Mock Draft Madness
Among the experts, there is little doubt the Rockets will select Yao Ming with the top overall selection in the draft.
June 14 - According to the experts, it's a slam dunk the Rockets will make Yao Ming the No. 1 pick in the June 26 NBA draft. But what about the No. 15 pick the Rockets also possess? There is a variety of opinion as to which players will be on the board when it's time for the Rockets to make their selection. We took a quick peek at eight nationally-known web sites to find out who they believe Houston will grab in this year's draft. The following are their picks and comments.
1. Yao Ming. The obvious pick. Unless they don't have firm agreements from Ming's people in China that they can really have him, in which case they'd fill their need at small forward by taking Mike Dunleavy, Caron Butler or Qyntel Woods. An outside possibility is that the Rockets take Jay Williams, for the sole purpose of trading him down a few spots to take one of said forwards.
15. Jared Jeffries. Jeffries should go higher than this, especially since he's gained weight and looking stronger. If Milwaukee thinks he's a legit power forward, they may grab him at 13. Houston could take Jeffries, play him with Eddie Griffin, and have some great young tweeners to cause problems for everybody.
1. Ming. High-ranking Houston officials, and we're talking government leaders here, have visited China on recruitment missions in efforts to sell their city to Yao and Chinese leaders. His arrival in the NBA is becoming a greater issue than it should be, and you have to wonder how the rookie will deal with the added pressure.
15. Bostjan Nachbar. The Rockets get this pick as part of the Hakeem Olajuwon deal and use it to acquire another international star. Nachbar, a talented Slovenian who is a club teammate of Tskitishvili in Italy, is considered one of the finest offensive players in Europe. The versatile swingman is touted as a Peja Stojakovic clone.
The Skinny: The surprise winners of the lottery have a real need for a center and a center will be available at the No. 1 position. If it were strictly a basketball decision, the Rockets would already have a uniform ready for Chinese big man Yao Ming. But it's not. There's a lot of red (pardon the pun) tape to be unraveled and we already know Yao is unlikely to be available to any NBA team until after training camp has opened. Houston has to decide if the wait and the hassle are worth it. China wants this guy in the NBA. What better place for him than on a team with a great backcourt? There is a chance the Rockets could move the pick and, in so doing, try to resolve their power-forward logjam. They've either got to do that or try and make Eddie Griffin a small forward because Mo Taylor and Kenny Thomas are both four-men.
Houston also has the Raptors' No. 1 pick as well. Having already picked much higher, probably at No. 1 and probably Yao Ming, the Rockets are playing with house money at 15. Are they satisfied with the backup point guard situation, especially with Steve Francis' injury/headache history? Do they see their power forwards as most others see them, as power forwards in name only? Most likely, Rudy T and henchman Carroll Dawson will go whoever remains at the top of their board. It has no real marquee free agents (Kevin Willis, Walt Williams) and, with a new arena on the way, would be well advised to make a splash.
1. Ming. The Rockets are in China trying to seal a deal with Yao. They need assurances that he won't get pulled away during the season for lesser-known global events. The plan is to get this done within the next two weeks. The Rockets have said they won't wait until the last minute to get a deal done. If they can't work it out then the Rockets will look at Duke's Mike Dunleavy with the top pick or trade the Yao sweepstakes to someone else.
15. Nachbar. What the Rockets do at No. 1 will obviously dictate what occurs at No. 15. Houston wants a big man (Yao) and a three-man, and the best one on the board would be Nachbar. If they were to take Dunleavy at the top of the draft then they could be interested in a big man that would drop. If for some odd reason a player like Borchardt plummeted, or Hilario, then the Rockets would be all over one of the two. This is too high for Jason Jennings of Arkansas State. Melvin Ely wouldn't be a reach but he's much more of a power forward than a center.
1. Ming. The Rockets may end up trading the pick, but Chinese import is the best big man in the draft and Houston needs size in its frontcourt.
15. Melvin Ely. The Rockets can't get enough frontcourt help, and Ely's 23 points and nine boards per game for Fresno State are attractive.
1. Ming. Combination of size, athleticism, shooting and marketability make him irresistible.
15. Kareem Rush. Solid offensively, with range. Streakiness made his stock drop, but could be a steal here. Rockets need a 3, but not many available at this point.
1. Ming. If they keep this pick, this is the only guy they will consider selecting.
15. Marcus Haislip. Teams have discovered he's shorter than the 6-10 he was listed at in Vols' media guide.
1. Ming. The big fella's just too big to pass up for the Rockets, Chinese government baggage included. Yes, he's obviously a project, but even if he just stands there with his arms up, Ming's an instant presence in the paint. The international attention and money-making possibilities of adding a true international superstar are probably worth the political headaches.
15. Nachbar. With Glen Rice's future in question, the Rockets turn to Boki to be their deadeye marksman. Nochbar has a few years of international experience on the highest level, making this an all-foreign draft for Clutch City.
1. Ming. The Rockets biggest weakness is in the middle, and Yao could be the medicine that would cure Houstons woes. Best of all, he wouldnt have a lot of pressure on him to make an immediate impact because of Steve Francis and the return of Maurice Taylor from injury, both of whom will be the top options on offense. Yaos size would mean a lot, especially in the Western Conference where top centers roam on an almost nightly basis. The other option is for the Rockets to trade down to try to get a shot at Western Kentuckys Chris Marcus or Stanfords Curtis Borchardt, but Yao is the leading candidate if Houston holds on to the pick.
15. Maybyner "Nene" Hilario. Houston could add another big body to bang with the best in the West by adding Hilario to the mix. Hilario has long arms and is a great shot blocker, and he has some low post game to help the Rockets inside. Houston isnt looking for someone to be an impact scorer Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley will take care of that area but Hilario would be able to bolster the front line that also includes Maurice Taylor, Kenny Thomas and Eddie Griffin.
1. Ming. Can the Rockets hit it big with a big man again? They did it in 1984 with Hakeem Olajuwon. The quandary, of course, is that Ming is not Olajuwon. He has size, he has some skill. But there is a graveyard of big guys -- Granville Waiters, etc. -- who didnt make it in the NBA.
15. Jeffries. Jeffries helped himself in the NCAA Tournament with his unselfish play and versatility. He can shoot from the perimeter, but hes also big enough to play inside and can spot the open man with the pass.