With the 16th pick in the Draft, the Rockets selected Royce White, a talented but somewhat troubled forward out of Iowa State. Some had tuned out the draft after it became evident that the Rockets would likely emerge from the draft with neither Dwight Howard nor a top five pick, but White appears to be an excellent selection at that spot.
Jump to read his take on our newest Rocket!
On White's anxiety disorder:
I think his anxiety disorder is real and should be a concern in the sense that they keep an eye on it. However, Royce takes some meds to control it, is cognizant of his disorder, and knows how to manage everything. There was never a time when his anxiety disorder showed through on to the court, in my opinion, in his one year playing at Iowa State. Maybe he had a harder time internally dealing with some things or it affected some of his decision making (especially related to his poor free throw shooting) but it was never something that was an obvious issue while playing.
The hard part off the court may be that in Ames he had coaches, players, fans, and administration that helped him whenever he needed it and made Ames more of a safe haven for him...whether or not an NBA team will do that for a player or be able to create that same environment would be a fair question.
The fact that Royce has so many interests and so much going on with the things he wants to accomplish (philantropy, music, documentaries, etc...) had me concerned with his focus on the season but that was never once an issue. He's mature beyond his years (threw a birthday party for himself when he turned 21 a couple months back that was alcohol free and raised over $3,000 for a local hospital that helps kids with mental illnesses) and I truly believe he just wants to make everyone happy around him. The sorrow he would express after losses last year where he blamed himself because he shot 50% from the free throw line despite being the obvious best player on the court are examples of that.
The flying thing has been overblown from what I can tell. There were three road games last year that he drove to when the rest of the team flew. Last summer he flew to Italy with the team. It was just a matter of Royce wanting to be at his best for his team and it was something that they could control. He has said that when flying with his team and coaches he is a whole lot more comfortable than commercially by himself.
On White's future position:
I think he has to guard a post because his lateral quickness isn't elite enough to be on the perimeter with a small forward in the NBA. On the block his lack of height may be exploited but his strength is probably already elite compared to current NBA peers. As a rebounder he does well in clearing out space but he doesn't rebound out of his area too much.
On the offensive end I don't get as hung up on positions, philosophically, as most would. I think you put your five best players on the court and limit defensive mismatches in doing so. But to answer your question, to maximize Royce's abilities he has to be given some chances to create with the ball in his hands when starting from the perimeter. There won't be many power forwards that can stay in front of him because once he gets the corner his strength and wide frame don't allow the defense to recover.
On the block he is capable of going over either shoulder and uses his feet well to get there. Last year, it seemed he got in ruts at times of going only baseline for long stretches or then only going middle for long stretches. He just needs to mix it up more. His touch around the rim could be a little bit better, but with as powerful and athletic as he is he often would make it to the rim for dunks as opposed to five foot floaters.
Using him to penetrate against bigs, on the block to score, at the elbow to square up, and running the dribble hand off are probably his best strengths. This past year when defenses would figure that a big couldn't stay in front of him so they'd sag off when he had the ball on the perimeter Royce would just run a dribble hand off with a shooter. He'd screen out the shooter's defender and his man was 10' away and not close enough to recover and help and hedge.
His passing ability starts with his unselfishness. When we first saw him play in a summer league last year he was telling people he was trying to record 20 assists in a game and had little interest in scoring. That is just a whole knew mentality than you're used to seeing.
On White's strengths and weaknesses:
I'll keep this to on the court and just add what I didn't really cover above.
Weaknesses: While everyone touts that he led the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocks (and that is true and remarkable), he also led the team in turnovers. A fair amount early in the season were before he became better at avoiding charges. Sometimes he forces a pass here and there and sometimes a teammate simply isn't ready for a pass but for the most part it is a tradeoff that is worth it with his overall playmaking ability.
His jumpshot is lacking but the good thing is that he realizes that and doesn't just keep chucking up 18 footers. The stroke itself really doesn't look too bad at all. From my vantage point he always seems to drift a bit to the left and I wonder how much that affects it. Subsequently, his free throw shooting isn't very good but it was much better by the end of last year.
Strengths: He will make some passes and some plays that will absolutely blow you away. It took about 20 seconds for Jim Calhoun to see that in the NCAA tournament. UCONN missed on their opening posession and Royce grabbed the rebound and dribbled upcourt. It wasn't a fast break and both teams were essentially getting set when Andre Drummond (who before the game was said to have been an athletic match for Royce and left the Huskies little worry about guarding him) got crossed over and never had a chance. Royce jumped off his right foot and tomahawked one home. When he gets going to the rim he is a freight train that not many people will step in front of and he will finish with authority.
His versatility is obvious and that is a huge strength for playing with a team if the coach isn't too concerned with the unorthodox thought of your 6'7 270 pound "power forward" having the freedom to bring the ball up the court or initiate the offense. If he active guys that are cutting and moving and some shooters spotted around him, he will absolutely make the pass to the right guy at the right time.
Thanks again to Kirk for getting back to me so quickly and truly going above and beyond the call of duty on this one. This was a job well done.
Further reading from Kirk on Royce White:
What do you think of White, especially after this account? Sound off in the comments!
UPDATE! If you want video of Royce, go check out his DraftExpress player evaluation. Great stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usQJQi3IiE0