23. Houston Rockets

We are fast approaching the end of the 1993 Usenet draft.  With
the 24th pick the Rockets, represented by:

    Brian West ,


    Thomas Hill, SG, 6-5, Duke.

General Observations : 

What a difference a year makes.  Last year Hakeem was demanding to be
traded and the only offers the Rockets got would have made them a
perennial lottery team.  Seeing there was no acceptable deal before
the start of the season, the general consensus was that Hakeem would
have to wait a year to be traded and thus would glide through the
season hoping to avoid a serious injury.

Before their first game, Hakeem and the then owner Charlie Thomas had
a heart to heart talk on the plane trip over to Japan.  Hakeem and
Thomas patched up their differences and Hakeem played inspired this
season.  Only after Hakeem showed his commitment to playing hard (by
having a MVP season no less) without a new contract or the trade, did
he get his contract extension.

The real key to the Rocket's success this year has been their defense.
And Rudy T should get all the credit for molding the Rockets into one
of the NBA's best defensive teams.  Under his guidance, the Rockets
drafted Robert Horry and traded a second pick for Scotty Brooks.  Both
have played great defense.  A tribute to their defense and a mark of a
championship team is that they won games when their offensive was off.

The Rockets intense defense has feed their offense, especially in the
fourth period.  In the fourth period, Rudy T would play his second
team guards, Brooks and Garland.  Both Brooks and Garland would come
in with their fresh legs and play intense defense that would in turn
seal the victory.  Smith and Maxwell accepted their limited fourth
period roles and did not rock the boat, a tribute to both them and
Rudy T.

Even though the Rockets posted a 55 win season, a franchise record,
they do have some problem areas that need to be addressed in the off
season.  During the playoffs, both the Clippers and the Sonics used
pressure defenses which took advantage of the Rocket's weakest link,
their ball handling skills especially from their guards.  Smith never
appeared quick enough to split the trap and sometimes made unwise
passes out of a trap.  Maxwell seemed even less capable of passing out
of the trap and even worse did not protect the ball when trapped.  And
their backups didn't fair any better.

A part of the solution to the Rocket's pressure defense woes lies with
the coach.  Rudy T needs to teach how to break the trap for easy
buckets, by attacking the basket.  What the Rockets did when they
successful broke the trap was to try to run their set offensive, with
less time on the shot clock.  Another problem I see is that the
players (esp. Herrera) don't come and meet the passes when up against
pressure defenses.  Both of these things with coaching and practice
can be overcome.  But I hold little hope that Maxwell's ball handling
woes can be coached away.

Statisticly, the Rockets were out stole and out offensively rebounded
by their opponents.  The Rockets played great team defense and had a
great record, so I'm not sure if these two things need to be worked
on, especially given their personnel.  But one thing they can work on
is their free throw shooting.  Of their starters, Maxwell(72%),
Thorpe(60%, ouch), and Horry (72%), shot below expectations.

Rockets by position :

5 : Olajuwon, Thorpe, Rollins
4 : Thorpe, Herrera, Bullard
3 : Horry, Bullard, Herrera, Teagle
2 : Maxwell, Garland, Floyd, Teagle
1 : Smith, Brooks, Garland

Olajuwon : He turned in a MVP year during a season of controversy, to
his credit.  He lead the team in scoring (4th in the league), rebounds
(4th), blocks (1st), and steals (13th.)  He was the Rocket's go to guy
and he usually delivered.  Even in his off games, he would still
manage 20 points.  (And BTW Hakeem was not embarrassed by Shaq in
their meetings and even modestly outplayed him.)

Thorpe : Thorpe, one of the NBA's iron men, suffered an injury in
preseason, missed several weeks breaking his consecutive game streak,
and only returned to form by midseason.  While he was out and
regaining form, Houston discovered that Herrera's true position was 4.
So, a heathly Thorpe found his minutes decreased.  To his credit and
not surprisingly, he accepted his new limited role.  Thorpe's
strength's are that he is a great finisher and he is an expert with
Smith at executing the pick and roll.  A weakness is that some of his
shots that come out of the unstructured offense are real bricks, but
luckly there are only several of these a game.  Thorpe also was the
Rocket's only capable backup for Hakeem.

Rollins : Tree has been planted on the Rocket's bench this year like
last and should not make the team next year.

Herrera : Herrera after an injury riddled rookie season showed to have
a promising future with the Rockets at the back up 4 spot.  He got
most of his minutes at 4 with Thorpe resting on the bench or with
Thorpe subbing for Hakeem.  He also saw limited minutes at the 3 and 5
spot, but was a defensive liability at both.  His strengths are his
under-utilized baby hook on offense and his leaping ability which lead
to good numbers for rebounds and blocks, given his minutes per game.
His weaknesses are his poor decision making abilities when it comes to
passing and his inability to defend the quicker 3s (he shouldn't be
asked to guard 5s.)

Horry : Rockets fans wanted Harold (Baby Jordan) Minor and were
initially disappointed that Horry was picked.  Horry now has proved he
can play in this league and that he was just the right player for the
Rockets.  He gave the Rockets great man to man defense, rebounding,
and shot blocking.  And most importantly he solved the Rocket's 3
problem.  He only weakness I see is his outside shot.  He started the
season with a good outside shot, but as the season wore on his shot
became increasingly unreliable.  He did find his shot in the playoffs,

Bullard : Bullard was mainly used as a 3 point specialist on the bench
as Horry's back up.  He plays hard when he comes in and can be an
emotional spark for the team.  Though not lacking for effort, his
defense is atrocious.

Teagle : Teagle was picked up right before the playoffs to give the
Rockets some size at the 2 spot, seeing that Maxwell was injured at
the time.  He played little and I don't see him having a future with
the Rockets.

Maxwell : Maxwell and Hakeem are the leaders of this team.  And it was
no more apparent than when he was out at the beginning of the playoffs
and the Rockets were faltering.  His strengths are his streaky outside
shot (seen as a weakness by others) and his tenacious defense.  He is
very effective at taking it to the hole, but does not do it as often
as I would like.  His weakness are his ball handling skills (magnified
in the playoffs with his injured left wrist) and his free throw

Garland : Garland, a point guard elsewhere, proved to be the Rocket's
only capable backup for Maxwell.  But at 6'2" he was unmercifully
punished on defense by the taller 2s.  He and Brooks played many
fourth periods together, proving to be a very effective back court.
Garland is looking for a new contract in the off season and could be
history if he asks for too much.

Smith : Smith after slumping last year offensively (blamed on a missed
training camp) bounced back to have a career year in 3 point (44%) and
overall (52%) shooting percentage.  His weaknesses are his lack of
quickness on defense (which cost his crunch time minutes in the fourth
period) and his ineffectiveness when being pressured.

Brooks : Brooks was the primary backup for Smith.  He like Bullard
provided an emotional spark off the bench.  His strength was his
tenacious defense which lead to him getting majority of the fourth
period minutes at the 1 spot.

Floyd : Floyd didn't played that much this year, even when Maxwell was
hurt.  He has one year left on his contract, but will probably be let
go before training camp.

The Draft :

The Rockets are in an enviable position of looking for bench help and
not a starter.  The player selected should be defensive minded and
team oriented (i.e. he should not mind playing only 10-15 minutes per
game from the bench.)  The Houston Post suggested that the Rocket's
biggest need was a backup 5 followed by a one on one scorer.

There are two weakness that I would like to see addressed in the
draft.  The first is to get a better backup for Maxwell.  Seeing Rudy
T's emphasis on defense and their problems with pressure defense, it
would be great to get a tall-ish defensive 2 who can handle the ball.
An added bonus would be if this person could also see spot duty at the
3 spot against the quicker 3s (Herrera's weakness.)  The top potential
candidates in order are Scott Burrell, Thomas Hill, and Chris Mills.
The best bet to be there at the 24 pick would be Hill.

The other weakness is a backup 4/5 in case either Hakeem or Thorpe get
injured.  I would like to see the Rockets use both their 46th and 50th
draft pick for two 4/5s.  These players will certainly be considered
projects.  A wild guess at who might be able is Derrick Chandler,
Rodney Dobard, and Bo Outlaw.

In the last few years there seems to be available in the late first
round skilled 4/5s who have a history of weight problems and/or
questionable work ethic and/or questionable attitude (e.g. in'90 Alaa
Abdelnaby, Dwayne Schintzius, Elden Campbell, and in '91 LeRon Ellis,
Stanley Roberts, and in '92 Oliver Miller, Elmore Spencer.)  My
candidate for this year's draft is Lumbering Luther Wright and if he
does slide this far the Rockets (not I) might take a gamble on him.

The UseNet Draft :

I choose Thomas Hill.  His defense and team play should fit right in
with the Rockets.  He will need to work on his ball handling skills.
Eventually he also will need to work on extending his shot to the NBA
three point range.

The other players I considered were Sam Cassell and Derrick Chandler.

Other Stuff :

Dave Jamerson (Houston's first round draft pick in 1990) spent last
year recuperating from a serious knee injury.  The Rockets when they
drafted him had high hopes that he would turn into deadly 3 point
shooter.  Prior to blowing his knee out he has shown little offense
and absolutely no defense.  The upcoming training camp could be make
or break for him.  I would have to bet that he won't make the team.

I have read that this may be the year that the Rockets bring in Zan
Tabak (POP 84 Split from Yugoslavia and Houston's second draft in
1991) for a look see.  I also read that Moses Malone would like to
finish his career with the Rockets.  If I had to guess, I would bet
that Tabak is not be ready for the NBA and that unless Malone is
willing to take a big pay cut he won't be finishing his career here.
Though having Malone back up Hakeem next year would not be a bad

Barkley wanna-bes (and looking more and more like wasted Rocket draft
picks) John Turner (6'5"/245) and Popeye Jones (6'8"/270) have been
hooping it up over in Europe this year and may be asked to training
camp.  I hold little hope that Turner (Houston's first round pick in
1991) will ever be a NBA contributor.

Draft Summary:
1.  Orlando
    GM:   Tom@Orlando 
    Pick: Chris Webber, PF, 6-10.  University of Michigan
2.  Philadelphia
    GM:   Dave Meeks 
    Pick: Shawn Bradley, C, 7-7. BYU
3.  Golden State
    GM's: Mike Moore 
          Terry Wong 
    Pick: Jamal Mashburn, SF, 6-8. Kentucky
4.  Dallas
    GM:   Curtis Hill  
    Pick: Anfernee Hardaway, SG, 6-7, Memphis State
5.  Minnesota
    GM's: Kevin Hansen 
          Toni Morgan 
    Pick: Calbert Cheaney, SF, 6-7. Indiana
6.  Washington
    GM's: The Crossjammer 
          Jim Nagle   
    Pick: J.R. Rider, SG, 6-5, UNLV
7.  Sacramento
    Pick: Rodney Rogers, PF, 6-7, Wake Forest
8.  Milwaukee       
    GM's: Brian Saunders 
          Morgan Edwards 
    Pick: Malcolm Mackey, PF, 6-11, Georgia Tech
9.  Denver
    GM's: John Exby 
          Rick Grubin 
    Pick: Ervin Johnson, PF, 6-11, New Orleans
10. Detroit
    GM:   Rob Skrobola 
    Pick: Alan Houston, SG, 6-6, Tennessee
11. Detroit
    GM:   Rob Skrobola 
    Pick: Acie Earl, C, 6-10, Iowa
12. L.A. Lakers
    GM:   Cliff Slaughterbeck 
    Pick: Bobby Hurley, PG, 6-0, Duke
13. L.A. Clippers
    GM:   Cliff Slaughterbeck 
    Pick: Vin Baker, SF, 6-10, Hartford
14. Indiana
    GM:   Doug Mraz 
    Pick: Scott Burrell, SG, 6-7, UCONN
15. Atlanta
    GM:   Kevin Metz 
    Pick: Terry Dehere, SG, 6-4, Seton Hall
16. New Jersey
    GM:   A. Borges Sugiyama 
    Pick: Douglas Edwards, PF, 6-9, Florida State
17. Charlotte
    GM:   Bren Bailey 
    Pick: Chris Mills, SF, 6-6, Arizona
18. Utah
    GM:   Michael Wendt  
    Pick: George Lynch, SF, 6-7, North Carolina
19. Boston
    GM:   Orin Day 
    Pick: Greg Graham, SG, 6-4, Indiana
20. Charlotte (from San Antonio for J.R. Reid)
    GM:   Bren Bailey 
    Pick: Lindsey Hunter, PG, 6-2, Jackson State
21. Portland
    GM:   Mike Northam 
    Pick: Luther Wright, C, 7-2, Seton Hall 
22. Cleveland
    GM's: W. Scott Klingensmith 
          Brian Young 
    Pick: Joe Harvell, SF, 6-7, Mississippi
23. Seattle
    GM:   Christopher Beck 
    Pick: Rodney Dobard, PF, 6-9, Florida State
24. Houston
    GM:   Brian West  
    Pick: Thomas Hill, SG, 6-5, Duke

Next up:
25. Chicago
    GM:   Christopher Gattuso  

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner