Listen, when draft season nears, Daryl Morey doesn't make it difficult.
Have you played two or more years of college basketball? Great.
Do you shoot free throws particularly well? No? Who cares.
Were you statistically productive in school and not some lazy project whose talent was "still waiting to arrive?" Great.
Do you play a position that we desperately need? Doesn't matter.
Nothing changes. That's the blueprint every year. Thus, enter Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell, two experienced, productive players who went a few picks later than their projected slots because thank goodness the Celtics really liked Terry Rozier.
See, the Rockets have the freedom to be able to avoid "project" players in the draft and that is a great thing to be able to say. For every line drive Morey hits in the draft, he'll save a home run swing for the free agent market or the trade deadline. That leaves him with the ability to take solid players that can make a difference quickly. The difference this year is that both selections -- particularly Dekker -- could turn out to be home runs all the same.
My thoughts on each:
Dekker at pick No. 18 is excellent value as is, and even better when you apply his talents to Houston's system and consider the Rockets' history drafting players like him. Look, I have a unique disdain for making comparisons using the highly scientific Man-Who-Looks-Kind-Of-Like-Other-Guy but looking at the tape, there's a lot more Chandler Parsons in Dekker's game than I thought -- and in a good way.
Unlike Parsons, Dekker was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, and unlike many five-star recruits, he spent three seasons learning the game under Bo Ryan at Wisconsin. There's something to be said for a non-point guard five-star who can live up to his potential in a way that isn't overtly selfish. He'll take the big shots but he'll also move the ball when needed, and while he isn't the passer that Parsons was coming out of college, Dekker's versatility on both ends of the floor is certainly reminiscent of the former Florida Gator.
What's to like? He attacks in transition with a good handle. He's a versatile defender who can likely guard 3 different positions (what's a "position" again?). He's a better athlete than he showed in school, he attacks the offensive glass and he comes from a winning program where he played a major role. Sounds a lot like Parsons, huh? In fact, the two are even more similar when you consider their shooting strokes.
Like Parsons, Dekker's free-throw shot isn't great (around 69 percent... nice) and his three-point shot doesn't seem as convincing as those of more proven shooters. But look what the Rockets did with Chandler's shot, or Kyle Lowry's shot. There's room for growth -- and with Dekker, there's not as much growth necessary. The dude was hitting stepback three's in the NCAA Tournament, where he put on a show.
Overall, he's already a solid player who doesn't need to be great yet and that's the best thing going for him. And as much as I compared him with Parsons, if Dekker proves to be more like Corey Brewer after some development, the Rockets will have stolen a gem.
Of all the undersized forwards the Rockets have brought in under Daryl Morey, Montrezl Harrell might be the least undersized forwardish. There's no "well, for an undersized forward, ____" preceding his scouting report. He has a chance to out-run, out-muscle and show out his taller opponents, and he couldn't be going to a better situation when considering his primary talents. The Rockets love transition basketball and it's what Harrell does best. He's a lob-catching, floor-sprinting machine. He also has the most dunks in Louisville history, further proving future teammate (?) Joey Dorsey did not go to Louisville.
There are more holes to Harrell's game than what I've seen with Dekker, to be sure. He doesn't have much offensive polish and his defensive rebounding leaves something to be desired. But there's enough of a foundation in both those areas to think he can improve with some coaching. He recently added a 15-foot jumper and actually used it to good results this past season. His stats weren't an accident -- 16 points per game, especially in the college game, is nothing to scoff at. The man knows how to use his strengths to score.
Most importantly, I love what Harrell brings from an energy perspective. Look what Draymond Green did to Golden State this season, from a morale standpoint. As talented as he is, you remember him for that unapologetically ratchet attitude on the floor that got inside opponents' heads and pumped his teammates full of adrenaline. Harrell could provide the Rockets with a consistent adrenaline boost, and when you can find a player who does that without totally sucking at everything else, that's a good sign.
Scattered Draft Thoughts
-Justise Winslow to Miami is a crime. Smart, supremely talented player whose NCAA tournament performance apparently didn't shine as bright as Stanley Johnson's, um, sneakers.
-On that note, SURPRISE! The Pistons and Kings made questionable first round picks considering the other available names on the board! The world continues to spin!
-The top five picks all made sense. Towns is a no-brainer; Russell frees up the Lakers to spend on free agent bigs; Okafor is BPA and when you're as bad as the Sixers, you draft BPA; Porzingis is the triangle fit that Emmanuel Mudiay would never be; and Hezonja is the shooter Orlando desperately needed. Seriously, watch out for the Magic in a few years.
-Frank Kaminsky to Charlotte means we're going to hear a lot less about Frank Kaminsky, and that's a shame.
-Utah is quietly building a giant. Trey Lyles appears to be the latest Kentucky Wildcat whose production didn't match his talent.
-Everyone in the 20s is going to kick themselves for letting Kevon Looney fall to the defending champs.
The Rockets didn't take a point guard, but did they need to? Not when the two players they wound up drafting were available. On a team like this, you sign or trade for need, but you draft for ability. We'll see what the Rockets can muster up on the point guard front (yes, Llull would be the perfect solution) but for now, they've added two exciting players who can help immediately and in many different ways. That makes the point guard worry -- if it's THAT worrisome -- subside quite a bit.
The only question now: What happens to those select Rockets currently standing in the way? Stay tuned.