Mar 18, 2012; Greensboro, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forwards John Henson (31) and Tyler Zeller (44) react toward the end of the game. The Tar Heels defeated the Blue Jays 87-73 in the third round of the 2012 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE
The Houston Rockets have a bunch of scenarios facing them entering the 2012 NBA Draft. They'll have at least one first-round pick and could potentially net three. The highest pick they could land, at this point, would be New York's if they miss the playoffs, which would likely come in around number ten.
For those of you who are not huge college basketball enthusiasts, here's a look at my top thirty prospects entering the 2012 NBA Draft. We're still waiting to hear final decisions from a few of these players, but as of this writing, the prospects below have either declared or have not made a decision.
Have a look and enjoy.
1) Anthony Davis - PF, Kentucky
He's the clear-cut number one pick and is perhaps the most obvious No. 1 pick since LeBron James. He's a phenomenal defensive player, and I think his offensive skills are a tad underrated. He played on a team with a host of other scorers and shooters and never got his chance to take hold of the offense. But he has a nice jump hook in the lane and can shoot all the way out to the three-point line. Best of all, he's a good kid who never seems flustered. People keep comparing him to Tim Duncan. I'm thinking he'll become a Marcus Camby-type, but better on the offensive end.
For Houston... He'll be gone with the first pick, and if he isn't, the NBA might as well lock out again.
2) Michael Kidd-Gilchrist - SF, Kentucky
Think Gerald Wallace but with some better offensive attributes. Kidd-Gilchrist also won't turn nineteen until September, so he's got a long road of improvement ahead of him. He's a dream small forward with great size, tenacity and drive.
For Houston... He'll be off the board within the top four picks, so yeah, sorry.
3) Thomas Robinson - PF, Kansas
I love his fundamental post game and his ability to finish. He's got plenty to play for and he never slows down. You know what you're getting at the very least — a solid starting power forward who can rebound, if nothing else. If he can keep developing that outside jump shot, watch out.
For Houston... Sorry, he'll be gone, too.
4) Bradley Beal - SG, Florida
He's a phenomenal shooter (despite the poor numbers) and he plays bigger than his height (he averaged almost seven rebounds per game as a shooting guard!). Shooting guards are starting to lose their flair in the era of the dual point guard, so to be able to grab a stellar 2-guard with elite ability... yeah, that'd be grand.
For Houston... There seems to be a small debate about how high he'll go (anywhere from three to ten), but if Beal slips out of the top five, the Rockets need to work the phones and dangle Kevin Martin/Courtney Lee like they're free money hanging from a tree.
5) Cody Zeller - PF/C, Indiana
It all depends on whether or not he leaves Indiana (my guess is he'll stay). If he bolts, he's an excellent center prospect with a nice all-around game.
For Houston... Either Zeller would be stellar, but Cody has a bit more upside on the offensive end.
6) Andre Drummond - C, Connecticut
I've got Andre slightly lower than most, if only because he didn't do much at UConn this year besides perform tremendously below expectations. He's still a freakin' specimen of an athlete and his upside is through the roof, but I for one prefer some polish in top-five prospects. Yeah, sometimes you'll find an Andrew Bynum in these types of players, but all too often you'll wind up spending a second overall pick on, uh, Stromile Swift.
For Houston... Drummond is the type who should benefit from workouts and make scouts forget about his actual production, so I don't expect him to be available.
7) Harrison Barnes - SF, North Carolina
I think it's time people accept that Harrison Barnes is not the next great game-changing small forward, but he can certainly become a very good player. He has a lethal jump shot — the only issue is his shot selection, which is often questionable at best. Barnes' shot will be his calling card, simply because he's not athletic enough to survive without it. I can see him eventually becoming a borderline All-Star player, but he's got a really one-dimensional game at this point and needs to improve as a rebounder.
For Houston... Landing Barnes would ideally be a dream come true, but he's not the shot creator that some people think he is. Barnes would need to work in a constructed offense that gets him open shots. Plus, I think he'll be off the board before Houston picks.
8) Tyler Zeller - C, North Carolina
Zeller is a sneaky-good defender with some damn good instincts. He's a coordinated big body who can run the floor, finish inside and make free throws at a high rate. There's nothing overly sexy about his game, but there aren't many worries, either. He produced in college, he improved in college and he made the most of his experience. If he can improve on a few of his moves inside on offense, he has a chance to become a longtime starting center down the road.
For Houston... I would love to nab Zeller, and odds are, he could be around right when Houston picks. Again, this all depends on the Knicks pick — if Houston picks somewhere around 10-11, he should be within striking distance. If they pick at 14-15, it may be tougher to grab him.
9) Jared Sullinger - PF, Ohio State
Some people keep saying Kevin Love, but I just don't know. He has a lot of positives about his game, but he's undersized, plays under the rim and put together some incredibly inconsistent performances against the top competition. That being said, he dominated the inferior competition and he's a relatively safe pick. He can also shoot the ball out to the arc, and that alone is what I think will keep the Love comparisons alive.
For Houston... If he's the best player available, you know Houston will take him. But I'm not convinced he's any sort of answer at a position that Houston has all but sealed shut.
10) Perry Jones - F, Baylor
He's got the most upside of anyone in this draft. He's also become the biggest disappointment in college basketball. To add insult to injury, he's flat-out told the media he doesn't like being asked to be the best player on the floor. That's alarming. Is he the next great combo forward, or is he Anthony Randolph, part 2? We'll see.
For Houston... He'd sure be a ballsy pick if he slides to the Rockets, but hey, isn't this the time for ballsy picks?
11) John Henson - PF, North Carolina
Henson's length and size is rather enormous for a guy listed at 6'10, and he covers ground like a John Deere on nitrus. He's a terrific shot-blocker, but most importantly, he added something of a jumper to his offensive arsenal. Henson has a long way to go, but I honestly think he's got a shot to get there and become a 12-to-15-point per game player in this league. Given how much potential he has on defense, some offense would be a nice bonus for a team that drafts him for interior defensive purposes.
For Houston... Henson is definitely within striking distance and he'd be worth a flier, but he's also a work in progress and might not be ready to roll until his rookie deal is up. That said, I think pairing him with Motiejunas or Patterson would be an ideal fit behind Luis Scola, assuming Scola is still around next year. It'd be a nice mix of offense and defense.
12) Terrence Jones - F, Kentucky
Terrence is a weird prospect, if only because on any given night he can do just about anything, but he rarely puts it all together. He can play three positions, but he's probably best suited as a big small forward, someone who can post up on smaller players and can easily guard opposing wings. Jones' key will be his shot and his quest to figure it out — it's got a weird sort of flow and can be incredibly streaky. At the same time, it was great to see Jones push his field goal percentage up to 50% for the year. Jones has potential in a variety of different areas, so I suppose my only concern with him is that I'm not quite sure how he'll fit in with others yet. Is he a complimentary defensive wing or can he put it together as a complete player?
For Houston... They'll have to give Jones a serious look given his potential. He's only twenty years old and he could eventually provide what Daryl Morey thought Terrence Williams could. It certainly helps that Jones' wingspan is a massive 7-foot-2.
13) Jeremy Lamb - SG, Connecticut
I'm a Jeremy Lamb enthusiast and I think he has a chance to make this ranking look silly. He's primarily a scorer and a shooter with some great defensive ability, sort of like a rich man's Courtney Lee. But beyond that, we haven't seen much from Jeremy and it certainly didn't help that UConn's season torpedoed with him leading the crew. That said, I don't see that ever being Lamb's role in the NBA and I think he can perform nicely as a complimentary scoring 2-guard.
For Houston... Lamb is definitely a possibility and one I'd strongly consider, so long as Kevin Martin isn't around to welcome him aboard. Pairing Lamb with Courtney Lee would make a lot of sense, and while he wouldn't solve Houston's star problem, he'd add some quality depth to a team that is learning to win games with less.
14) Damian Lillard - PG, Weber State
Efficient, efficient, efficient. Lillard can shoot, rebound and pass and does so without wasting very much, but is he a point guard and can he do so against MUCH better competition? We'll have to see, but he burst onto the national scene this year and he's definitely earned his high ranking.
For Houston... I don't think Houston should touch a point guard with its first pick. It's no knock on Lillard, but I think the Rockets can get a good point guard with one of their later picks. We know they do love to buy those second-rounders.
15) Quincy Miller - SF, Baylor
Man, if Quincy Miller hadn't torn that ACL, who knows where he'd be in this draft? Top five? He certainly has the potential to perform like a top-five pick. He does just a bit of everything from scoring to rebounding to blocking shots, and he's a long, athletic player for his position. He'll need to get a bit bigger, but if you're looking for a steal of the draft candidate, look no further.
For Houston... I think he's worth the risk and he's slotted right around the Rockets' projected pick. We'll have to see if the Rockets still want to go big with their first pick or even move up to do so, but if they stay put, Miller would be a fine addition.
16) Austin Rivers - SG, Duke
I don't like Austin Rivers' NBA potential and while I realize that's an incredibly crazy thing to say about a nineteen-year-old freshman, I think it was incredibly crazier of him to leave Duke after just one season. Rivers got over-hyped coming out of high school and I'm shocked nobody else called him out on it. He's not very athletic and he's small for a two-guard. He's WAY too selfish to play the point and if he wasn't Doc Rivers' kid, I doubt he'd be getting half the attention that's thrown his way. On the plus side, Rivers can really shoot and he's not afraid to be the number one guy. I just have significant doubts that he's talented enough to ever be anything more than a lightening-rod-ish sixth man.
For Houston... Rivers would surely be a gamble and would honestly be an uncharacteristically risky pick. But as I've said before, if the Rockets finish in a similar position to last year and keep giving Les Alexander reasons to call them out for their mediocrity, the FO might want to take a chance. I don't think it's a good idea, but that's only my amateur opinion.
*From here on, we'll keep the analysis short and sweet:*
17) Kendall Marshall - PG, North Carolina
Phenomenal passer. Great floor general. Questionable at just about everything else. Rondo-esque, in that regard.
18) Terrance Ross - SF, Washington
Uber-athletic wing with a good jump shot. Needs to harness his trigger at times, but if he ever plays up to his potential, watch out.
19) Marquis Teague - PG, Kentucky
I really like Teague's ability to score and finish inside. He definitely did his best to impress during the NCAA tournament. If Houston has a second pick to use, they might want to consider using it here.
20) Meyers Leonard - C, Illinois
Leonard certainly has potential given his size and he has a nice hook shot... but the kid just looks weak, both mentally and physically. He could have used another year or two in school to prove he's ready to be a professional athlete.
21) Tony Wroten Jr. - PG, Washington
Can do just about everything but shoot. He's a big point guard and he played well in his first collegiate season. Big-time potential if he finds the right gooseneck.
22) Jeff Taylor - SF, Vanderbilt
Sharpshooting athlete from Vandy who finally put it together in his final year. Could see him snagging a starting spot on the right team the minute he's drafted, but he doesn't have much potential as a go-to guy. Would be a nice pick for any team here nonetheless. I'm inclined to call him the Aaron Afflalo of small forwards.
23) Arnett Moultrie - PF/C, Mississippi State
He's a 16-ppg scorer who grabbed 10 boards per game and shot 44 percent from three. That's a crazy stat line for someone listed at 6'11, but his defense needs work and he needs to learn to play inside. Could probably be most useful as a PF.
24) Moe Harkless - SF, St. John's
Athletic. Scorer. Sweet name.
25) Dion Waiters - SG, Syracuse
Scoring 2-guard who rose to the occasion late in the year. Turned some heads as a slight overachiever. Would like for Houston to give him a look later on.
26) Patric Young - C, Florida
May return to school. Undersized for a center and doesn't have a great offensive game, but he's a typical Rocket big. He plays much bigger than his size would suggest and he's got a great motor.
27) Royce White - F, Iowa State
Do-everything forward who needs to work on his shooting, if only because I doubt any NBA team will let him patrol the floor like he did at Iowa State. Hate to nit-pick, but he's got an anxiety issue that may hold him back from reaching his potential. Look it up for more info, it's actually very interesting.
28) Andrew Nicholson - PF/C, St. Bonaventure
Watch out for him in the NBA. He put the Bonnies back on the map and he can do a little bit of everything. Thinking he might be a bit underrated, if only because so many people are on the Nicholson bandwagon.
29) Mason Plumlee - PF, Duke
Athletic, coordinated big who needs to add some polish. Could be a solid PF down the road.
30) Fab Melo - C, Syracuse
Fab can change the game defensively and is progressing on offense, but his rebounding needs worlds of work. He's also coming out because he had to do so, and I think another year of school could have seen his stock boost tremendously.
This is a basic outline, but I'll have more as the draft approaches. Can't wait to go mocking.