25th overall pick: PF Clint Capela from Switzerland
42nd overall pick: SG Nick Johnson (Arizona Wildcats)
53rd overall pick: SG/SF Alessandro Gentile from Italy (pick was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves)
The Rockets are somewhat in flux as they try to juggle cap space and try to woo LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. But neither LeBron nor Carmelo want to go to the Western Conference, which is significantly stronger than the Eastern Conference. It’s exponentially easier to get to the NBA finals in the East than in the West, and both LeBron and Carmelo recognize that.
All of that means there is a good chance that Capela stays in Europe for at least a year, even though he is a tough defender and rebounder and people have compared him to Serge Ibaka. The 6-foot-11 Capela does need to work on becoming more versatile on the offensive end, but he’ll be able to work on that while he more than likely plays overseas.
Johnson was fun to watch at Arizona, and he’s a solid scorer. Even though he’s really a two guard, he could learn to play the point. The Rockets needed a replacement for Jordan Hamilton after the Denver Nuggets acquired him before the trade deadline, and Johnson essentially fills the same role. It is also highly likely that the Rockets unload Jeremy Lin. Lin signed a three-year, $25 million deal where he made $5 million each of the first two years and is set to make $15 million this season. If (really when) Lin is out of Houston, it won’t matter that Houston put up a billboard of Carmelo in a Rockets uniform bearing the No. 7, which is Carmelo’s number in New York. Seven also happens to be Lin’s number in Houston. It shouldn’t even matter right now; the Rockets are just doing what they can to try to convince Carmelo to sign with them. It also means that Johnson could crack the rotation this season in Houston and produce for the Rockets even though he’s undersized at 6-foot-3.
Gentile has some raw offensive ability, but he needs to improve on defense and his jumper needs some work. He is not quite ready for the NBA, but he could be effective in the future.
The Rockets may not have selected any players who could immediately make an impact (although Johnson has a shot), but they managed to nab three very sound prospects and kept potential cap space available. They also somehow managed to receive a first-round pick from the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Omer Asik. Well done, Houston, well done indeed.
Draft grade: A-