Draft Haul Includes Capela, Johnson and Gentile
Rockets select Clint Capela from Switzerland at 25, Nick Johnson from Arizona at 42 and Alessandro Gentile from Italy at 53
HOUSTON - The Rockets’ draft night delivered a strong dose of potential and more than a dash of international flavor as the club walked away with three brand new prospects to their name Thursday evening.
Houston launched into action by selecting 20-year-old Swiss giant, Clint Capela with the 25th overall pick. Standing at 6-11 and possessing a massive 7-5 wingspan and 9-3 standing reach, Capela drew comparisons to a young Serge Ibaka in the weeks leading up to the draft and he admitted to modeling his game after the Thunder star during an interview session with the media Thursday night. And while the athletic big man obviously has a long way to go before ascending to that lofty status, the Rockets are bullish on his ability to one day translate all that immense potential into NBA production in the future.
“We thought he had the highest upside outside of the top few guys in the draft,” said Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey. “His wingspan is second only to Anthony Davis, he can rebound, block shots at a high level. He’s a great kid. We had him in to Houston early in the process. He’s young. The draft is all about upside and we think this guy has a real chance to be a very high level player in the league.”
With the 42nd overall pick the Rockets then nabbed Nick Johnson, a 21-year-old combo guard out of the University of Arizona. The 6-3 Johnson was considered one of the elite athletes in this year’s draft and arrives with a reputation for tenacious defensive effort. It should come as no surprise, then, that Johnson said he’s eagerly looking forward to serving as an understudy of sorts to the similarly defensively inclined Patrick Beverley.
“The one person that I’m going to latch onto is Beverley,” Johnson said during a conference call with the media shortly after his selection. “I think we have a lot of similarities. I think his grit and grind that he really plays with is something I have in my game. I think that I can come in from day one and be that person that he’s being: the defensive player, the energy guy and stuff like that. I’m going to come in and listen, work hard and do whatever I can do get on the floor.”
Added Morey: “We think he was the most productive player on the best team in the country, Arizona. He’s a multi-position defender, can defend the one and the two. He’s a big-time athlete, Pac-12 Player of the Year. He’s a great, high character, tough guy and really has driven Arizona’s success the last couple years.”
Then to wrap up the evening, Houston sent cash to Minnesota to acquire the 53rd overall pick in order to select Alessandro Gentile, a 21-year-old Italian shooting guard.
“Mr. Alexander is spending money again to make the team better, Morey said, referencing the Rockets owner’s willingness to effectively purchase an additional draft pick. “(Gentile) is actually playing in the Italian League Finals right now. He’s on the best team in Italy, a EuroLeague team that plays at the highest levels in Europe. He is a team captain at (21) on a team that is filled with mostly 28-to-35-year-olds. He’s very (Carlos) Delfino-like in body. He can attack the basket, can pass, has the size to defend. He’s a really productive player and somebody for sure we think can help us in the future.“If you look at our draft overall, we feel we got two guys who can help right now in Nick Johnson … and Gentile who can come in and crack a rotation. Capela is probably a little bit down the road, but not too far. He already was the best big in the French Pro-A League at his age. His ability to rebound, he’s super athletic – I don't think it’s too far off where he’s helping the Rockets.”