Saturday, June 28, 2008

But wait! You also get...

Remember that old Ronco infomercial line? Daryl Morey played Ron Popeil and used his Pocket Fisherman to reel in three picks for one in Thursday's NBA draft.

The opening salvo was to take Nicolas Batum with the 25th pick. Batum is a 6' 8" swingman prodigy from France. He is talented and athletic, but at 19 years old, he is a few years away from being an impact player in the NBA. High risk, high reward - down the road. But the Rockets core is in their prime and the future is now. So Daryl got busy.

He traded Batum to Portland for Darrell Arthur, a 6-9 Sophmore Forward from Kansas. Arthur had dropped from a potential lottery pick to the 27th player taken, ostensibly because of rumors circulating around the league about a possible kidney problem. According to Arthur, it was a moot issue, but his people didn't adequately "get the word out." He was initially selected by New Orleans, then traded to Portland for cash, whence he was traded to Houston for Batum.

But the Rockets never wanted Arthur. Their goal was to trade him to Memphis for the rights to Donte Greene and Joey Dorsey, taken 28th and 33rd respectively, plus a second-round draft choice next year from Memphis. Since Memphis is a young rebuilding team, that choice could be like getting a late first-rounder. Three for one.

Donte Greene is an athletic freshman forward from Syracuse listed by some (including the Rockets) at 6' 11'" but most of the draft gurus say it's more like 6' 9". He has a strong upside, especially for a team that needs backup help at the small forward position. If his attitude is right and he has the mental accuity to match his physical skills, he could learn a lot from Shane Battier and blossom into a serious contributor in the next season or two. But for now, he's young and has some holes in his game. Originally slated by insiders to go anywhere from the lottery to the 20th pick, the Rockets believe they got lucky to acquire him when they did. But teams always say that, don't they?

Joey Dorsey is a banger at the power forward position. Again, listed at 6' 9", he was measured at the combine at only 6' 7". That's still a huge man, but in the NBA trenches, that 2" is a liabilty. The positives are that he is a mature senior from Memphis that could contribute right away. he is a good defender and works hard on the offensive glass. The negatives are that he gets most of his points on put-backs and can't hit a free throw for love nor money. Short, good defender, good rebounder, no offense. Can anyone say Chuck Hayes?

Later in the second round, the Rockets selected Maarty Leunen, a 6' 9" forward from Oregon. Maarty will play overseas for the forseeable future.

As I said in previous posts, I would like to have seen a backup center come our way, but the good ones were gone by the time the Rockets got to play. DeAndre Jordan was still there, but let's just assume there was a good reason for that. He is a project at best and the Rockets knew him pretty well. And, according to Les Alexander, they may not be through dealing. They could still make a trade for a backup big man.

All in all, considering they had only a 25th pick to work with in the first round, the Rockets did very well. They ended up with a 28th, 33rd, and a high second-rounder next year. I was once at a fishing camp with some very drunken anglers. When asked if they had any luck that day, one replied, "Sure! We didn't fall out of the boat or anything!" Success is relative, right Daryl? Good fishing, guys.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Draft Consensus (or lack thereof)

A review of 72 mock drafts on the net shows a great diversity among "experts" as to what the Rocket's needs are, who are the best athletes and who might still be available when the 25th selection rolls around. So without editorial, here are the players that the gurus believe would best suit the team and may still be available (with number of votes):

Robin Lopez, C, Stanford (10)
Nicholas Batum, SF, France (9)
Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG/SF, Memphis (7)
Jason Thompson, PF, Rider (6)
Serge Ibaka, PF, Congo (5)
J.J. Hickson, PF, N.C. State (5)
Alexis Ajinca, C, France (4)
Ryan Anderson, F, Cal (3)
Roy Hibbert, C, Georgetown (3)
Mario Chalmers, PG, Kansas (3)
Ty lawson, PG, North Carolina (3)

There were also six players that received two votes and eight more that received one vote. So altogether, 25 players were named as the Rockets' best available option by 72 prognosticators, with no one player receiving more than 10 votes. That's quite a spread. But there does seem to be a consensus on at least one point. The Rockets need a big man. 55 of the mock drafts reviewed selected either a forward or center, while 7 picked a swingman and only 10 thought a true guard was the best choice.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Here's to the D-League!

I don't know about you, but I like the NBA Developmental League. I have long believed that the NBA needed a minor league system to develop talent. It gives the lower draft choices and free agents a place to stay active and get some seasoning and coaching while they wait for their chance to contribute to an NBA team. Aaron Brooks, Carl Landry and Steve Novak all spent time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last year before finishing the season as important contributors to the Rockets.

Right now, most of the sixteen D-League teams are affiliated with more than one NBA team. I would like to see the D-League expand so that every NBA team has their own farm system. I think it would be good for the league for several reasons.
1. In addition to the drafted players and free agents mentioned above, there are many young players that are just not college material, but have basketball talent. These players have virtually no chance to make the NBA since the new age limits preclude signing with an NBA team until they've been out of high school for a year. The D-League could not only pay these young players a modest salary, but offer them a venue to get noticed by an NBA team - without the risk of having to play with the bigger faster players of the NBA.
2. Assuming the farm team is located near the NBA affiliate city, it would help expand the fan base both for the home team and for the NBA in general.
3. It would serve as a proving ground not only for potentially good players, but also coaches, referees, administrators and any other positions associated with professional sports.
4. If the parent team could keep the young players under contract while assigning them to the minors, there would be a lot more player development going on. Minor league coaches would be true teachers and far less concerned with baby-sitting massive egos and salaries.

Once upon a time, there was the CBA (Continental Basketball Association). They had a long and storied history, having begun in 1946 as the Eastern Pennsylvania Basketball League. Two years later, they were renamed the Eastern Basketball Association and in 1978 became the CBA. For a couple of decades, the CBA was an unofficial version of what the D-League has become, a place to season young players and a source of replacements for when the first line players of an NBA team went down. In 1999, a grand scheme was concocted by Isaah Thomas and a group of investors to buy all of the CBA teams and run the league as a single corporation. Well, it seems as if the New York Knicks are not the only thing Isaah can screw up. The experiment was a dismal failure and the league declared bankruptcy and ceased operations just two years later. Some of the teams merged with the IBL and purchased the assets of the defunct CBA, including the name and logo. So the CBA again exists with eleven teams, some of them in cities I couldn't even find on a map - and I love geography!

So here's my plan. Let the D-League merge with the CBA to create twenty seven teams. Add three more teams and assign one D-League team to each NBA team. Voila! A true farm system.

I tried calling Commissioner Stern to explain my idea. Seems he wasn't taking calls.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Here's the deal with the draft...

It's time for Rockets fans to get realistic. By the 25th pick in the draft, there will be no starters available. Not even any real starter projects. So it seems that the only holes that can be plugged via the draft are with backup players and overall depth.

Fortunately for the Rockets, the biggest hole in their lineup is at backup center and there are a number of college players that could fit that mold. Even if Mutombo can be productive for one more year, they will need one soon anyway. There are a number of "project" centers out there that could back up Yao for several years.

Among the centers that have declared for the draft, only Brook Lopez of Stanford is a consensus top 10 pick. The rest seem to be all over the board on most mock drafts. Most likely, DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M), Kevin Love (UCLA), Kosta Koufos (Ohio State), Marreese Speights (Florida) and Javale McGee (Nevada) will all be gone by the time the Rockets get to pick, but that still leaves some prospects. The downside is that prospects have holes in their game that may or may not be fixable, bit still require first-round money and guarantees.

Some of the rest of the centers likely to be selected in the draft:

Roy Hibbert (Georgetown)
Robin Lopez (Stanford)
Jason Thompson (Rider)
Devon Hardin (California)
Alexis Ajinka (International - France)
Ante Komic (International - Croatia)

I suggest the Rockets bring Dikembe back for one more year (if he's amenable), take the top center remaining and give him a year of seasoning behind the two veterans. It may pay dividends down the road or even sooner if Yao goes down again.