As compared to recent NBA Drafts, last night's was a little different for the Houston Rockets. Unlike previous draft seasons, when the Rockets were still in full-on "asset accumulation" mode, now they're a Western Conference finalist, and when you're holding the 18th and 32nd selections, the opportunity to actually improve specific areas of your team right now exists. And it would appear that's exactly what the Rockets did last night.
Both of their selections — Wisconsin forward Sam Dekker (18th) and Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell (32nd) — are upperclassmen with extensive championship level experience in their collegiate careers, and both went about 5-10 picks after their initial projections in the NBA Draft. In other words, Dekker and Harrell are two guys who could be ready to contribute right away, and do so likely with a little bit of a chip on their respective shoulders. And that's a good thing for the Rockets, who could use a little bit of "chip" sprinkled into their makeup.
Assuming that both players suit up for the Rockets next season (never a safe assumption with the mad scientist Morey as your GM), each one should be able to contribute in some way, depending on what the Rockets do in free agency or in trade talks for another All-Star level player.
If the team doesn't bring back Corey Brewer or Josh Smith, and let's say they trade Terrence Jones (as was expected last night, but apparently never materialized), then Dekker at a minimum would be in line for significant reserve minutes behind Trevor Ariza, and at his ceiling could be seen as a solution as a starting small forward if the team moves Ariza for a power forward. The versatile Dekker has drawn comparisons to former Rocket Chandler Parsons, and I think you could easily argue that he is potentially a more dangerous player offensively than Parsons was.
“Athletic, can attack the basket. Versatile player,” Morey said when asked to describe Dekker last night after the draft had concluded. “We think he’s for sure someone who can fit in our system and help us down the line.” Here is a look at some of Dekker's film from this past season, which for Wisconsin ended in a title game loss to the Duke Blue Devils:
Meanwhile, with the 32nd pick, the Rockets took Harrell, whose rookie year is reasonable to assume could resemble Joey Dorsey's 2014-2015 season only with a free throw percentage about 40 points higher. Harrell is an athletic banger who has improved his midrange during his time at Louisville. The challenge for Kevin McHale and his staff will be getting Harrell to just focus on what he does well and accept who he is as a player, as at times in college he would try to imitate a small forward, and not very well.
“Super high-energy big who again, plays great in our system, up-tempo transition,” Morey said. “Led the country in dunks which is kind of nice. Has the wingspan of a center.” Here is Harrell's 2014-2015 film:
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As for where the Rockets now go from here, there was plenty of chatter on Thursday about them being at least on the margins in the Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes, so neither Dekker nor Harrell can get really comfortable as a Rocket quite yet (or ever, actually, as long as Morey is the GM). When asked about the go-forward plan, Morey casually said, “I think there’s possible opportunities that we have to explore that are bigger but I think they’re unlikely so probably likely stay over the cap and use our mid-level (exception)."
Translation: Stay tuned, much more to come. As always.
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