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Rockets NBA Draft Preview: Maryland swingman Jake Layman

The lengthy, athletic forward with shooting range could be a perfect fit for the Rockets who are desperate for two-way players.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - First Round - Spokane Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

With the Rockets looking to bolster their outside shooting and defensive length, Maryland forward Jake Layman could be a potential target in the second round.

He is projected to be selected by the Detroit Pistons with the 49th pick according to DraftExpress’ latest mock draft. The Rockets hold the 37th and 43rd picks.

The 6’9 220 pound specimen averaged 11.7 points per game his senior year at Maryland. His fourth season as a Terp had its highs and lows, but he finished strong by averaging 16 points per game over the last five games, all in the postseason (either conference or NCAA tournament).

Layman is a strong finisher, converting 68% of his attempts at the rim. He does, however, struggle to drive to the cup. Although he can make it from the perimeter to the basket in one dribble, he can be passive offensively and content to chill outside the arc. His passivity is especially frustrating because he showed flashes of elite leaping ability and explosive scoring as a Terp.

As a scorer, Layman primarily launched catch-and-shoot threes. He has a very smooth stroke with a high release and a textbook follow through. At Maryland, Layman was not a focal point of the offense, but when his name was called, he curled off screens and took advantage of smaller defenders in the post.

While he can certainly rain threes, Layman struggles once he puts the ball on the floor. In the NBA, he’ll have a strict three-dribble limit regardless of what team he plays for. He has a tendency to drive with his head down and often misses open teammates on the perimeter. He has lots of room for improvement as a playmaker, but his role in the league will exclusively be "3-and-D."

Defensively, he is a mysterious prospect. He plays the passing lanes well and has a mostly impressive physical profile, but his effort can be questionable at times.

Against most small forwards, he gives up lateral quickness but has a length advantage. Whereas versus opposing power forwards, Layman is more perimeter-oriented but lacks strength. Layman has good hands and instincts and can protect the rim well for his size. The 22 year-old needs to bulk up to play small-ball four in the Association, which will likely be his most effective role (much like Sam Dekker).

A knock on Layman is that he drifted in and out of games. It is unclear if this is part of his DNA or is caused by other factors such as ball-dominant teammates or a possibly inept head coach.

A favorable comparison that Rockets fans will be familiar with is Chandler Parsons. Layman is not quite the driver Parsons is, but they are share a smooth shooting stroke. Layman shot 39.9% from behind the college arc his senior year, a mark Parsons has hovered around for the past four seasons. Layman is more fit to play small-ball power forward, but Parsons is more capable of guarding wings because he is laterally quicker.

For the Rockets, Layman would fit as a stretch-four, small forward hybrid to compete off the bench. His shooting and defensive versatility fit nicely on any team, especially a team hungry for three-point shooting and two-way players.

If he is playing aggressively to his full potential, Layman can be an ideal athletic wing with defensive versatility and range. With that upside, the Rockets should consider selecting him with one of their second round picks.