With just under an hour to go before the draft starts, rumors are starting to swirl about which players teams are targeting. The Rockets, who are typically very close-lipped about their draft strategy, have reportedly looked heavily into taking Russian center Artem Klimenko with either of their picks. Here's what Chad Ford had to say:
One name to watch for Rockets at either #25 or #42 — Russian big man Artem Klimenko. They’ve been doing a deep dive researching him— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) June 26, 2014
With the team agreeing to trade Omer Asik to the Pelicans yesterday, it makes sense to target a potential backup center for the future. Klimenko is tall at 7'1", but might have to fill into his frame a bit, sitting at a slim 228 pounds. He's just 20, and would likely wait a year or two before coming over from Russia, but would be an intriguing long term project.
Here's what DraftExpress had to say about Klimenko:
Klimenko's biggest appeal as a prospect starts with his very impressive physical tools, which put him in a rare and highly coveted class of big men. He has excellent size, having measured just a hair under 7-feet without shoes in at the adidas EuroCamp in 2012, to go along with a superb 7-4 wingspan and 9-4 standing reach. His frame is underdeveloped at the moment but shows serious promise, as he shouldn't have any issue seemingly topping out at 250-260 pounds with a proper strength and conditioning regimen.
On the downside, Klimenko still appears to be in a relatively early stage of his development, as his basketball IQ is average and he makes some fairly questionable decisions at times on the floor. He isn't a soft player and shows solid activity when he's motivated to impose his will, but he just doesn't have a lot of experience and his motor tends to run hot and cold at times, particularly when he's not getting as many offensive touches as he likes.
He'd be an interesting pick, especially in the second round. Whether it will come to fruition is anyone's guess.