Rockets Draft Isaiah Canaan

Houston tabs Murray State sharpshooter with 34th overall pick
by Jason Friedman Writer/Reporter

HOUSTON - The 2013 NBA Draft was wild, unpredictable and full of unexpected twists and turns. Go figure, then, that a Rockets team that perpetually ranks among the most aggressive and active in the NBA would actually enjoy a rather uneventful (at least by their standards) and by-the-book night that saw them stand pat with the 34th overall pick and select Murray State’s master marksman Isaiah Canaan.

The 22-year-old point guard scored nearly 22 points per game during the 2012-13 season while adding more than four assists, three rebounds and a steal per contest to those gaudy totals as well. As the raw numbers suggest, Canaan can fill it up thanks to a shooting stroke that helped him hit nearly 42 percent of the three pointers he took during his four-year collegiate career.

“Isaiah was someone we were targeting big time,” said Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey. “We feel like shooting is something we can’t get enough of on the team with our plans going forward. This guy is one of the best shooters to come out of college in awhile. He’s a big time athlete; he’d have the highest vertical of anyone playing the one-spot in the NBA last year. He’s short but he’s thick, so he’s not a liability defensively.

“He’s not just an elite three-point shooter, but he can take people off the bounce. He can really fill it up and do so efficiently which everyone knows we like.”

The advanced metrics back up Morey’s evaluation as well. According to Synergy Sports, Canaan scored .992 points per possession last season in pick-and-roll plays that ended with him either taking a field goal attempt, turning the ball over or getting to the free throw line – a rate good enough to rank in the nation’s 91st percentile in that category. And Canaan was even more deadly working off screens and spotting up, where he averaged 1.373 points per possession (95th percentile) and 1.152 points per possession (88th percentile), respectively.

Houston’s brass wasn’t alone in its affinity for the selection. Jim Clibanoff, who runs a scouting service to which many NBA teams subscribe, had this to say via text immediately after the pick was made.

“Big fan. GREAT to play off guys that will command doubles as he has tremendous confidence and deeeeep range.”

Here’s more of Clibanoff’s analysis of Canaan from the pre-draft profile he put together on the Murray State product:

Not just a good shooter, but he is rather the guy to whom expressions like the following apply: "is in range when he steps in the gym", "shoots the $%^& out of it", "the guy you want to shoot the bomb in crunch time"...Is adept with catch-and-shoot balls, but also gets it going in a hurry when he is in rhythm (sometimes takes a number of shots to start feeling it) as he can compose his body easily...Good penetrator who will rarely be denied when he puts his mind to it...Gets into the heart of defenses with power and presence and he absorbs contact very well (but knows his limitations)...Uses his strong body well when checking opposing guards but isn’t a high-level defender.

Would be ideal to play off of stars - for example the way Boobie Gibson was when he played alongside LeBron in Cleveland…Dana Barros is a good case study of a similar player - was a solid 15-20 mpg player for those Seattle teams that made the playoffs in the early 90s.

Love how he sticks out his chest and plays with gravitas that established NBA pros will respect…Size will be an issue to some, but Canaan plays with ice water in his circulatory system and for a "small" guy he has physical strength and a rugged air about him.

Reached by phone following the draft, Canaan expressed how happy he was to hear he’ll be headed to Houston.

“It was amazing just to see my name come across the board and to get to be a part of a good organization and to have some good players be a part of the team," Canaan said. "I’m just really looking forward to getting out there and showing what I’m capable of doing.

“I’m a competitor, I’m going to compete with whoever is out there. I’m a winner. I won all four years in college and I’ve been blessed with the ability to score the basketball and I’m a good leader. I’m just really looking forward to adding to the team and just trying to help the team the best way I can.”

As is the case with the vast majority of Houston's draft picks over the last several years, Morey said he expects that Canaan will start next season in the D-League with the defending champion RGV Vipers. And though the Rockets made no other moves Thursday night, he emphatically reiterated his belief that his club is well positioned for a fruitful foray into free agency.

"We're 100 percent confident that we will be set up well (for free agency)," he said. "We know that we can execute what we want to execute."

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