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Rockets NBA Draft Preview: Robert Carter Jr.

With the draft fast approaching, we'e taking a look at some of the players most likely to fall to the Rockets, who own two picks in the second round at 37 and 43. Up today is Maryland's Robert Carter Jr.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland power forward Robert Carter Jr. may still be on the board when the Rockets pick at 37. The 6'9" (in shoes) power forward is slightly undersized from a height perspective (some places even have him listed at just 6'7"), which makes him a perfect target for the Rockets, who have drafted no shortage of undersized fours over the years.

The redshirted junior had a fine season for the Terps this past year, averaging 12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 55.4 percent shooting from the field, including 33.3 percent from downtown (on 76 attempts) and 74 percent from the free throw line. He was particularly effective as a pick-and-pop guy, knocking down 62.9 percent of his two-point shots.

In addition to his smooth shooting stroke, he's also effective with his back to the bucket and has diversified offensive moves, meaning he can spread the floor and work the paint, something the Rockets require out of their power forwards.

Carter also has 7'3" wingspan and, as a result, is an adept rebounder, especially defensively, racking up a 22.7 percent defensive rebounding percentage for his college career, and a fine shot blocker, swatting 1.3 per game in his three NCAA seasons.

He helped lead Maryland to a 27-9 record this past season and a birth in the NCAA tournament, where the Terps beat South Dakota State and Hawaii before losing to a stacked Kansas squad. Unfortunately for Carter, however, the tournament itself popped up one of his red flags.

Carter averaged just 7.3 points per game in the tourney, shooting just 45 percent from the field (a full 10 percent less than his season average) and knocked down just a single shot from deep in Maryland's three games, causing concerns that he shrinks in big games.

He then followed that by showing up overweight to the NBA combine back in May, ballooning up past 250 pounds from his usual playing weight of 235, with a body fat of 12.5 percent. While certainly not a deal-breaker for most teams, it's always a little disconcerting to see a player show up for one of the biggest workouts of their life in less-than-optimum physical condition.

To his credit, however, Carter still posted a good performance, scoring 22 points with 7 rebounds and 4 steals on 8-15 shooting in his first  5-on-5 combine scrimmage, and many scouts felt he ended up helping his draft stock despite the added weight.

As for how he projects, most predictions have the 21-year-old going anywhere from a late first round pick to a mid-second rounder, with early second being the most likely falling point, which has him in play for the Rockets. The most popular NBA comparison being bandied about is Jared Sullinger,  the 6'9", 260-lb power forward for the Boston Celtics. Though Carter is a better natural shooter.

With a team need at power forward and Carter a talented player, don't be surprised if Rockets GM Daryl Morey pounces should he find Carter still available at pick 37. He's far from a sure thing, but with Terrence Jones and Josh Smith likely on their way out and the return of Donatas Motiejunas questionable, Carter would have a chance to pitch in immediately if he opens up his NBA career in Rockets red.

Be sure to check out our previews on Rade Zagorac and Paul Zipser if you haven't already.