The Houston Rockets are the verge of being taken seriously as first tier contenders. Yet, the team is not there, and there are a multitude of reasons why. The Rockets are still very inexperienced at the 4-spot where it starts Terrence Jones.
And the point guard play has been solid, but leaves room for improvement. James Harden alone has a lot of changes to make if Houston is to truly ascend to that elite realm of real contenders.
But the matter here is whether any of these issues can be addressed with the 25th pick in the 2014 NBA draft. This is expected to be an excellent, deep draft, and the Rockets will have a number of options worth exploring with the pick. Here at Space City Scoop we’ll evaluate the top 10 prospects for that pick and briefly consider what each could bring to the team.
Mar 30, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Michigan State Spartans forward Adreian Payne (5) drives to the basket against Connecticut Huskies de Phillip Nolan (0) during the second half in the finals of the east regional of the 2014 NCAA Mens Basketball Championship tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Adreian Payne begins our look at prospects, though it should be noted Payne may be a long shot at the 25th pick. NBADraft.net has Payne going 19th overall to Chicago in its most recent mock draft. The 6’10” power forward from Michigan State brings a lot of attributes that will allow him to flawlessly blend with NBA teams.
Payne is a good shooter and has range out to the three-point line. He’ll function well in stretch-4 offenses. But he can also board and bang inside, and has a strong 245 pound frame. He’s athletic enough to contend in college dunk contests, and he can run the floor in transition.
A potential downside to many GMs is that Payne is already 23 years old, but some teams may see that as an actual positive. Payne is ready to contribute in the NBA now, and the learning curve will likely be quick for a player who has four years of instruction from one of the best coaches in the NCAA in Tom Izzo.
Payne has a 7-foot wingspan and that will help him defend in the post. He’s not a great rim protector, but maybe he could eventually block a few shots or enough to keep second units from constantly attacking the rim while he mans the post.
The Rockets would be fortunate to land Payne at the 25th pick, but the option of making a move to trade up a little in the draft to acquire him has merit, too. He won’t be a typical rookie and his basketball IQ should allow him to start as soon as next season or his second year. Initially, a situation could be envisioned which saw Payne and Terrence Jones split the majority of the time at the 4-spot. Donatas Motiejunas would likely be left out of the rotation.