The Rockets had two second round and no first round picks in the 2016 NBA draft, but came away with three great prospects.
The Houston Rockets could have had a much better situation in the 2016 draft had they not made the playoffs this past season. The Ty Lawson trade required the Rockets to give their first round pick to the Denver Nuggets, unless it was a lottery pick. There was a strong push by much of Red Nation to tank during the last week of the season in order to guarantee a lottery pick for Houston, but alas it did not happen and the Rockets traded a first round draft pick for an opportunity to get destroyed by the Finals runner-up Golden State Warriors in the playoffs.
However, Daryl Morey and company made good work of their two picks, drafting two solid big men in Chinanu Onuaku from Louisville and Zhou Qi from the Chinese Basketball Association. Additionally, the Rockets inked a three year contract with gutsy point guard Gary Payton II just moments after the draft ended, along with signing Kyle Wiltjer and Isaiah Taylor to non-guaranteed contracts.
Houston Rockets news and notes from around the web
Aaron Reiss of the Houston Chronicle provided a helpful get-to-know-you post on Onuaku, including a name pronunciation guide and insight as to how his recent heart surgery moved him down in the draft, allowing the Rockets to get what could be one of the best steals from the entire draft.
"The hack-a-poor-free-throw-shooter strategy is becoming ever more common in the NBA, and Onuaku, a poor foul shooter, has sacrificed coolness in hopes of not becoming teams’ next intentional foul target. He shoots his free throws underhanded, “granny style.” He began practicing the shooting style at the end of his freshman season, but he didn’t show it in a college game until his sophomore year. His free throw percentage improved from 47 to 59."
Space City Scoop’s Andre Cantalogo analyzed the Rockets’ decision to draft Qi, a risky move considering the fact that the big man is committed to playing in China for at least one more season. His buyout with the CBA is set for 2017, but he could need more time to develop in the less competitive league overseas.
Not taking anything away from a player that averaged 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and a other worldly FG% but Zhou Qi still needs to add a lot of bulk to his frame, grow up as a player, focus on his nutrition before thinking of getting to the league.
Nevertheless Zhou Qi does possess some intriguing skills. He has a soft touch near the rim, a great mid-range game, excellent hands and is incredibly mobile for his size.
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Ethan Rotstein of The Dream Shake posted an update on the Rockets signing the undrafted Payton II, a player who has been compared on multiple occasions to current Houston point guard Patrick Beverley. Payton II will have the perfect mentor in Beverley considering their similar play styles and demeanors.
Unless the Rockets sign a free agent point guard, Payton will be called on to play. Considering most people think Conley either stays in Memphis or goes to San Antonio, he’s a long shot. Jeremy Lin (regrettably) makes a ton of sense for this team. But he doesn’t have the physical tools GPII does.
Payton can’t really shoot that well, but that’s a skill that can be learned. The Rockets really just need bodies at point guard right now, and Payton certainly fits the bill.
It’s unclear as to how much playing time the five new recruits will get next season, but the Rockets did a great job making the best of their lowly situation going into the draft.
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