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Media sessions with top Rockets draft candidates

TDS was invited to the NBA Draft media sessions. Here’s what we got.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Semifinals-North Carolina vs Duke Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, NBA fans around the world saw the Golden State Warriors win their fourth championship in seven years, with Stephen Curry finally netting his first NBA Finals MVP. Since then the agendas have been flying everywhere, from Curry’s place in NBA history to Andrew Wiggins’ redemption story to even Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Curry being viewed as the best core ever.

We all know there are Houston Rockets fans that are willing to stand on a soapbox and evoke the spirit of “The Chappelle Show” character Buc Nasty to spew the gospel known as the ‘truth’. However, those fans must stay focused on the more important things. We may not have won a gold trophy in which its manufacturing process is bad for the environment, but none of it matters because today is draft day.

Unless you’ve been doing your best Patrick Star impersonation and living under a rock, you know the Rockets have the third overall draft pick, along with the 17th pick and most recently the 26th pick after General Manager Rafeal Stone shipped Scottie Pippen’s doppelganger Christian Wood to the division rival Dallas Mavericks.

So many draft picks, so many decisions, and so little time. What should the Rockets do? Houston can easily package all their picks to get their guy (I wouldn’t do it), they can stand pat and pick what’s left of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic choices at the top, and stay the course with picks 17 and 26, or the organization can pick at three and package picks 17 and 26 to move up in the draft.

With that being said, I did attend NBA Pre-Draft Media Availability, I can let you in a few details on these future pros. Here are the players I saw during media sessions.

Jabari Smith

FG% 43 | 3P% 42 | FT% 80 | REB 7 | AST 2 | BLK 1| STL 1| PF 2 | TO 2 | PPG 17

[Worked out w/ ORL, OKC]

{SB Nation draft projection - 1, Tankathon draft projection - 1}

Let me be quick and painless. Jabari Gang, this man is not coming to Houston, Texas. The moment the man said in his interview that he only worked out with Orlando and Oklahoma City, I knew “the streets were done”. Things got worse once he added to the statement “I don’t see myself falling below the second pick.” But, hey, I’ve seen weirder things happen, especially with all the new, late rumors about Paolo Banchero shooting up.

Chet Holmgren

FG% 61 | 3P% 39 | FT%72 | REB 10 | AST 2 | BLK 4 | STL 1 | PF 3 | TO 2 | PPG 14

[Worked out w/ OKC, undisclosed teams]

{SB Nation draft projection - 2, Tankathon draft projection - 2}

The unicorn big man out of Gonzaga had swarms of people lining up to ask him questions and with good reason too, despite the fact he’s a lock to go top 2 in this draft according to most draft experts. He hasn’t distinctly ruled out playing for other teams as he claims “I’ve had workouts with many teams however, I will not disclose those teams at this time.” But with the recent rumors that he kept his medical reports from some teams and could fall in the draft, you never know.

During his interviews Chet has made claims that he’s put a lot of emphasis on building his body in the weight room, while working on his basketball skills, most notably his ball handling, jump shooting, and lateral movement to be able to guard in space.

Regardless on where he’s drafted he’ll be a great, even if it’s not the Rockets.

Paolo Banchero

FG% 48| 3P% 34 | FT%73 | REB8 | AST3 | BLK 1| STL1 | PF 2 | TO 2 | PPG 17

[Worked out w/ Houston]

{SB Nation draft projections - 3, Tankathon draft projection - 3}

Banchero has reportedly flown up the Vegas rankings and is now the betting favorite to go first overall, so this a situation in flux, but ever since the Rockets were rewarded with pick three in the draft for their epic tank job, the do-it-all big from Duke has been rumored to be selected at the third pick.

During the draft interview Paolo was very complimentary of Houston, noting that the backcourt of Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. “are extremely skilled and talented players, both are unselfish, and want to win.”

Banchero also praised Coach Stephen Silas for his play calling and would be excited to play for him. He even gave the organization a ringing endorsement saying that they have a “good situation they’re building” and “If they added me to be a part of it, it would be a blessing.”

The amount of pleasantries that were dished out by Paolo was enough to make members of the Banchero Bus ascend to the heavens.

What stood out in the interview was Paolo’s calm and friendly demeanor but competitive spirit. The Duke wing would give detailed explanations to all the questions he was asked, and even declared he was the best player in the draft as he stated, “I showed it throughout the year with my skill set, my craft and intangibles.”

Despite the Vegas sitch, I can still see Banchero in a red jersey this fall.

Tari Eason

FG% 52 | 3P% 36 | FT% 80 | REB 7 | AST 1 | BLK 1 | STL 2 | TO 2 | PF 3 | PTS 17

[Worked out w/ Houston, OKC, Cleveland, San Antonio, Charlotte, Minnesota, Atlanta, New York, Washington, Memphis, Chicago]

{SB Nation draft projections - 10, Tankathon draft projection - 15}

The LSU wing Tari Eason is a prospect that many Rockets fans have set their eyes on with later picks in the draft, and I don’t blame them.

Much is made of his funky jumpshot, lack of ball handling, and bad decision making, but his defensive motor is just ridiculous. When you think about his efficiency this season paired with the fact he was the leading scorer for the team, you’ll forget about his flaws real quick.

During Eason’s media availability, he made it known that he can see himself as a “three-and-D versatile guy who defends multiple positions,” citing Lebron James and Paul George as his inspirations. When asked about his workout with the Rockets, he made it known that “it went pretty well” and saw his fit as a wing defender who could play small ball center harkening back to the days of the Chuckwagon lineup.

Tari has made it known that he’s been working on his flaws during this offseason, which may have shown with his workout with the New York Knicks. Stating that his Knicks workout was the best, with New York reps claiming he “had a level of dominance” in the workout.

I don’t know if he’ll be available at pick 17, especially when he worked out for what he claims to be 12 teams. However, it’s reassuring that Rockets have interest. Don’t forget Tari has the Seattle, Washington connection, so who knows, something could happen.

Ousmane Dieng

FG% 40 | 3P% 27 | FT% 67 | REB 3 | AST1 | BLK 0.3 | STL 0.6 | TO1 | PF 2 | PPG 9

[worked out w/ undisclosed teams]

{SB Nation draft projection - 17, Tankathon draft projection - 8}

The 6’10” playmaking wing out of Australia is an intriguing prospect, as his measurables combined with his graceful finesse has scouts drooling. He wasn’t a great shooter at the beginning of the season. However, he got better towards the end of his campaign with the New Zealand Breakers.

When reflecting on how he overcame the challenges, he simply said he had “work(ed) on my game, while focusing on what I could control” while claiming the competition in the NBL is “quicker and bigger, and more physical.”

I know you’re wondering, “did he meet with the Rockets though?” That I don’t know. When approached about the topic, he responded with “I cannot answer this question.”

He did give a little nugget to make fans believe he could come here. When asked about his fit in Houston, he said, “I can fit in with any team because of my versatility,” citing his skillset of length and court vision will translate immediately at the NBA level.

It’s not much, but it’s something. If fans want him that badly, they need to pray to the Jerry West NBA logo and the rest of the basketball gods, to allow Stone to trade up for him.

MarJon Beauchamp

FG% 57 | 3P% 24 | FT% 65 | REB 7 | AST 3 | BLK 0.6 | STL 2 | TO 2 | PF 2 | PPG 15

[Worked out w/ Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis, NOLA, Charlotte, Wizards, Knicks, Rockets, Spurs, OKC, Cavs]

{SB Nation draft projection - 26, Tankathon draft projection - 24}

MarJon Beauchamp is a slashing forward who hopes to carry the G-League Ignite lineage like Houston Rockets First All Team All-Rookie Jalen Green. Beauchamp confirmed his workouts with the Rockets and commented on how his fit with Jalen on fast breaks as it “would look crazy on that end with me and Jalen Green with all the bounce.”

Although he mentioned his transition potential with the team, he didn’t forget that his defense can be impactful as well. MarJon mentioned that his 7’1” wingspan can be an asset, that he can be expected to provide that “spark” that Houston was missing while guarding the best players.

A lot can be said about his dreadful shooting in the G-League, but according to Beauchamp, he’s been working on that. During his interview, he mentioned both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks have been impressed, apparently a Cavs representative told Marjon his shot “looked better than the G-League”.

If this is true, Marjon Beauchamp will be a steal in the NBA draft.