Who do the mock drafts have the Rockets taking this year?
Every year after the Finals come to a conclusion, our attention turns away from the on-court product and towards the draft. All year, pundits and experts everywhere have been evaluating prospects from the college and international game and publishing mock drafts – this close to draft day, however, these predictions start to resemble reality a bit more accurately. Seeing as this is the case, we figured it would be nice to see what the media is saying about the Rockets’ draft prospects.
Currently, Houston owns the 43rd and 45th picks. However, knowing Daryl Morey, these picks could change in any number of ways. We have no concrete way of knowing what Morey has up his sleeve, so we’ll stick with evaluating our 2nd round prospects for now.
Draft Express – Jonah Bolden
DraftExpress released their latest mock draft this week, and I am very excited about their predictions. To start, they have us selecting Jonah Bolden, a 6’10″(!!!) guard who spent the last season playing for KK FMP, an Adriatic League club based in Belgrade. Bolden, according to Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer, has lottery-level upside and was regularly lauded as a top prospect while in high school. His two seasons at UCLA did not go as planned – he played only 21.7 MPG and shot 42/25/73 from the field. That 25% 3-point percentage is the most alarming, to be sure, but he certainly shows signs of improvement, raising it to 42% while playing in Belgrade.
It is unclear how much of that is due to weakened competition, but it is still quite a sizable increase. Aside from that, his size and length should give him the physical tools to guard multiple positions on defense and will give the coaching staff flexibility when training him to be versatile on both ends.
Draft Express – Sterling Brown
Along with Bolden, DraftExpress also has Houston selecting Sterling Brown out of SMU. While Bolden is certainly the more tantalizing prospect, Brown has me more excited for personal reasons: I share his alma mater, and I’m pretty sure we had a class together at some point. Anyhow, in his 4 seasons at SMU, Brown averaged 50/45/77 shooting splits. Those first three seasons were under coaching legend Larry Brown, who de-emphasized the 3-point shot in favor of a slower pace of play and a more inside-out focus.
His last season, under Tim Jankovich, however, was different. Jankovich changed the way the Mustangs played, emphasizing a more forward thinking small-ball offense without any true positions, while drastically increasing the amount of 3-point shots the team attempted. In his first 3 seasons at SMU, Brown attempted 148 total 3-point shots. In his senior year under Jankovich, he attempted 136 while maintaining a 45% shooting percentage. He averaged 1.5 steals per game while limiting turnovers, as well.
This is all important, as it proves that Brown is capable of playing in a small-ball offense predicated on finding open shots quickly outside of the boundaries of traditional position-centric basketball. As a mid-2nd rounder, I really like this pick for Houston.
CBS Sports – Johnathan Motley
In CBS Sports’s latest mock draft, Houston is projected to select Johnathan Motley and Frank Mason. Motley, a consensus All-American forward out of Baylor, starred in his final season in Waco. He averaged 17 points and almost 10 rebounds a game while shooting 52% from the field. Motley does not have a penchant for taking or making the 3-point shot, but his finishing ability around the basket made life difficult for Baylor’s opponents.
He has the versatility to defend on the perimeter as well as in the post, but we will see how this ability translates at the next level. If he wants to carve out a niche with this Houston team, he will probably have to find his shot from deep or display above replacement-level defensive versatility.
CBS Sports – Frank Mason
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Mason, the consensus National Player of the Year for the 2016-2017 season, projects to go to Houston at 45 by CBS Sports. He averaged 21/5/4 on 49/47/79 shooting during his sparkling 2016-2017 run, but at just 5’11” it is easy to see why he is not as hyped as some other guard prospects in this draft. With his winning pedigree and offensive abilities, however, he could be a steal this late in the draft.
Overall, this draft is an exceedingly deep one. It would be thrilling if we pick up any of the four prospects talked about today – we will find out for sure a week from today!
*All stats via Sports-Reference*