NBA Draft 2011: 15 Best Prospects for the Houston Rockets

Tyler WickerhamCorrespondent IJune 20, 2011

NBA Draft 2011: 15 Best Prospects for the Houston Rockets

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    MIAMI, FL - MARCH 27:  Guard Mike Bibby #0 of the Miami Heat defends against gurad Kyle Lowry #7 of the Houston Rockets  at American Airlines Arena on March 27, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by download
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Jimmer Fredette, Alec Burks, Chris Singleton, Tristan Thompson or Markieff Morris could all be playing in Houston in the next NBA season—if there is an NBA season next year.

    The Houston Rockets have the No. 14 and the No. 23pick in the first round of the NBA draft this Thursday. A couple of players will not fall far enough for the Rockets to select them with the 14th pick, so we will not discuss Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams and other great players in this year’s draft.

    The Rockets have a new coach in Kevin McHale and will be looking to rebuild their organization back to its championship seasons of the mid-1990s.

15. Jeremy Tyler

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    The Rockets can wait and select Jeremy Tyler with their 23rd pick. Jeremy is a huge question mark.

    After his junior year of high school, Jeremy left school to go play in Europe. He did not have a good time playing overseas. Homesickness played the biggest role, but what can you expect from a 17-year-old kid?

    If Tyler were to stay in school and go to college, he could easily be a lottery pick in this draft. The uncertainty of how he played overseas has dropped him considerably. Some have him in the early second round, some in the late first round.

    No matter where Jeremy Tyler is selected, this could be considered in the future as one of the greatest steals in draft history. Then again, if Jeremy plays like he did in Europe, it would be a wasted draft pick.

14. DeAndre Liggins

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    NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 27:  DeAndre Liggins #34 of the Kentucky Wildcats in action against John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the east regional final of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Prudential Center on March 27, 2011 in Ne
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    DeAndre Liggins had a terrible start to his college career at the University of Kentucky.

    After DeAndre’s freshman year, John Calipari became the coach of the Wildcats. At first, Liggins never left the bench—even in the early season blow-out games. In the last two minutes of those games, when the crowd was begging for the walk-on players to throw up ridiculous three-point shots, Liggins was still in his warm-ups.

    At some point in the middle of the season DeAndre changed something, allowing Coach Calipari to put him on the floor. Ever since, Liggins has been a valuable player for the Wildcats.

    On teams that included John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones, DeAndre's main role was to play lock-down defense and make open jump shots. Liggins flourished at this role and now has the work ethic to continue to grow in the NBA.

    Houston traded away Shane Battier last season to Memphis. DeAndre (or any rookie in this draft for that matter) is not as good as Battier—but give Liggins a few years and he could become Shane Battier 2.0.

13. Tobias Harris

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 18:  Tobias Harris #12 of the Tennessee Volunteers dunks the ball while taking on the Michigan Wolverines in the first half during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 18,
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Tobias Harris only played one year for Bruce Pearl and the Tennessee Volunteers. That year was a rocky year for any player in Knoxville, with Tennessee being investigated by the NCAA all season long.

    Tobias Harris had to deal with this adversity, but still continued to play well for the Volunteers.

    One of the reasons the New England Patriots liked Tom Brady was because of how he dealt with the adversity he faced at Michigan. Although Tobias had to deal with different issues than Tom Brady, he has shown that he can handle any situation thrown at him and still play great.

    When playing professional sports you will experience hard times, it is how you handle those hard times that separates a lot of players from the rest of the pack.

12. Nikola Mirotic

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    Nikola Mirotic is a 6’10" small forward. That’s right—a 6’10 small forward. He can shoot from behind the three-point line, is an excellent passer and has a high basketball IQ.

    So why is he only the twelfth-best prospect for the Houston Rockets, potentially being selected at the 23rd pick and not the 14th?

    Because he’s not very strong, and due to his lack of physicality he does not get enough rebounds. Think of Mirotic as a very stereotypical European player.

    The biggest reason why he is rated so low is because of his contract issues with his home-club of Real Madrid.

    Much like Ricky Rubio, any team that drafts Nikola Mirotic may not be able to see him play in the NBA for several years. If a team drafts Mirotic, they need to be prepared to wait a few years before actually receiving him.

    The Timberwolves are currently playing this game with Ricky Rubio. We will have to wait to see if it was worth the wait for Minnesota—and then possibly wait to see if Mirotic is worth it as well.

11. Donatas Motiejunas

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    Donatas Motiejunas is another tall, athletic European player. At 7’0”, Motiejunas can run the floor, pass and shoot the ball very well.

    The only reason Motiejunas is considered better than Mirotic is because Motiejunas does not have the contract issues Mirotic has.

    Just like most European players, Motiejunas needs to work on his strength and his physical play. I do not think the lack of strength for European players is a big deal.

    Dirk Nowitzki showed in the NBA Finals that he is no longer a “soft” player. Other European players can learn to handle injuries, pain and the physical play in the NBA just like Dirk Nowitzki did.

    It may be a few years for these European players to adjust, but eventually it will pay off.

10. Darius Morris

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    CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 20:  Darius Morris #4 of the Michigan Wolverines goes up for a shot against Seth Curry #30 of the Duke Blue Devils during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 20, 2011 in Ch
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Darius Morris is an over-sized point guard. Standing at 6’5”, Morris can tower over opposing point guards.

    Morris can have issues, however, when it comes to taking care of the basketball. He can get a little ahead of himself and try unnecessary difficult passes.

    But with a few years of experience and constant work towards improving his game, Darius can become a good point guard for the Houston Rockets.

9. Marshon Brooks

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    NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Marshon Brooks #2 of the Providence Friars dribbles the ball against Jimmy Butler #33 of the Marquette Golden Eagles during the first round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at
    Chris Trotman/Getty Images

    Marshon Brooks is a much underrated player. Since Brooks played for Providence in the Big East, he was overshadowed by other great teams.

    Brooks could have been the best player in a league that includes Kemba Walker, but because the team he was on lost a lot of games, Marshon’s stock has been low.

    It will be interesting to see how Marshon plays day-in and day-out with and against the best players in the world. His college career included him being the only option for his team. Whatever team drafts Brooks, he will no longer be the star player.

    How will he handle that situation? How will he handle teams not game-planning against him?

    At first, Marshon will not be double teamed. If Marshon can take advantage of a potential mismatch and require teams to start focusing in on him, then it will open up everyone else for the Rockets.

    If the Rockets really wanted Marshon Brooks, it could be tricky. Brooks is not really good enough to go in the lottery, but he's not bad enough to drop all the way down to the 23rd pick in the draft, either. 

8. Kenneth Faried

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Kenneth Faried #35 of the Morehead State Eagles dunks the ball against Justin Harper #32 and Darien Brothers #3 of the Richmond Spiders during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19
    Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

    Kenneth Faried is an absolute monster on the boards. Think of Faried as the next Joakim Noah.

    Faried is a guy who was disrespected (in his mind) going into college and landed at Morehead State. With this slap in the face, Faried has not stopped working to become a better player.

    Hard work is what makes the good players into great players. Even if Kenneth does not start his NBA career off very well, I am sure his work ethic (much like Joakim Noah) will make him a great player in this league. 

7. Jimmer Fredette

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 24:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars shoots over Scottie Wilbekin #5 of the Florida Gators in the second half during the Southeast regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at New Orleans Arena on March
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Jimmer Fredette was the darling of the college basketball season this past year. The media loved him and, in turn, Fredette won the Naismith Player of the Year award.

    But can Jimmer play in the NBA?

    At BYU, Jimmer was asked to focus on the offensive end and therefore not play 100 percent on the defensive end. In the NBA, that will not be asked of him.

    Jimmer would be a good selection for the Rockets with the 14th overall pick because he can spread the floor out and also sell tickets.

    Even if Jimmer is not very good his first year in the league, fans will still want to come out and watch him play.

    I cannot think of a more anticipated player that will probably not be selected in the lottery.

6. Markieff Morris

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 25:  Markieff Morris #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks goes to the basket against Josh Duinker #11 of the Richmond Spiders during the southwest regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Alamodome on March 25, 2011 in Sa
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    For some reason, Markieff Morris is not as good as his identical twin brother Marcus. Before the Rockets are even on the clock with the 14th overall pick, Marcus should have already been selected. But Markieff will still be available.

    If Markieff is drafted by the Rockets, they may be the best location for him. This past offseason the Rockets organization hired Kevin McHale as their new head coach. As a player, McHale was considered to have the best low-post moves in the history of the NBA.

    If McHale is able to instill half of his low-post knowledge to Morris, Markieff has a chance to end his career as a better player than his brother.

5. Jordan Hamilton

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 10:  Jordan Hamilton #3 of the Texas Longhorns takes a shot over Steven Pledger #2 of the Oklahoma Sooners during their quarterfinal game in the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 10, 2011
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Jordan Hamilton has all the talent you could want in an NBA player. He has good size and can shoot the lights out.

    The issue with Hamilton is that because he can shoot so well, he often becomes too confident and sometimes takes crazy, selfish shots that Hamilton’s college team (and certainly NBA teams) did not want to take.

    It has been reported that Hamilton’s interviews have been fantastic; several teams, including the Rockets, have Jordan high up on their big board.

    Jordan is a tall 6’8” small forward with an 8’8” standing reach. That length will no doubt frustrate the opponents facing him.

4. Tristan Thompson

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    TULSA, OK - MARCH 20:  Tristan Thompson #13 of the Texas Longhorns takes a shot as Kyryl Natyazhko #1 of the Arizona Wildcats defends during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at BOK Center on March 20, 2011 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Tristan Thompson is a very strange draft pick. He’s worked out with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who could draft him with the No. 4 pick, but he could also easily fall to the 14th pick with Houston.

    Tristan can be a great player in the NBA, but currently no team is in love with him.

    Thompson is scouted as good at everything, but not great at anything. That means he is going to be a solid player, but not a star. If you feel you can potentially get a star player in the lottery, you are going to draft the potential star player every time over a potentially good player.

    Thompson's size and strength have allowed him to dominate the glass, but will that be enough to get him selected by the Houston Rockets with the 14th pick?

3. Nikola Vucevic

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    The difference between Enes Kanter and Nikola Vucevic is not much—but enough to have Vucevic drop into the mid- to late-first round.

    Vucevic, like most foreign players, is a great outside shooter. He played for three years at the University of Southern California, which toughened him up and allowed him to become a great rebounder.

    At 7’0”, Vucevic is a tall and lanky center. Having a 7’5” wingspan will allow Vucevic to play bigger than his size.

    A replacement for an aging Yao Ming may be a great progression for the Rockets in the future.

2. Alec Burks

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 11:  Alec Burks #10 of the Colorado Buffaloes drives with the ball against the Kansas Jayhawks during their semifinal game in the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 11, 2011 in Kansas City
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Alec Burks is a lanky shooting guard that can get to the rim.

    Burks is a great slasher and can be a tough matchup for any defender. Adding an explosive player like Burks will add a tremendous new dimension to the Rockets that hasn’t been there since Tracy McGrady was playing in Houston.

    Alec has issues with moving off the ball, but will quickly learn that if you don’t work without the ball in the NBA, you won’t see much playing time. In college you may be able to get away with it because there are not many players that can replace you; in the NBA, there are several guys willing to work hard to take your spot.

    Still, Burks has a chance to be a great player and a star for the Rockets.

    A bigger issue for the Rockets will be getting the chance to draft him. It looks like Phoenix (for all the reasons I just mentioned) are looking to draft Burks with the 13th pick. 

1. Chris Singleton

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    SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 25:  Chris Singleton #31 of the Florida State Seminoles dunks against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams during the southwest regional of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at the Alamodome on March 25, 2011 in San Antonio, Texa
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Chris Singleton is the overall best player on this list. He could drop down to the 14th pick, but could easily be selected prior to the Rockets even being on the clock.

    If the Rockets get lucky and have Singleton slip this far, then they will have an easy choice as to who to draft.

    Singleton is without question the best defender in the draft and plays the small forward position well. Houston has been looking to replace that void ever since the Rockets traded Shane Battier to the Memphis Grizzlies.

    Chris Singleton would be the best player to do just that.