The Houston Rockets continue to head in the right direction, but their journey remains ongoing.
After trading for James Harden two years ago and signing Dwight Howard last offseason, Houston is on a hunt for even more stars. This time, the Rockets are trying to create room for LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony.
The Rockets have already moved Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans for a future first-round pick. Next will be attempting to trade Jeremy Lin. So, with stars in mind, Houston drafted thinking about its future.
The Rockets selected Clint Capela (pick No. 25), Nick Johnson (pick No. 42) and Alessandro Gentile (pick No. 53) with their three selections Thursday night. Of that trio, only Johnson will have any expectations next season.
Capela is still too young and too raw. Gentile, meanwhile, is just a 53rd overall pick. Still, Houston will have high hopes heading into free agency as it tries to land the third member of a potential big three.
Update: No. 53 pick, Second Round, 11:55 p.m. (ET)
Houston Rockets select Alessandro Gentile, SG/SF, Italy (6'7", 230 pounds)
The Rockets had to do a little dealing before they could select Gentile with the 53rd pick in the draft.
Gentile has nice size for a shooting guard and at 21 years old, is still in his developmental stages. His NBA-caliber body allows him to withstand the bumps and bruises of playing in the paint while his stroke from the outside helps him get most of his offense.
The reason Gentile gets his points from the perimeter, though, is that he isn't strong enough to get to the middle. He may be big, but you don't often see him outmuscle guys, and his lack of quickness keeps him outside the lane often.
He can make shots, but he has a slow release and a hitch, which could (will?) hurt him in the NBA.
Still, we're talking about the 53rd overall pick here. The expectations shouldn't be particularly high on an unheard-of kid from Italy. Likely, they'll stay that way.
Update: No. 42 pick, Second Round, 11:25 p.m. (ET)
Houston Rockets select Nick Johnson, PG, Arizona (6'3", 198 pounds)
Johnson gives the Rockets something they already have in one of their point guards, but a trait you can never have too much of: discipline.
The former Arizona guard really grew in his time as a Wildcat, finishing his final year as a junior averaging 16.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Though Johnson played off the ball in college next to T.J. McConnell, he will probably have to be a point guard in the league.
You have to imagine this pick is a preemptive one for the loss of Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract who the Rockets will be trying to trade as soon as possible. After drafting Isaiah Canaan in the second round last year, Houston has a couple of young point guards who can fight for a backup spot behind Patrick Beverley.
Johnson will need to learn to run an offense, but we know he can shoot. He sunk 36.7 percent of his threes last season and 39.3 percent of his long-range shots as a sophomore. He has winning experience, and was one of the main leaders on a Arizona team that was ranked No. 1 for much of this past season.
He may never become a major facilitator and distributor, but if Johnson can be a scoring guard off the bench, the Rockets have a hit.
Update: No. 25 pick, First Round, 10:00 p.m. (ET)
Houston Rockets select Clint Capela, PF/C, Switzerland (6'11", 222 pounds)
Leave it to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to select one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft.
Capela could become the best player ever to come out of Switzerland. That title currently belongs to Thabo Sefolosha, but the 20-year-old big man has a chance to take it from him.
With a 7'5" wingspan, Capela can become a real shot blocker, someone who can defend the rim in all facets of the game. He's a solid athlete and a well above-average rebounder, but he's not NBA-ready just yet.
Even after putting up solid numbers in the French league this past season, Capela is still fantastically raw. He doesn't have much of a jumper and can't really create offense for himself, but that's fine. The Rockets made this pick for the future.
After trading Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans for a future first-rounder, Houston clearly wanted to find another rim-protector to complement Dwight Howard.
A team that is so focused on analytics knows how important it is to get shots at the rim on one end and prevent them on the other. Having Howard helps accomplish that. Putting him next to another great defending big does an even better job of it.
Though Capela probably won't contribute right away, he can likely help down the road. ESPN's Kevin Pelton actually has him as the No. 1 rated international prospect in this year's draft based on his WARP projections. If he can hit his ceiling, Houston will have a steal.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade, but he maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at RotoWire.com, WashingtonPost.com or on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter: @FredKatz.
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