The Rockets had what most analysts considered a strong draft on Thursday, but its true genius may take another week or two to see.
No, former Kentucky forward Patrick Patterson isn't likely to go to Toronto in any long-awaited Chris Bosh sign-and-trade orchestrated by resident genius GM Daryl Morey.
If the Raptors wanted Patterson that much, they would have taken him themselves a slot in front of the Rockets, instead of another power forward in Ed Davis.
But Houston's first-round selection of Patterson does pave the way for a number of others -- such as Jordan Hill, David Andersen, and maybe even Shane Battier or Chase Budinger -- to be available in deals as Morey and the Rockets jump into the 2010 free agent bonanza. You know, the one that stars Bosh, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire and numerous others.
With the Rockets, the championship window isn't down the road. It's these next three years. Yao Ming will be 30 when the season starts, and his injury history goes without saying. Clearly, the Rockets' blueprint involves Yao as a centerpiece for only the next three years or so, due to his injury risks.
The blueprint is now. That's why they made the swap for ex-King Kevin Martin at the deadline, a veteran 20-plus points per game scorer. That's the reason they signed Trevor Ariza to a long-term deal last summer coming off his championship with the Lakers. Morey knew Ariza would be overextended in a starring role -- but as a complementary piece around a nucleus including Yao, he suddenly fits.
It also explains Morey's pick of Patterson on Thursday night. Critics dubbed Patterson a "jack of all trades, master of none." He's good but not great, from a talent standpoint. What Patterson should be great at, however, is stepping in on day one and immediately contributing.
He's supremely intelligent, having graduated from Kentucky in three years. He has a deadly midrange shot off the pick and roll, and can play from both the post as well as the perimeter. He defends supremely from the post, earning first team All-SEC defensive honors. (Think he and fellow Kentucky alum and defensive stalwart Chuck Hayes might bond a little?)
Perhaps most importantly, Patterson possesses no ego -- passing up a guaranteed first-round slot in 2009 after a year as UK's star to complete his degree and play third wheel to highly-touted freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, all with no complaints.
For the Rockets, however, completing their championship blueprint goes beyond just the draft -- and has always involved being active in the famed summer of 2010. That's why Morey chose to deal Tracy McGrady to the Knicks, bypassing immediate help and instead grabbing a rookie lottery pick in Hill and a pair of future draft choices to use as sign-and-trade bait for arguably the best free agent class in NBA history.
Now with Patterson in the fold, the Rockets can comfortably trade a number of their crucial depth components for that one star, and have a suitable, ready-to-go replacement waiting in the wings. They can also feel at ease in surrendering future picks, since Patterson's "bust" risk is relatively low.
Patterson described himself as "really pleased" with his selection by the Rockets, and reports had the Houston draft room breaking out in cheers when he was left on the board for their No. 14 overall pick.
Those cheers may grow even more come 12:00 a.m. on July 1, when free agency opens and Morey can show other teams his growing warchest of expendable talent.
Without a doubt, he should have enough to persuade Toronto into a deal, assuming Bosh informs the Raptors he intends to leave.
From there, it comes down to Bosh and whether he's sold on Morey, the Rockets and his potential legion of new supporters at www.houston4bosh.com.
As such, the Rockets' main course for the offseason remains uncertain.
But Patterson should do a fine job of setting the table.
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