2016 Houston Rockets Draft Prospects Series: Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Tyler Ulis (3) celebrates after a three-pointer as teammates on the bench cheer in the second half against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Kentucky won 85-59. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Tyler Ulis (3) celebrates after a three-pointer as teammates on the bench cheer in the second half against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the SEC tournament at Bridgestone Arena. Kentucky won 85-59. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

The Houston Rockets enter the upcoming 2016 NBA Draft without a top draft pick by virtue of making the post season. Unfettered the Rockets still hope to nab a star prospect with the potential to effect immediate results.  Over the next month SCS will look at the draft prospects with a view to team fit and what moves would need to occur to get that pick.

Draft Prospect: Kentucky’s Point Guard Tyler Ulis

After trying out a few different point guard scenarios this season, the Houston Rockets will more than likely look to the draft for their next guard. After previewing LSU’s forward Ben Simmons in last week’s Prospect Profile, let’s look at another well known name in Kentucky’s sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis.

Unlike most Kentucky Wildcats under Coach John Calipari, Ulis decided to pass up on the 2015 Draft after his freshman year in hopes of upping his draft stock for 2016. He was able to be a leader and put a very young team on his shoulders all season long which should practically guarantee him a spot in this year’s draft.

Now the question is, will he be around long enough in the draft for the Rockets to scoop him up?

The Skills

At only 5’9, Ulis is obviously at a disadvantage, but just like smaller guards Chris Paul and Isaiah Thomas he plays his own game and doesn’t try to be something he isn’t. Ulis was born to be a floor general, he directs his team and knows how to get teammates open shots. He is a master with the ball, averaging only 2 turnovers in each of his 35 games this season.

In his sophomore season he averaged 7.0 assists a game in his 37 minutes per outing; however that wasn’t his biggest statistical jump from his freshman to sophomore year, Ulis brought his scoring average up from 5.6 PPG to 17.3. A large increase although he wasn’t sitting behind the Harrison twins this past year.

He has a lot of great games, but his best of the season came against South Carolina on February 13th where he scored 27 points and had 12 assists. Only in five games did he have under 10 points, he had eight double-doubles this season and was only 2 assists shy of a triple-double in a loss to Auburn in January.

Anyone that seems to have a problem with Ulis usually brings up the fact that he is only 160-pounds soaking wet and it’ll be hard for him to play defense at the next level? They aren’t wrong. Ulis will need to gain a lot more body mass and learn how to bang with guards like Russell Westbrook and John Wall.

The sophomore isn’t terrible at defense as he notched 1.5 steals a game and was the 2015-2016 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, just needs to be a bit more bulky and aggressive on that end of the court.

Honors and Awards

Bob Cousy Award (2016)Consensus NCAA All-American (2016)SEC Player of the Year (2016)SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2016)First Team All-SEC (2016)SEC All-Freshman Team (2015)McDonald’s All-American (2014)

The Fit

Between the Ty Lawson experiment not working out, Jason Terry’s contract being up and Andrew Goudelock on the end of the bench, the Rockets will need to bolster their back-court. Rockets fans and even the front office seem to love Pat Beverley for good reason, but it’s obvious that there needs to be some type of offensive production from that spot.

Even if it just means bringing Ulis in to create better shots for James Harden and other players at least he is a solid play-maker. Houston can’t expect this young talent to come in a drop 15 points and 8 assists a game, but if he can control the offense and get the team on the right track then he’s done his job.

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Ulis may not be the vocal leader that Houston needs ASAP, but being in the role he was last year could translate a bit easier once he enters the league. Who knows, it may even get former Wildcat Terrence Jones more involved if he stays in a Rockets jersey this off-season?

Final Thoughts

Tyler Ulis is a fantastic player, he has been a household basketball name since high school and I do believe he is as ready as he will be for the NBA. He won’t grow much taller, may not be the strongest guy on the court, but when his body fails him he knows his mind will help him make the right plays at all times.

The last two guards the Rockets have drafted, Isaiah Canaan and Nick Johnson, never quite worked out for the team as they were both traded away. After taking two forwards in last year’s draft, a point guard has to be at the top of the priorities list for GM Daryl Morey and the Rockets.

Feb 2, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Tyler Ulis (3) shoots a three pointer against Tennessee Volunteers guard Devon Baulkman (34) during the first half at Thompson-Boling Arena. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

There will be more athletic guards throughout the draft, but do the Rockets need a player like that or someone that can control the pace of the game? If Houston can slow the game down just a bit and limit the amount of times they have to play defense then they will probably come out of next year with more than 41 wins. Ulis is a proven winner and will be a substantial pick for whichever team decides to draft him.

Next: Did Michael Beasley Get the Rockets to the Post-Season?

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