Honestly, when the Rockets first round pick was announced Thursday night, I was floored. Couldn't understand it at all. Josh McRoberts, Glen Davis and Tiago Splitter -- all power forwards -- were on the board and the Rockets only four is a 6-foot-5 free agent.
So once again, it didn't feel like the Rockets got maximum value out of the pick, as one member of the media Thursday said, "I actually thought Brooks would be a great pick for the Rockets ... at 54"
But over time, and even moreso this morning, I've softened on that stance. Obviously the Rockets weren't going to fill the starting power forward role in the draft, so they didn't have to take a big (though it seemed likely). They also didn't like McRoberts, Davis or Nick Fazekas (who a couple of sports writers told me they expected to be the pick when #26 was on the clock). They passed on all of them twice.
They did like Brooks -- enough to guarantee him a 4-year deal. It brought back memories of 2005 when the Rockets took Luther Head over my pick, Wayne Simien. So as far as recognizing talent in this draft, the Rockets scouting department is going to know significantly more than some sports writer's mock draft.
What I still don't understand however is the Rockets taking a player at that position (point guard) and at that size (under 6-feet) given their current roster makeup. Currently the Rockets have Mike James and Rafer Alston taking the majority of the minutes with another mouse, John Lucas III, and the homesick Vassilis Spanoulis also under contract. Head also played some backup point guard last year.
But the Rockets are clearly trying to change their style.
Starting with when Rockets Director of Scouting Dean Cooper came down shortly after #26 to confirm they were keeping this pick, the Rockets have focused continuously on the changing NBA and speed. They stressed the need to get quicker and to get faster.
"We like his speed, which in today's NBA we know works," said Cooper.
"Especially with the rule changes in the league he brings a speed and a quickness," said Rockets GM Daryl Morey. "Guys who can shoot and then also have the quickness of him are really nearly unguardable in the league right now."
I half expected Burgess Meredith to bust through the press room doors barking, "We need speed. Speed's what we need. Greasy, fast speed!" These apparently aren't your Jeff Van Gundy Rockets anymore.
|WE GOT SPEED!
So the big question left to be answered -- who is gone? I thought Morey might allude to the Rockets already having a deal in place that could be done at a later date, which could mean that taking a smaller point guard made some roster sense, but the Rockets GM didn't give up much.
"There will be competition for minutes," said Morey. "We'll have to reconcile the roster over the summer."
I think it's safe to say that Lucas III will be dealt. His skills seem to have been duplicated here after adding Brooks. Luther, given his potential value as a trade asset (young, cheap contract, productive NBA player), is a good bet to be moved as well.
It's certainly possible for the Rockets to carry 4 point guards, but more likely it will boil down to Alston vs. Spanoulis as to who will be the odd man out in roster changes.
After the late-night interview with Morey was over, the Rockets GM made a comment about how they were fortunate to be able to get a couple of second round picks after not having their own from the Mike James trade a few years back.
A member of the media quipped that he could always go back and get Reece Gaines (who was traded along with two second rounders to get James at that time).
Morey, with a straight face, said, "Yeah, well, we do need a big point guard. We need six."
Lost in the shuffle of the shocking pick at 26 was the fact that the Rockets stole the first pick of the second round, #31, from Seattle.
As deep as this draft was touted to be, it was very surprising that the Rockets could acquire acquire a top second rounder for a pick that is likely to be in the 50's next year and a wad of cash from Les' China vault.
|Carl Landry, seen here against lottery pick Corey Brewer in a workout for the Bucks, has some beef and a good motor
Landry was a bit of a surprise to me, given that Big Baby was on the board, but the Purdue product has great strength, very good offensive skills and can post up. Landry's agent, Buddy Baker, insists that height isn't an issue.
"People kept talking about him being undersized," said Baker. "He keeps measuring 6-9, he's 250 pounds. He tests off the charts athletically."
Landry was not surprised by being picked where he was.
"I had a good four days in Orlando," said Landry, referring to the NBA pre-draft camp in Florida. "After the testing, they ranked me the fifth best athlete down there. I didn't do anything to hurt my chances. I had some great workouts, and I'm one of those players that is going to continue to get better. I've been doing that since Day 1, since the first time I picked up a basketball. Houston knows that. I will do the things I'm asked to do."
I was definitely outmatched in technology Thursday night. Terrible decision not to bring a laptop. If there's an "again", that won't happen again. Still, we were able to break the bigger news of the day on the BBS -- including when the Rockets relayed to us that they would be keeping Aaron Brooks, that they had acquired the 31st pick and that the Rockets had a deal in place in the early 20's (but it fell through) -- all through the magic of 1800's-style morse code and signal fires. As soon as I got updates I would relay to Jeff Balke (and to my wife when Jeff was unavailable) and they were a huge help in getting the news out.
Contacting my wife for Rockets news was a challenge though. When I said "Morey" I think she thought I was referring to Povich and I didn't really have the heart to mention a "power forward problem" because there's a good chance she thinks Charles Barkley is still a Rocket.
Two words: Casual fan.