The Houston Rockets unwanted trip to the lottery carried all the suspense of a Tom Cruise action flick but delivered none of the expected drama.
Daryl Morey failed to trade up high enough to pick DeMarcus Cousins, the lubricious Kentucky big man who averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds during his freshman season.
Instead, the Rockets picked up Cousins' teammate, Patrick Patterson, by standing pat.
Morey insists he tried to trade up to select Patterson, a 6'9" forward with a dual post and perimeter game, and I believe him. Every franchise swears it cannot fathom how "x player" fell as far as he did. Execs fawn and owners wear smiles the size of a basketball court.
The Rockets' GM may play a mean poker hand, but his poker face is about as convincing as Miley Cyrus' acting. He gushed about Patterson, and there's a lot to like about the pick.
Morey did not throw away his lottery selection on bust-in-the-making Hassan Whiteside, or a questionable prospect with baggage that could fill Toyota Center. He chose a terrific citizen, a standup teammate, and a versatile player.
Patterson starred at Kentucky before John Wall and Cousins arrived to steal the show. He never griped about his planned demotion within John Calipari's offense. He embraced the challenge his new role presented.
A post player in his first two seasons, he developed a nectarous shooting stroke as a junior that allowed him to step out and afforded Cousins more room to operate inside.
He's selfless, multi-dimensional, and welcomes hard contact. Forget for a moment that the Rockets drafted yet another undersized forward.
Patterson projects as one of the game's best 6'9" defenders. He will likely not develop into an All-Star, but his skill set can help the Rockets now.
They want to make the playoffs. They need to make the playoffs. The eight current Western Conference Playoff teams figure to improve. Someone in the conference has to beat the L.A. Lakers before anyone can talk about a new title favorite.
He might crack the rotation and play 10 to 15 minutes a night. He might make Houstonians forget about Carl Landry, too.
All draft picks, no matter how touted they are, can fail. Just ask Derrick Coleman, Danny Manning, Adam Morrison, and a host of others.
I like Patterson. I think he belongs in the NBA. He can find ways to overcome his height disadvantage. If he can shoot at the pro level as he did at Kentucky, the Rockets will continue to thank their lucky stars he fell to them.
One problem: the Rockets' stars aren't lucky. Yao Ming has suffered a major injury in five straight seasons. Kevin Martin, whom Morey acquired in a three-team deal in February, has battled concerning injuries in three straight seasons.
The supposed, once-in-a-lifetime superstar expected to deliver multiple more championships to Houston now plays in New York. Has any story ended in a more melancholic way than Tracy McGrady's?
From shooting and playmaking extraordinaire to a bench player with zapped athleticism and a game that refuses to keep up with his ego, McGrady faces the prospect of retirement much earlier than he might have planned years ago.
As long as the Rockets build around Yao, the threat of injury will keep them in a nebulous position. If the 7'6" center returns to pay 15-20 minutes a night, and the rest of the cast improves, Houston should expect to win 50 games.
That won't happen if free agents Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry sign elsewhere. Leslie Alexander has pledged to re-sign both at all costs, but you never know.
Morey once said the same of Ron Artest. Where Patterson fits in the rotation remains a mystery. Whether he plays at all for the Rockets is a greater one.
Remember Donte Greene?
The front office covets a certain All-Star forward from Toronto but cannot declare it until July 1. Morey will show up to Chris Bosh's doorstep ready to profess his "mad love." No word if actor Chris O'Donnell will join him as a joke.
As Morey has likely discovered, though, Bosh has not offered any indication that Houston resides on his list of preferred destinations. He has to want to come here, and it appears as of now that he doesn't.
Even the staunchest Rocket homer must admit Miami and Chicago look more attractive. Not that a chance to anchor a core brimming with young talent, Yao, and an ocean of potential qualifies as some insulting consolation prize.
I wouldn't mind playing with Aaron Brooks or the ultra-competitive Scola.
Second problem: Wouldn't Morey have to surrender one or both of those players to satisfy Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo's demands?
The Rockets sans Scola and Brooks lose some appeal. Will Patterson take the Toyota Center court in October, or will Morey use him as bait in a sign-and-trade?
The latter would provide another reason to talk him up to no end.
“We’re just ecstatic,” Gerald Madkins, the Rockets director of scouting told the Houston Chronicle . “He’s been a go-to guy, the No. 1 guy, and then a guy that can fill a role. This year, with all the freshmen coming in, it kind of took the hype away from him, but he didn’t skip a beat.
“Those are the kind of guys we love in our locker room. A straightforward approach, they don’t worry about what role they take on.”
Morey's mouth also spewed effusive praise.
“He’s an unbelievably versatile guy,” Morey told the Chronicle. “He can score in a bunch of ways. Can face up. Back to the basket. Can step out to the college 3 (point line). Defensively, all young players need to improve, but we see him as eventually a plus defender.”
Patterson demonstrated poise, perceptiveness, and humility in an interview on Houston's Sports Radio 610.
When he shook David Stern's hand at the podium, he exuded a mixture of genuine surprise and delight. He hoped a lottery team would take him but didn't expect it.
How can you not like this guy?
His blue-collar attitude will fit with a team that oozes it. Rick Adelman will love coaching him.
That is, if Patterson stays.
What happens next promises to be explosive. The injury-riddled, question mark Rockets do not know how to do it any other way.
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