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NBA Mock Draft Update: Predicting The Unpredictability Of The Houston Rockets

Before we embark on yet another marvelous Houston Rockets mock draft journey, let me relay to you a few juicy points from the outside:

Happy Father's Day

Stop what you're doing. Get up from your seat. Don't be lazy. Now, give your dad a visit, or a call, or a Skype, or a secret father-son handshake, or a wet willy if you just feel like screwing with him.

Does Motiejunas Sit Atop Houston's Draft Board?

Ryan Feldman of The Hoops Report decided to touch base with his inner reporter Saturday, dropping the following tidbit as though it were moderately elevated in temperature (Snoop went with "Drop It Like It's Hot," for whatever stupid reason):

The Houston Rockets are very high on Donatas Motiejunas and he appears to be at the top of their draft board. They were the first NBA team to bring him in for a workout in this country, as he visited Houston on Friday. The Sixers are also very high on Motiejunas but they'll likely have to trade up to get him. Motiejunas will not get past the Sixers at No. 16.

Donatas (Southern Pronunciation: "Donut, Us") has not made many appearances on this blog, and that's because he's been busy waiting near the back of the "Next Dirk Nowitzki" line. It's a real hip line at first, the Next Dirk Nowtizki Line, but everyone grows tired of looking at someone stand in line without moving for, oh, five years before eventually leaving. Nobody in that line ever moves to the front. Nobody.

Motiejunas can score the ball, of that there is little doubt. I'm more concerned with the D than with the rest of the Onatas because apparently he can't guard an oak tree to save his life. That said, general managers have always taken gambles on skilled big men with the hope that their physical tools and mental tools will eventually team up to produce a solid defender. Perhaps I could make a similar concession.

Motiejunas could have come out last year, but instead he chose to Dominatas the Italian League for one shining season before jumping across the Atlantic to await his draft fate. As is the norm with tall, sharpshooting European prospects, Motiejunas has been projected to go just about anywhere and could turn out to be just about anyone. DraftExpress currently lists his best case/worst case scenarios as "Pau Gasol/Yi Jianlian." So, in other words, his potential career path encompasses every option listed underneath the heading, "Tall, Living Basketball Players And Dolph Lundgren", because I think Yi Jianlian would lose in a one-on-one game to Dolph Lundgren.

The odd thing about Motiejunas is that of the many Nowitzki impersonators to enter the draft over the last decade, he may be among3 the closest to being able to wear Dirk's jock. Unlike the raw seven-footers of years past who could always shoot a little, run a little and hate whatever situation they were drafted into, Motiejunas has proven himself on the court. During his tenure in Italy and most especially this past season, he wasn't the type to sit on the bench for most of his team's games, only to turn his head towards New York the next year and see 30 general managers oggling him like he was a David Kahn trade offer. Instead, Donatas was the best player on the floor and his numbers showed it. He averaged 20 points per 40 minutes, an impressive number since nobody averages huge bundles of points in European play.

Motiejunas, more so than anyone, would test the "Need vs. Talent" debate. He's the last thing Houston needs right now, but at fourteen, he could be the best pure talent available. The Rockets need player who can rebound the ball and protect the rim on defense. According to scouting reports, those are two of Motiejunas' most glaring weaknesses. He'd also be the third young power forward on the roster, unless the Rockets think they can turn him into a center. Either way, it would only give Houston more trade pieces and could spell the end for Luis Scola or Jordan Hill. That's the two-thousandth time TDS has tried to trade Scola, for those counting at home.

Despite that -- and no matter how obvious it is to me that the Rockets also need a small forward -- Motiejunas' potential is giggle-worthy. He could be a dynamite scorer given his size, touch and shooting ability. Should Houston stay put and take him to close the lottery, if nothing else, I suppose I could celebrate the move's sheer ballsiness.

Once Again, Expect Anything

Daryl Morey wants to move again this year, so expect any combination of the following options:

  • Houston trades up
  • Houston trades out
  • Houston trades players
  • Houston go asplode.

Jonathan Feigen has the details:

Morey has made his usual calls to move up from the 14th pick in Thursday's draft and has been open about that being his preference since before the lottery. He can sweeten that sort of deal by including the 23rd pick of the first round, a Magic pick acquired from the Suns in the Aaron Brooks trade.

Morey, however, is chasing other moves, even offering four first-round picks over the next two seasons. He already has traded the Rockets' first-round pick next year to the Nets in the deal to acquire Terrence Williams. But in the search for a foundation player, Morey has offered a combination of picks that could include this season's pick, next season's pick acquired from the Knicks in the Tracy McGrady trade and even the portion of the Rockets' pick next year that is not protected and that they would not be compelled to send to the Nets.

"We have a lot of options on the table," Morey said. "We have four No. 1s we could trade over the next two years. That's our goal, to see if we could pull off something like that."

So, you're telling me that should a wild scenario unfold, I could end up flying to Newark, NJ to cover a draft with which Houston would no longer be heavily associated? Splendid.

"We'll be fine at 14," Morey said. "We'll definitely get a guy we like. We're also trying to move up. We're looking at some trades that involve trading our picks for players. We'd also trade out (of the first round)."

"We think we've got a real good shot to make a decision this year. We're not sure what that decision will be, but make no mistake, I plan on feeding your sources enough conflicting information to leave Woodward and Bernstein lying cross-eyed in a puddle of their own drool."

* * *

Mock draft time. Here's where we currently stand with the experts:

Pick 14 -- Nikola Vucevic

Could Vucevic really go this high? That's the word among a number of NBA GMs who are raving about his workouts. Some have argued that the differences between him and Enes Kanter are very slim.

With the Rockets in desperate need of some size in the paint, Vucevic could be the answer. He's not the world's greatest athlete, but he is skilled, has an NBA body and is ready to play now.

SB Nation -- Chris Singleton

The Rockets have two "pieces of the future" in Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry. One is an incredible scorer, the other a solid distributor and great defender. What do you need at small forward, then? Another good scorer, or another defender? Singleton is the latter, and that's my bet. -- Kawhi Leonard (I choose this scenario, please)

Houston can't go center here. Ending up with Leonard this late would have to feel like a good value pick.

Draft Express -- Klay Thompson

Standing just under 6-foot-6 without shoes, Thompson is big enough to play the small forward position, and is considered by some to be the best player available at this point.

Houston is reportedly exploring trade options, possibly in hopes of moving up to select Lithuanian Jonas Valanciunas, who will fill a major hole in the middle. Donatas Motiejunas

Pick 23 -- Darius Morris

We have the Rockets going big with pick No. 14 and we have them going big again at No. 23. Morris is a different kind of big. He's a point guard who towers over the competition. If he were a better shooter he'd be going much, much higher in the draft. But at this point he's a steal.

SB Nation -- Tobias Harris

Harris shouldn't be dropping this far; he's, in my eyes, one of the more exciting prospects in the draft, especially if he's allowed to play small forward in the pros.

Draft Express -- Nikola Vucevic

The Rockets have undersized power forwards galore littering their roster, but the one thing they lack is a lengthy 7-footer with some girth. Enter Vucevic.

He's not a traditional banger but he's the best center available at this point. He comes with the added benefit of being able to space the floor for Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin to attack the rim or for Luis Scola to operate with his back to the basket. -- Darius Morris


-- I don't like Vucevic at fourteen, if only because I think they'll be able to land him later. Assuming Houston picks at fourteen, they could then package the 23rd pick and their second round pick to move up a couple of slots to take Vucevic if he's their guy.

-- If Kawhi Leonard drops to fourteen, I will stand up and cheer gloriously from my seat in the draft room. You'll be able to see it on ESPN.

-- Thompson doesn't make sense with the roster we have now. For my money, Houston needs more two-way players. And if they can't find two-way players, they should start with defense first. If the Rockets take another offensive-minded wing, I'm sure Chase Budinger will be more confused than angry.

I'm Mocking Around The World

I'll be making my second appearance in the annual The Basketball Jones Live Mock Draft, to take place Tuesday at noon CT on their web site. Tune it, it should be a good time.

Also, keep an eye out for the SB Nation mock draft featuring picks from each team blog's editor. You'll be surprised to see who fell to Houston at fourteen.