2010 NBA Free Agency Analysis: Houston Rockets

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With the Rockets resigning Lowry, Scola and adding Brad Miller, trade rumors are still being tossed around as Houston fans continue to crave the star players they couldn’t acquire in free agency. Can Houston make a run at Andre Iguodala? What about Danny Granger? Do they have have the assets to acquire Chris Paul? (Maybe, Not going to happen and Not a chance in Hell)

Aside from some unforeseen miracle trade that Morey concocts, I think there is another way this team can improve without touching the roster… the development of the young guys. I’ll be honest when I say I haven’t seen any Las Vegas Summer League games, but I’ve followed them, seen highlights and read analysis of the players. Regardless of how they played in the last week, I don’t think we can put too much emphasis on summer league performances (Donte Greene, anyone?). So, I’m going to break down each of the four young prospects on this team (Bud, Hill, Taylor and Patterson) based on what their ideal statistics would be next season and what their ceilings are as players.

Chase Budinger

09 statistics: 20.1 MIN   8.9 PTS   .441 FG%   .369 3P%   .770 FT%   3.0 RBD   1.2 AST

Ideal 10 statistics: 25 MIN   12.5 PTS   .450 FG%   .380 3P%   .800 FT%   4.0 RBD   2.0 AST

Budinger’s biggest problem is that he isn’t aggressive enough offensively despite having tons of talent on that end of the floor. He can score from anywhere, and shooting such a high percentage from threes and from the free throw line is certainly a good sign considering that most wings improve their shooting numbers as they develop later in their careers. It’s not out of the question that he could eventually be a 40 / 90 guy. His athleticism fits in perfectly with the up tempo style that this team plays, he’s an excellent finisher in transition and can get to the basket pretty easily in a half court offense. He’ll never be an elite defender, but he can at least be average considering his size and athleticism for the position.

Ceiling: Jason Richardson… Richardson could never be “the guy” on a contender, but as we saw last season, he can be an integral part of a very good team. The two players have similar offensive games and are generally considered mediocre defenders. Bud will never win an NBA dunk contest, but he has the potential to be a really good third option eventually as a spot shooter, finisher in transition and a guy who can create shots for himself when an offense goes stagnant.

Jordan Hill

09 statistics (w/ Houston): 16.2 MIN   6.4 PTS   .532 FG%   .660 FT%   4.9 RBD   .50 BLK

Ideal 10 statistics: 20 MIN   9.0 PTS   .550 FG%   .700 FT%   7.0 RBD   1.0 BLK

Hill has been a disappointment so far in the summer league, but I don’t think we can put too much stock in that, and I think we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg that is his potential. Like Budinger, he needs to learn to be more aggressive offensively. We’ve seen flashes of what he can do in the post, and he can certainly work well in an up tempo group like Houston has. Defensively, he’s a tad on the lazy side and it really worries me that he doesn’t block more shots with his size and athleticism. Most athletic bigs start out with high block totals and figure out their offensive game. He has a better offensive game, but I don’t think you can teach blocks.

Ceiling: Chris Wilcox (with the Sonics)…The two players remind of each other quite a bit. They have identical builds, are lazy defenders who don’t block shots and have decent post games that will (likely) never pan out. Like Wilcox, I could see Hill as a starting 4/5 for a bad team or the first big off the bench for a good team. I think Hill is more talented offensively, but there just aren’t that many “light goes on” moments like I see with Budinger. I don’t think Hill will ever be a 20/10 guy, but I hope he proves me wrong.

Jermaine Taylor

09 statistics: 9.8 MIN   4.1 PTS   .378 FG%   .227 3P%   .717 FT%   1.5 RBD   0.5 AST

Ideal 10 statistics: 12 MIN   7.5 PTS   .420 FG%   .350 3p%   .750 FT%   2.0 RBD   1.0 AST

Unlike Bud and Hill, Taylor hardly lacks aggression offensively. If anything, he needs to learn when to NOT shoot the ball. He showed flashes last season in some games (like that Lakers game where he impressed Kobe) and he’s been Houston’s leading scorer in the summer league. However, I think it’s easy to have success in a handful of NBA games or against inferior competition in the summer league. If he can improve his shot selection and bring those shooting percentages up, he could make an impact on this team. The biggest problem I see is that he’s playing behind Martin and Budinger and he’s pretty undersized for a wing. If he could learn to use his athleticism on the defensive end, he could get more playing time but I don’t see it happening.

Ceiling: Von Wafer…To be fair to Taylor, I think he’s much further ahead in his second season than Wafer was, and I think he’ll last longer in the NBA. Their games remind me so much of each other, that I can’t ignore it. They’re both undersized, trigger happy 2-guards who excelled offensively against poorer college competition but could never be legitimate starters in this league. Could Taylor eventually develop into a solid 6th man or a starter on a bad team? Maybe. There just aren’t that many undersized 2-guards who succeed in this league unless they can shoot lights out (aka Ben Gordon).

Patrick Patterson

09 statistics: N/A

Ideal 10 statistics: 15 MIN   7.5 PTS   5.0 RBD   .500 FG%   .333 3P%   .700 FT%

It’s hard to gauge the talent of someone who has yet to play an NBA game, but I love Patterson’s game, and I think he has the ability to make an immediate impact. He’ll be fighting with Hill to be the first PF off the bench, and so those ideal numbers could easily change for each player depending on who gets more playing time.To get it out of the way… Yes, he can shoot the 3. Which is certainly a unique talent for a big man, and something that can’t be underrated. Any time you can have a big man stretch the floor and give space to a center like Yao, it’s going to help get easy baskets in the paint. However, the thing I like most about Patterson is he went back to Kentucky when he could have come out last season. And when he came back, he changed his game up. His sophomore season, he was the best big man on the floor and when Cousins came in, he developed an outside jump shot. He’s smart, he’s coachable and he can change his style when he has to.

Ceiling: Poor man’s Antawn Jamison…It’s hard to find comparisons to smart, undersized 4′s with range on their jump shots, but Jamison is a pretty good start. I think both guys are certainly “team players,” but while Patterson may be more gifted athletically, Jamison is more aggressive offensively. It’s probably too early to make predictions about Patterson, but I don’t think it’s out of the question that he could eventually be a #2 or #3 guy on a really good team.

So, while I will continue to debate all the unlikely trade scenarios from now until the trade deadline, I’ll also pay close attention to the development of these young players. Because who wouldn’t want Jason Richardson or Antawn Jamison without having to trade for them?