Grading Houston Rockets' Draft Day Decisions

Kenny DeJohnAnalyst IIIJune 28, 2013

Nov 18, 2012; Charleston, SC, USA; Murray State Racers guard Isaiah Canaan (3) reacts after the play during the second half of the Charleston Classic Championship game against the Colorado Buffaloes at TD Arena. Buffaloes won 81-74. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Rockets were relatively quiet on draft night, making no major trades and standing pat with the No. 34 selection. This is unlike the drafts of recent memory for general manager Daryl Morey, who stockpiled picks Nos. 12 and 18 in trades with the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively last season.

Surprisingly, Thomas Robinson was not dealt on draft night. A trade was rumored to be "imminent," as both the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers had been in extensive trade talks with Houston. Such a trade would have netted the team cap space and a pick in the first round.

With the No. 34 selection, Houston drafted point guard Isaiah Canaan from Murray State. Canaan played the full four years at Murray State in an effort to completely grow as a player before being drafted into the NBA.

At 6'0", 193 pounds, Canaan is a smaller NBA body. This could work to his disadvantage in the NBA, but there have been plenty of smaller guys that have succeeded (one of whom we will compare Canaan to later).

Canaan appears to be a gifted player, but the Rockets probably could have drafted someone who was a better fit for their current roster.


Grading the Player; B+

Canaan is an extremely talented scorer. He dropped 22.1 points per game at Murray State, shooting 43 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. His 1.6 steals per game are also nice to see for Houston, as the team didn't play all that much defense in 2012-13.

Despite his small stature, Canaan is an incredible athlete. He's strong, powerful, fluid and is incredibly quick off the bounce (via NBA draft lead writer Jonathan Wasserman).

Canaan is an extremely creative player. He has the ball-handling skills to create space for himself, while he has the penetration skills to open up shots for his teammates along the perimeter. This mirrors Jeremy Lin, though Lin was not as polished as Canaan at this point in their respective careers.

Wasserman cites that Canaan is the best jump-shooting point guard in this year's draft class. His true shooting percentage of 60.6 percent is higher compared to that of every other point guard taken.

Canaan isn't a stellar passer or orchestrator though, as he averaged just 4.3 assists and 3.2 turnovers per game at Murray State. He appears to have a score-first mentality, albeit that could change as he learns to take on a point guard's role in the NBA.

Canaan compares himself to Chris Paul as both a leader on the court and playmaker on offense. That type of confidence is good to see, but he likely won't be turning into the second-coming of Paul.

Instead, a player like Nate Robinson is more realistic.

Canaan is a solid player with the potential to be a first-off-the-bench kind of guy in a few seasons. He can shoot with the best of them and is explosive enough to create shot opportunities for his teammates. The only question is whether or not he's committed to being a point guard and not a shooting guard.


Grading the Fit; D

The Rockets made an interesting choice with Canaan, as both Lin and Patrick Beverley are expected to be back next season. If a Lin trade was imminent, then the choice of Canaan makes much more sense. Because it's not, a ton of people were left scratching their heads.

As we looked at above, Canaan is clearly a gifted player who has the chance to succeed in the NBA. It may be hard for him at first, though, as playing time will be sparse in Houston.

Lin and Beverley will command a majority of the playing time and, while Lin is big enough to play shooting guard from time to time, Canaan is severely limited given his 6'0" frame. Playing Canaan at shooting guard would be a liability for the Rockets and a mismatch opportunity for pretty much every opposing shooting guard in the league.

Barring an injury, Canaan doesn't figure to play all that much—unless head coach Kevin McHale gets creative with his rotations, something that may happen. We'll just have to wait and see.

A reserve shooting guard or reserve center may have been a better direction to take for Morey. Even though Canaan was the best player available at the time, why "waste" a pick on somebody your team doesn't necessarily need? Again, he has talent, but Canaan simply does not fit.


Final Grade; B-/C+

Canaan has plenty of potential and could thrust himself into more playing time if he capitalizes on limited opportunities early on. An injury to Lin or Beverley could expedite this process, though you can never predict injuries during an NBA season.

The guy can shoot and create offensive opportunities, something that Houston probably loved when scouting him. Throw in the fact that he was expected to go late in the first round, and Houston got a steal at the No. 34 pick.

This is a pick that likely won't pay many dividends in the near future, but could have implications beyond this season. Canaan could be a nice rotational piece for years to come if his shooting translate from college to the pros, and there's no indication that it won't.

Overall, he's a solid player in a questionable situation.