The NBA Draft is two days away and aside from NVP's fantastic series of late round potential picks we've neglected to give you much of a look at anything else. Thankfully that ends (somewhat) now. Houston is after draft picks that will not reflect on their cap in order to hoard cap space. These picks come in two different varieties. First and most likely are players that will stay overseas. This is the code word for any foreign player. Second would be second round picks. These players tend to be Americans who play in the D-League as well as foreign players. Houston has the 34th pick in the draft and are rumored to be acquiring a pick anywhere from 19 to 28. I wanted to take this time to delve in to a few possible selections available to the Rockets in the late first round or early second round. These won't be in-depth scouting reports but instead, primers on players. Full coverage is done on draftexpress.com and I'll link their content if you want to go in-depth.
Schroeder is a 6'1" pure point guard out of Germany. He excels in the pick and roll and is lightning quick. Schroeder shows suspect decision-making but at 19 years old it's not that much of a damning criticism as it is an issue he'll address with experience. His assist to turnover ratio is less than ideal at 3.3:2.9 (For reference Jeremy Lin has a 2.1 ratio). He's a one directional offensive player and, like most European players, lacks strength needed to muscle against NBA competition. Some added bulk and strength would help his ability to finish in traffic. Defensively he shows good instincts, spacing, and adjusts quickly.
Watching tape on Schroeder gives you some feeling of Aaron Brooks with his quick step and scoring. Where he departs from Brooks is his ability and willingness to pass. Ultimately some of the same issues plague Schroeder that plagued Brooks throughout his career. Suspect decision making and a lack of strength are two question marks on otherwise solid prospects. You can overcome a lack of strength in the NBA but defeating bad decision-making is much more of a daunting task.
Ultimately Schroeder gives me some of the same impressions you get watching Patrick Beverley. Beverley learned to calm it down over the course of the season and would be a pretty good player to stash overseas for depth and, potentially to start one day.
Gobert is a 7'2", athletic and agile center out of France. Like most foreign Centers Gobert possesses less than ideal bulk and strength. He does however bring some elite measurements and some truly special skills that the Rockets could benefit from. Gobert excels when it comes to offensive rebounding, finishing around the rim, and shot blocking (He shows incredible timing on his blocks). He has a 7'9" wingspan and a 9'7" standing reach. Those all scream huge potential. His shooting stroke has good form but unfortunately it's abysmal. Gobert lacks any form of post offense and needs to work on positioning for defensive rebounding.
As I watched tape on Gobert I fell in love with him as a prospect for a back up center. I have a weakness for shot blockers and it is certainly something he brings. Houston could excel long-term with a quality back up center which Gobert could bring immediately as it is. Offensively challenged centers don't seem to be a deterrent towards playing time so long as you can contribute defensively (See: Asik, Omer). Gobert can be taught a post-game (ideally) at 20 years old he can put some muscle on his frame.
Gobert is another ideal candidate to stash abroad to work on his strength and post game. Long term if that post-game can be created and he can add about 40 pounds or so to his frame he'll fit right in the NBA. Whatever happens this off-season with the Rockets Gobert could be a perfect player to call up to replace Asik if he leaves or to back up Howard if he arrives.
Karasev is a 19-year-old 6'7" small forward/shooting guard out of Russia. He shows a silky smooth offensive game, a huge basketball IQ, and NBA range all in a lefty package. Unfortunately he also has average athleticism, complacency offensively, lack of lateral speed defensively, and a lack of strength for the NBA game. Karasev will be bothered by NBA competition that brings elite athleticism and keeps defenders mobile. Karasev is an ideal fit for a depth player because he has the capability to provide multiple ways to score but it's a question as to whether or not he's willing to diversify his offense. His shot extends beyond NBA three point range but he doesn't convert it at a strong enough clip to warrant the volume of three-point shots he launches. That is just a fancy way of stating he has suspect shot selection.
Tape of Karasev shows the kind of player that you can easily fall in love with. He's the type of player that makes basketball look easy on the offensive end. He shows presence of mind on the offensive end of the court that makes you believe in a guy. If he could find a way to package that together with defensive prowess and better decision-making he could really be a difference maker at the NBA level. Karasev projects to go early to mid 1st round but I included him in this profile just in case. European players have begun their drive upwards in mock drafts and we'll see if that comes to bear on draft night.
Karasev is an excellent back up player to cultivate abroad for depth. I can't see him as a threatening NBA starter unless he really buckles down defensively and improves his lateral quickness. He would look great spelling Chandler Parson's minutes in a year or two.
Noguiera is a 7'0" Brazilian center who has been rumored to be draft ready for a couple of years now. His projections are all over the place based around the same question I've read about him for years now. Potential. Noguiera shows awareness on the court, an understanding to his game, and amazing athleticism. What he also shows is a lack of effort, a lack of patience, and the lack of an NBA body. He's an intriguing prospect because any athletic seven-footer is a tantalizing prospect to NBA scouts. Noguiera is an intriguing prospect but his motor raises some red flags and most of his strengths are present in a guy like Gobert who doesn't present the same criticisms.
Tape of Nogueira definitely entices a potential observer. He sprints the court gracefully, takes off the floor quickly, and finishes strong. He rebounds on offensive glass well but fails to do so defensively. He shows some amazing blocks but fails to bring the same intensity on a consistent level. Noguiera's wide range of draft projection comes down to his lack of consistent effort and questionable commitment that the tape reveals as well.
Noguiera sets off alarm bells because most of the concerns surrounding him cannot be addressed by seasoning in international competition. Attitude problems really deflate the sense in drafting Noguiera because you can work on expanding a post game and improving decision making, you can't improve someone who doesn't want to give consistent effort or care.
It's not a Rockets draft if we don't at least offer one 6'9" tweener for you to consider. Jean-Charles destroyed the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit. He produced 27 points and 13 boards which is good for top 7 in each category for the history of the event. Jean-Charles is a smooth athlete who moves effortlessly through the lane with a smooth stroke. He handles the ball well for his size and prefers a slasher style of play. He has the size and length of an NBA power forward but a preference to play the small forward position. This is less idyllic than it sounds because his body and skill set screams NBA small forward but he gets himself in position to play where power forwards put in time. His lack of strength only complicates this issue if he is intent on playing a face up post-position.
Watching his tape gives you the impression that he could max out as a Shawn Marion type of player. He cleans up the boards well and knows his positioning. He doesn't have the kind of body that gives you confidence that he can crash around with NBA forwards. He has enough speed to keep up with small forwards and a shot that helps to stretch defenses. His hustle and endurance make him ideal if you can find a spot on the floor to take advantage of these skills.
Jean-Charles is tantalizing in the same way Lior Eliyahu was when the Rockets had him. He, too, was an NBA tweener with a small forward skill set that seemed to transcend the damage usually done by the tweener label. He can score, he shows effort, he shows everything you want in a player who really wants to excel. The question is can you peg him into a position without sacrificing what he gives you now?
This is a fantastic draft for the Rockets to re-stock their depth and prepare their team for the long haul. At one point in time Houston had one of the more extensive stash of foreign talent. Most of those rights have slipped away or been traded and this is a great draft to work on bringing that back. Houston's international scouting paid big dividends with Patrick Beverley and hopefully this coming season Donatas Motiejunas will be another scouting-based success story. I hope this write up and the associated links help give you an eye for a few players to listen for on Thursday night.