In the past few years, the Rockets have placed an emphasis on stashing draft picks abroad, with the most notable recent selection of Donatas Motiejunas (who spent the 2011 season in Europe). With a number of trades and second round selections, the Rockets now find themselves with a cache of young talent playing in various leagues across the globe. Today, we'll scout each one of the prospects, separating the legitimate NBA players from the career minor leaguers.
Venson Hamilton, 50th Pick of the 1999 Draft
Just for a bit of perspective, if the Rockets signed Hamilton today, he'd be the oldest player on the roster by nearly five years. He enjoyed a decent amount of success with Real Madrid during the mid-2000's, but the Rockets need him like they need a hole in the head.
Kyle Hill, 44th Pick of the 2001 Draft
Same story with Kyle Hill. The team doesn't need a 33 year old point guard whose last stint was a bench gig in the ACB two years ago.
Axel Hervelle, 52nd Pick of the 2005 Draft
In exchange for James White, the Rockets received Hervelle, a power forward playing for Real Madrid at the time. This acquisition was not to get their hands on a prized big man in Hervelle, it was merely to satisfy the NBA's requirement that teams send and receive something back in every trade. If he had come over a few years ago, Hervelle could have carved out a nice career in the Eduardo Najera mold, but it seems unlikely that he'll leave Europe for the chance of making an NBA roster.
Brad Newley, 54th Pick of the 2007 Draft
Newley is a guy that Rockets fans have heard a good amount about over the past few years, but he hasn't gotten his shot with the team in training camp. He played for the 2009 Summer League squad and performed pretty well, but failed to get an invite that year and has kicked around the ACB the past few years. As a slasher and a three point shooter, a team could do a lot worse than Brad Newley. Unfortunately, I don't think Newley will ever get that chance on the Rockets.
Maarty Leunen, 54th Pick of the 2008 Draft
Leunen and Newley have a lot of similarities in their experiences with the Rockets. Both were the 54th overall pick in their draft, both played for the 2009 Summer League squad, and neither has gotten a contract with the Rockets yet. Just like Newley, Leunen's shot is unlikely to come with the Rockets, as the team doesn't have a need for an undersized power forward without NBA level athleticism.
Sergio Llull, 34th Pick of the 2009 Draft
The unquestioned gem of the Rockets' "farm system," Llull looks the part of a future lead guard in the NBA. As we're seeing in these Olympics, Llull is an excellent shooter, a pick-and-roll operator, and can get to the rim against top defenses. There's no doubt that he'd be a tremendous fit for McHale's pick-and-roll heavy offense.
At this point, the only question is how to get him to Houston. He's rumored to be willing to come to the Rockets after this season, but it's unclear as to whether he'd want to sit behind Jeremy Lin, who is theoretically entrenched at the point for the next three seasons. If Llull continues to progress, the Rockets could have a tremendous trade asset on their hands, or they could opt to move Lin (though Armin contends they will never do that).
Jon Diebler, 51st Pick of the 2011 Draft
Like Hervelle, Diebler was more of a throw-in to a trade that required the Trailblazers to send something out. However, he could have an NBA future if he can show that he can continue to knock down shots like he did last season in Greece. Shooters will always be in demand, and Diebler's unique skillset (50% 3P% his senior year at Ohio State, 45% 3P% in the Greek League last season), could definitely net him a roster spot in the future. A sleeper in my book.
Furkan Aldemir, 53rd Pick of the 2012 Draft
There is a lot not to like about Furkan Aldemir. He's about 6'9", lacks elite athleticism, and isn't agile enough to see major minutes at the power forward position. Peel away the superficial, and you see a very intriguing player. At just 20, Aldemir was an elite rebounder in the Turkish League last year, and he's beginning to have a pretty decent offensive game inside the paint. He won't be coming over for a number of years, but he could be a rotation player in the future.
In the end, the closest most of these guys will be to making an NBA roster could be an invite to training camp along with a non-guaranteed contract. However, given the minute cost that the Rockets paid to get each of these guys, if they can get just one solid rotation player, it'll be a win for the franchise. And if Llull becomes more than just a solid rotation player, even better.
Daryl Morey mentioned on talk radio a few days ago that he's immensely jealous of Jeff Luhnow's ability to take chances on a ton of prospects with the hope that one will pan out. Interestingly enough, the host of players the Rockets have abroad appears to be that exact strategy. With enough lottery tickets, you'll eventually hit the jackpot. Let's hope that Llull can be that big payoff.
Jump for your links!
Just Five Months After Jeremy Lin Became An Overnight Sensation
Lee Jenkins and Pablo S. Torre have an amazing story on Jeremy Lin. I'm not sure why I didn't link to it until today, but this is a must-read if you haven't yet.
Taiwanese Tire Company Follows Rockets Guard Jeremy Lin To Houston - ESPN
We're seeing the sponsors migrate back to Houston as Houston becomes relevant on the international stage again.
Rockets Interested In Eduardo Najera
According to Marc J. Spears, the Rockets are one of three teams showing interest in Eduardo Najera. He'd fit as a veteran presence perhaps, but this pursuit makes little sense.
Nicolas Batum Ends France-Spain With Nasty Cheap Shot - SBNation.com
Everything about that GIF is unbelievable. The passion, the anger, even the little shove at the end all fit together in wonderful harmony.
Kobe Bryant Finally Finds His Game As Team USA Rolls Australia - CBSSports.com
Royce White on the story for CBSSports on the Olympic win. As a Rockets fan, that twelve point run by Kobe in the third quarter was both shocking and somewhat expected.
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly In Team USA's Win Over Australia - CBSSports.com
Matt Moore has more analysis on the win. The bottom line is that the USA's defense can be this consistently mediocre and they should still win every game.
Andrei Kirilenko, Russia Top Lithuania To Reach Men's Basketball Semifinals - ESPN
The AP's story on Russia's unlikely run to the semifinals.
Team USA Delivers Olympic Spirit In London – Not Tanking And Groin Shots - Yahoo! Sports
On a day where France's Nicolas Batum punched Spanish guard Juan Carlos Navarro in the groin, the Americans once again stayed out of the fray. Adrian Wojnarowski's story from London.
Other Sporting News
Nick Young Refutes Gunner Reputation With Gunner Logic | The Basketball Jones
The title really speaks for itself, doesn't it?
This Reds Media Guy Really Wanted To Kick Someone's Ass After Today's Loss
This isn't a basketball link, but it's about the 3152nd reminder to watch what you said on the web.