Despite all of the free-agency buzz surrounding the Houston Rockets, general manager Daryl Morey will still be ready to go for the NBA draft. The Rockets have a chance to add some depth and fill areas of need with the 25th and 42nd picks Thursday night.
Houston would benefit from an extra point guard or an additional stretch four, among other things. Really what Houston needs is some help at shooting threes and defending the perimeter. These needs could change depending on what Morey is capable of changing, but for now, let's assume the Rockets are going to roll with what they've got at the moment.
So, who's out there that can immediately have an impact on the Rockets? Keep in mind, Houston won't be able to snag some of the best talent with the 25th pick, but this class is very deep so the Rockets can still draft a very capable player late in the first round.
Here's a sneak peek at some viable options for each pick the Rockets hold in the upcoming draft.
Round 1: Pick 25
1. Shabazz Napier, PG UConn
The Rockets will end up needing a point guard if they unload Jeremy Lin, and possibly even Isaiah Canaan, to clear cap space. If that's the case, Napier would be a great pick.
The NCAA champion was phenomenal in the Huskies' run to the top of college basketball. During his junior season, Napier averaged 18.0 points per game and shot 40.5 percent from three-point range. Having a point guard who can create his own scoring would be a big plus for the Rockets, but that's not all.
At UConn, Napier operated out of the pick and roll. He improved his facilitating skills this past season, and did a much better job of running the offense for the Huskies. Off the pick, Napier can hit the quick jump spot or find the open man either down low or for three.
Napier's ability to shoot the ball from deep as well as operate an offense through the pick and roll would make him a terrific fit in Houston. His skill set would be cohesive in the Rockets' offensive system with James Harden, Dwight Howard and plenty of others on the squad.
2. C.J. Wilcox, SG Washington
Troy Daniels taught us many things in the playoffs, but one of the main takeaways was that Houston needs more pure shooters on its bench. The Rockets shoot the most threes in the league, but their percentage is in the bottom half of the NBA, which is not a good strategy.
The key to fixing this problem is retooling the bench to better fit the system that the Rockets employ. Therefore, Morey should try to add a few more shooters like Daniels that can come in the game and hit big shots.
C.J. Wilcox is one of those guys. He is destined for a long career in the NBA because he is a shooting specialist, which is precisely what Houston needs.
Wilcox shot 39.1 percent from deep for Washington in his senior season. He probably won't ever amount to anything special at the next level based on his skill set and athleticism, but he perfectly fills a role that the Rockets desire.
The 25th pick may be a bit earlier than what Wilcox is valued at as of now, but if the boot fits, then why not take it?
3. K.J. McDaniels, SF Clemson
If Houston decides to focus on defense with this pick, then look no further. McDaniels is a great lockdown defender around the perimeter, something the Rockets need desperately.
A freak athlete, McDaniels can jump out of the building, which helps him block shots and finish at the rim. The major downside with this pick is his jump shooting, which is wildly inconsistent. He only hit 30.4 percent of his three-point attempts this past season.
He may not be the best fit for Houston's offense, but at the same time, he is a big boost for their insufficient defense. It's up to Morey and his staff whether the Rockets rather improve the shaky defense or add yet another offensive weapon. If they decide to go with defense, then McDaniels is a great pick at this spot in the draft.
Round 2: Pick 42
1. Patric Young, C Florida
No one can question Young's success at Florida. The big man led the Gators deep into March Madness many times. Throughout his collegiate career, Young turned in several dominant performances and showed his leadership skills.
On offense, Young's game is limited. He averaged just 11.0 points per game in his senior season. His post game is a work in progress. For the Rockets, most of his buckets would come in transition.
His best attribute for Houston would be his ability and athleticism in the paint. He may be a bit undersized, but his post defense is excellent. He's a solid rebounder, including on the offensive end which is a nice bonus.
Omer Asik could be gone before next season begins. If that's the case, then Houston will definitely need some more meat and potatoes inside. Young could be of use off the bench in that scenario.
2. Jabari Brown, SG Missouri
If the Rockets decide to go in a different direction in the first round, then they should definitely capitalize on some three-point shooting opportunities in the second. Jabari Brown is certainly a possibility.
Brown shot 41.0 percent from behind the arc this past season for Mizzou. He is a fantastic spot-up shooter, and he slowly added more offensive moves to his game during his junior campaign for the Tigers.
Behind Harden, there was a lack of firepower for Houston off the bench at the 2-spot. Brown can fill it up from deep and attack off the dribble. He would be a nice scorer as part of the second unit, and he should still be available at pick 42.
3. Russ Smith, PG Louisville
Same as the scenario involving a three-point shooter, if the Rockets still need a point guard with this pick, then Smith is a good option.
Smith is another point guard who can create his own scoring. He averaged 18.2 points and 4.6 assists per game for the Cardinals as a senior. He is an exceptional scorer both inside and out. His 38.7 three-point percentage would come in handy for the Rockets.
His biggest flaw is probably his unpredictability. Smith can at times make questionable decisions and be reckless with the ball. The Rockets had plenty of turnover issues last season, so Smith would have to work on that.
Still, this late in the draft, Houston could decide to take a proven winner and dynamic scorer at point guard.