Pick two came and went. Then pick five. Then seven and eight and it began to dawn on Rockets fans: For all the talk of trades for Dwight Howard and moving up into the top ten of the draft, Houston, a team mired in mediocrity, would stand pat and roll the dice with picks 12, 16 and 18. In fact, there were far fewer trades on draft night than predicted, so Daryl Morey and company were not alone.
And though their choices offer an intriguing mix of skills, the biggest story of the night was the lack of a big story. Earlier in the week, the team dealt forward Chase Budinger to Minnesota for pick 18 and Samuel Dalembert to Milwaukee for pick 12, fueling speculation that Morey would package picks and players -- including disgruntled point guard Kyle Lowry -- to get as many as two picks in the top ten, perhaps as high as number two. All indications are they tried to do just that as they have on several different draft nights in the last few years, but failed and were left to stay where they were.
Having three picks in the first round hasn't exactly boded well for the crew at Toyota Center. In 2001, the team traded their three picks, which included talented forward Richard Jefferson for Eddie Griffin, who never developed and, tragically, was killed in 2007. Prior to that, the Rockets' 1998 draft included Michael Dickerson -- he would later be traded in the Steve Francis deal -- Bryce Drew and Mirsad Türkcan, who never played for the team.
Twitter and message boards were inundated with dismayed fans who believe there is no way the Rockets can keep all three players they drafted given the number of players on the roster already -- they got three in the Dalembert trade. But, for now, team officials are insisting they expect all three picks to be in camp along with Donatas Montejunas, the talented European big man they took in the 2011 draft, even though Coach Kevin McHale said he was disappointed a couple of trades for veterans fell through.
Here's the rundown on Thursday night's picks.
12. Jeremy Lamb, SG, UConn -- 6'5" 179lbs Lamb is a slick scoring guard some have compared to Reggie Miller, though that would likely be on the very high side of his potential. A better comparison would be to a guy currently on the team's roster, Kevin Martin. An explosive athlete with great range on his shot, Lamb should have little problem scoring at the next level. He could be particularly effective coming off screens with a serious midrange game. He's barely 20 years old, which leaves him a lot of room to grow, and he'll need to do that if he wants to compete on the defensive end of the floor.
He is very slight and needs to put on weight. He also didn't go the line much in college because he isn't really a dribble penetrator. He won't be a guy that creates his own shot, but should be a very good offensive weapon in a team concept.
16. Royce White, SF, Iowa State -- 6'8" 261lbs White may be one of the most unique talents in the draft and one of the most interesting individuals. Though he is generally listed as a small forward, he has the body of an undersized four, but has the game of a guard. Some have referred to him as a point forward because his ball handling and passing skills are outstanding.
He runs the floor and is explosive around the rim -- think Charles Barkley in Philadelphia. He will create some interesting matchup problems on the offensive end of the floor. Where White may struggle is on defense. He likely doesn't have the lateral quickness to guard threes and is undersized at the four. He also has been open about suffering from general anxiety disorder, which, among other things, has left him with a fear of flying. If the Rockets can figure out what to do with him, he could be one of the more interesting acquisitions of the entire draft. Also of note, he's a quote machine and should be a fan and media favorite from day one. 18. Terrence Jones, SF/PF, Kentucky - 6'9" 252lbs On the surface, Jones appears to be a lot like current Rockets forward, Patrick Patterson. He is an explosive athlete with a polished low-post game, particularly facing the basket. He's put on bulk his two years in school and should have no problem competing at the NBA level. The problem, similar to Patterson, is no one is exactly sure what his position is. He's not a long-range shooter and isn't a dominating interior player. The Rockets will need to figure out where they want him and develop his game accordingly.
The Bottom Line
It's tough to not give the Rockets a low grade when considering what they wanted to do and, ultimately, failed to achieve yet again. But they did acquire some good talent in what many believe was a fairly deep draft. Still, to say they have a logjam at the forward spot would be like saying it gets a little humid here in the summer. Unless Morey has a trade or two up his sleeve, the team will have eight power forwards on the roster.
Even more odd is the fact that only two of them -- Luis Scola and Jon Leuer, who they just acquired in the Dalembert trade -- are legit power forwards in size and skill. This fetish for the tweener forward by the Rockets has gotten almost out of control, particularly with their draft of two more of them on Thursday.
Additionally, the thing the team claimed to want to address more than any other this offseason was completely absent from their choices on Thursday. The Rockets' biggest weakness -- besides not having a star-caliber player -- is their lack of a defensive presence in the interior. McHale has been quoted multiple times this offseason saying the team needed players who could rebound and protect the rim. The one guy who fit that description was traded to Milwaukee. They could re-sign Marcus Camby (all indications are they will), but they have got to get younger and better at center eventually.
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Fans have to hope that this draft is a precursor to additional moves. Members of the media and NBA experts predicted there would be disappointment from fans and inside the organization if the team was forced to keep all three picks. Fans certainly voiced their displeasure online during and after the draft despite team officials saying all the right things. The team still should have quite a bit of room under the salary cap and enough baseline talent to make trades a real possibility, but three of their best trade assets came and went Thursday night, leaving many of us to wonder if Morey has the ability to pull off the kind of deal that can wedge them free of their absolute mediocrity.
Talent: B Upside: B+ Fit with Team: C- Overall: C+