He may not have heard his named called on draft night, but Houston Rockets’ rookie Kyle Wiltjer is far from a scrub.
Throughout the course of history, the NBA have seen several undrafted players exceed expectations, to become all-stars and some went on to become NBA champions. Ben Wallace, Udonis Haslem, and Jeremy Lin are a few of the most recent players who overcame the odds after going undrafted.
Over the past few years, the Houston Rockets have managed to find several diamonds in the rough who became vital members of their rotation at one time or another. Despite taking Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku and China’s Zhou Qi with their second round picks, the Rockets may have struck gold twice following the draft.
After signing Oregon State’s Gary Payton II, Houston managed to inked Gonzaga’s forward Kyle Wiltjer to a three-year deal. Sure, Wiltjer did not come out of college as an All-American household name, but this Canadian-American basketball player is no scrub.
During his final season at Gonzaga, Wiltjer was one of the most versatile offensive players in collegiate sports. He averaged 20.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.
With his soft shooting touch, Wiltjer has already established himself as one of the upcoming stretch-fours in the league. So running the pick-and-pop alongside James Harden would make the Rockets a tough team to defend.
If defenders decide to double Harden when coming off the pick. It would leave an open Wiltjer to take an easy jump shot. If Houston’s defenders decide not to double off the pick from Wiltjer. We all know how deadly The Beard is when isolated.
While Wiltjer has the potential to help the Rockets on the offensive end, he would be a huge liability defensively. One can argue that his lack of defensive skills and athletic abilities were the primary reasons why Wiltjer went undrafted.
If Wiltjer takes the time to develop into a better defender and increase his athleticism, he has the potential to become the one biggest surprises from the class of 2016. In comparison, Wiltjer’s game is fairly similar to Kevin Love. An offensive gifted big man who can light up the scoreboard on any given night, yet is a liability on the defensive end.
Unless he turns into Dwight Howard or Bismack Biyombo on defense over the summer, I am sure Wiltjer may spend a good portion of his rookie season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the NBA D-League.
However, once he gets accustomed to playing in the big league. Do not be surprised if Wiltjer develops into one of the top stretch-fours and perhaps an All-Star for years to come.
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