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NBA Draft: Sports Illustrated projects Rockets to pick Frank Mason

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With their other selection, SI says they’ll take Sterling Brown

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets have a long history of, unlike other teams, producing second-round picks that actually contribute to their team (albeit not so much in the playoffs). So even in another year where they do not control a first-round pick, the Rockets have two chances to pick players who factor into their near-term future.

Sports Illustrated released a two-round mock draft — not enough places do this, because it’s hard and time-consuming, but it is always appreciated — and have the Rockets taking two productive college seniors: Sterling Brown from SMU and Frank Mason from Kansas.

43. Houston Rockets: Sterling Brown, G/F, SMU | Senior

The Rockets, in particular, can always use multitalented shooters, and Brown feels like a perfect fit. As second-rounders go, he feels like a safe bet to become a contributor somewhere.

45. Houston Rockets: Frank Mason, PG, Kansas | Senior

The experience and hard-working mentality Mason brings could have appeal for the Rockets. His shooting ability would allow him to play on or off the ball.

Daryl Morey is an exceptionally shrewd drafter, which is why when he gets second-round picks, he usually uses them on college seniors or foreign players. His additions over the last few years: Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer, Zhou Qi, Nick Johnson, Isaiah Canaan and Furkan Aldemir. The consistency of this pattern is kind of incredible.

Chinanu Onuaku last year was the first Rockets draft pick to not have spent three years in college, or come from a foreign country, since the Terrence Jones, Royce White and Jeremy Lamb debacle. Go figure.

It’s no surprise, then, that the Rockets are again connected to two four-year college players, especially ones viewed as NBA-ready without much upside. Frank Mason is a dead-eye shooter (above 47 percent from the college three last year) and floor general, the kind of guy they have been trying to scrounge for years.

Among those efforts: Canaan, Tyler Ennis, Gary Payton II, Pablo Prigioni, Jason Terry and current iterations Isaiah Taylor and Bobby Brown. Morey doesn’t like to spend for third point guards.

Mason would be an excellent choice, and Brown would be easy to jettison to create the room on the roster. This is the kind of guy that could get some early-season minutes if something happens to Patrick Beverley. He was electric at Kansas, no easy feat, and seems like one of those rare rookies, in the Sam Cassell mode, that would not be intimidated if pressed into playoff action.

I know less about Sterling Brown. Certainly, I know less than SB Nation hoops writer J.Z. Mazlish, who wrote this about the SMU wing in a piece titled “Sterling Brown is the NBA Draft sleeper you want your team to take”:

The Mustangs play a motion and pass-heavy style that encourages all five players to get involved. No one dominates the ball. Semi Ojeleye played the role of finisher most often, but Brown was the key to the whole team with his ability to both score efficiently himself and create for others. He averaged over three assists per 40 minutes each of his last three NCAA seasons and even brought the ball up some for SMU.

No, Brown is not going to be a primary or even secondary creator at the NBA level. But his ability to pass the ball and play within the offense will allow him to bring value even in a minor offensive role.

Some of the most valuable role-playing wings in NBA history know how to be selective and not dominate the ball. Guys like Shane Battier, Robert Horry, or even Jared Dudley, have been successful NBA offensive players precisely because they can shoot, make good decisions with the ball, and don't stray from their comfort zone.

It would be optimistic to expect Brown to be as good as any of those guys. Nonetheless, his profile suggests he could play a similar role. His combination of defensive ability and offensive aptitude is exactly what the NBA has missed on recently.

All sorts of teams would love to have Brogdon, McCaw, Richardson, Powell, and Johnson on their teams. Brown is exactly the kind of sleeper that can join that list.

Sounds pretty good to me.