Drafting for Context

As with most things, context is important when considering the Rockets’ options in this year’s NBA Draft.  Most pundits, myself included, have suggested the team’s primary needs are at the center and small forward positions, Houston having traded Battier and the world having little confidence in Yao’s return.  This idea was reinforced last season by the fact that neither former Rocket nice guy (Yes, I’m referring to Yao as a former player. Sorry, guys, but I think it’s probably appropriate at this point.) was actually succeeded on the court by a replacement.  Budinger ably stepped into the starting role for Battier in February, but, after the way he played to start the season, I’m still not completely comfortable with Bud partying his way to that regular starting gig, especially since Courtney Lee, playing out of position, provided his only relief minutes after the All-Star break.  And, as for your replacement center, everyone who suited up for the Rockets at the five last season was playing out of position.

But here is where we have to consider context. Just because we didn’t see their obvious replacements on the court before May doesn’t mean they weren’t necessarily on the roster.  As it has been noted elsewhere, Rick Adelman’s departure was rumored to have been fueled by personnel disputes with Mr. Morey, who one can assume didn’t trade valuable assets for both Terrence Williams and Hasheem Thabeet just to see them look good in their respective suits. So depending on how much faith the geek squad has in these two lottery cast-offs, Morey and Co. could, in theory, be considering more than just centers and small forwards in this draft.

So who will the Rockets choose?

The good news is that the team looks to have options. The general consensus that this is a ‘weak’ draft class and the Rockets’ three picks and team full of trade assets would seem to indicate that Houston is in position to move up. The obvious ideal would be to trade for Minnesota’s number two pick, which rumor-wise appears available, but they would probably only accept Kevin Martin in return. Initially, it seems very questionable to trade a proven asset for a potential one, but I personally can’t say I’ve seen enough tape on Williams to make a judgment call either way. In a perfect world the Wolves execs’ might accept a depth buffet and some picks in lieu of Martin, but even Kahn would most likely not agree to such a cents-on-the-dollar proposal.

The question then is, if the Rockets don’t land the T-Wolves pick, should they still try to break into the top ten? Would there be a player available in the bottom half of the top ten who represents a significant upgrade to the players available at the number 14 slot? Personally, I’m not convinced that there will necessarily be, but, whatever the case, this does seem to be the Rockets’ moment. Hopefully, it’s a memorable one.

(Note:  nbadraft.net has Houston taking Chris Singleton at the 14. If you’re not familiar with their site, they’re usually eerily pretty accurate with the predictions. Singleton, a long, defensive oriented small forward, from what I can glean, looks like he might fit in very well with this heady, upstanding bunch.)

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