forward.
From where I'm sitting, that doesn't look like too much of a flaw. Snell could run with the speedy guards that the Rockets start every night and follows the NBA's recent trend of athleticism over size.
B/R NBA Lead Writer Jonathan Wasserman profiles Tony Snell very well, and I won't try to steal his thunder.
What I will say with respect to the NBA Draft is that Snell is a fit for the Rockets. At No. 34, Houston can only hope a player his caliber is available.
C.J. Leslie, SF, N.C. State
I had the pleasure of watching small forward C.J. Leslie live this past season at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Although the Wolverines easily handled the Wolfpack that night in January, I was impressed with Leslie's activity throughout the game.
He can rebound because of his leaping ability, has a well rounded offensive skill set and thrives in big game settings. Leslie burned then No. 1 Duke for 25 points in leading the No. 20 Wolfpack at home over the Blue Devils.
Similar to Tony Snell, C.J. might be a bit too small for the Rockets current needs. He is more likely than Snell to be available at the Rockets' selection point and has the physical characteristics to fit Coach Kevin McHale's system.
Lastly, Leslie has proven to have sound character, evident in his postgame celebration of the win over Duke. For those who don't remember, C.J. rescued wheel-chair bound Will Privette from a stampeding frenzy of victory-crazed N.C. State students. If you have a minute or 10, take a look at Thomas Lake of SI's rendition of one of my favorite stories of the sports year.
Mike Muscala, PF, Bucknell
If Mike Muscala is available at No. 34, the Houston Rockets should take him and be content with the outcome of their draft. The big Bucknell Bison averaged a double-double with 18.7 points and 11.1 rebounds in his senior season.
While I'm usually an advocate of taking the best talent available rather than purely position-hunting when it comes to the draft, Muscala provides the Rockets with a unique combination of both.
Houston really needs to add a rebounder or two to the mix of speed in the backcourt. Muscala fits the description of an NBA big man, at nearly 7'0" with an even longer wingspan.
Availability is once again the question. Houston would be lucky to add Mike Muscala to their rotation, and he'd have the opportunity to get significant playing time in his rookie season. If he falls far enough, GM Morey should make the call.
- The 2013 NBA Draft features an unusually strong international group of players. The Rockets are prone to filling out their roster with athletes from abroad—think Yao Ming of China, Luis Scola of Argentina—and this year the same strategy could be effective.
- Notable forward prospects to keep in mind are Giannis Adetokunbo from Greece and Sergey Karasev from Russia.
- Rumors, like this one from sbnation.com, have swirled that the Rockets may deal former first round choice Thomas Robinson in exchange for a first round selection in 2013.
- The biggest hinging point for the Rockets this offseason will be whatever Dwight Howard decides. Houston has coveted his presence dating back to last season's "Dwightmare" that landed Howard in Los Angeles with the Lakers. Once the big man picks his landing spot, the rest of the Rockets' moves will follow.
- Best of all, due its second round draft position, the Rockets franchise is about to sign a rookie for cheap. That fits in with the grand scheme of landing a massively expensive free agent.