Spectator’s guide to the Rockets’ potential draft prospects in NCAA Sweet 16

Well, that didn’t clear up much. But gauging the NBA’s draft prospects is never easier, especially now that most top players haven’t reached their 20th birthday.

For NBA scouts and decision-makers, that would be a bit too much to ask of a few NCAA Tournament games as they assess players and seek answers to upcoming questions.

That’s how it goes with the NCAA Tournament, an irresistible showcase for NBA scouts, whether they’re front-office executives with real decisions to make or those who are fans playing a part in the game. effort to find hope to make the most of a bad season.

Most decision-makers know to view the tournament as a game or two – more for a select few top prospects – additional evidence to consider, different perhaps but no more important or valuable than the games that preceded the madness. When making assessments with such far-reaching consequences, it’s best to consider everything.

SEE ALSO: How to Watch the NCAA Tournament Like a Rockets Scout

That’s not to say the tournament isn’t useful. NBA teams will take every opportunity to obtain more information before making any preliminary decisions. Most, including the Rockets, even keep most of their front office at home for the first week of the tournament so everyone can see it all, rather than having a scout stuck in an arena when there’s something to look into another.

“Just additional player assessments, especially in high-pressure situations, can be very helpful,” Rockets director of player personnel Jimmy Paulis said. “We’ve done the majority of our work throughout the season on a lot of those draft prospects. But the NCAA Tournament is unique because it’s win or go home. Some of these guys are tested in different ways and you can kind of confirm some of your previous assessments or it can also create doubt about this guy’s ability to raise his level of play when needed, or is it a guy who’s just going to fade into the background?

“For us, it’s just another way of looking at these prospects that we’ve been watching for years, based on their age.”

The Rockets and many other teams probably would have liked Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Iowa’s Keegan Murray and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis to go to weekend two. None are likely to see their draft stock plummet because of a loss. Even Smith’s poor shot, given the ample evidence supporting opinions that he will be a sniper, is unlikely to change opinions, indicating tournament limits to influence ratings.

Still, as the tournament enters its second week, minus some of the top prospects who could be in the Rockets’ lineup with their own first-round pick or with the pick they’ll receive from the Brooklyn Nets, there are games to be played. look in search of more information to weigh.

Of course, last week offered Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, a strong contender for the No. 1 pick, battling Memphis’ Jalen Duren, likely top-10 with the strength to test the thin Holmgren. It’s possible that Duke’s Paolo Banchero – a likely top-five selection – along with his coveted teammates AJ Griffin and Mark Williams, will face Holmgren in the Elite Eight if both teams advance.

No way a scout would skip that.

“For sure you’re looking at matchups,” Paulis said. “Where it becomes really relevant is if you have a prospect who plays for a mid-major or mid-major team whose schedule strength may not have been as good throughout the season. season. Then all of a sudden you see them playing against some high-level competition. You can sort of answer some of those questions during this game.

“So, yes, it is important. Will it make or break a player? No. But it can be helpful.

With the Rockets holding draft picks that may be at the top of June 23 and another that will most likely be in the late teens (with an unlikely chance of jumping much higher if the Nets don’t progress in games play and the The Rockets are very lucky in the lottery,) an overview of games to look at when considering the Rockets’ draft options.


Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren (left), who has a good chance of being selected first overall, survived a battle with fellow top prospect Jalen Duren of Memphis in the second round.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With the first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft…?

Gonzaga vs. Arkansas, 6:09 p.m. Thursday (CBS)

Holmgren’s play against Memphis likely led to a lot of overreaction back and forth, depending on how he crushed Duren’s shots early or was pushed by Duren late. But scouts might already know he’s a sniper blocking prospect who needs several years in the weight rooms and maybe all-you-can-eat buffets. But since he’s barely taken over offensively, leaving that to Drew Timme, it might be nice to see how Holmgren performs against Arkansas’ tough defense. If the Bulldogs and Blue Devils advance, it would be nice to see Holmgren against someone his size, Duke’s Mark Williams.


While teammate Bennedict Mathurin gets the lion's share of the attention, Arizona's Christian Koloko could be an intriguing option for the Rockets with their second pick in the first round.

While teammate Bennedict Mathurin gets the lion’s share of the attention, Arizona’s Christian Koloko could be an intriguing option for the Rockets with their second pick in the first round.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

What can Mathurin do for an encore?

Arizona vs. Houston, 8:59 p.m. Thursday (TBS)

Speaking of toughness, is there a tougher team, especially mentally, than the Houston Cougars? Having Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin against Kelvin Sampson’s team in the Sweet 16 is a good break for scouts who want another test for Mathurin, likely a top-10 pick, after his sensational 30-point and 10-point performance rebounds Sunday against TCU. In sophomore year, there could already be a lot of information about the Pac-10 Player of the Year, but if he continues to rise to the occasion, it would be hard to ignore when considering the potential of a 19-year-old with NBA small forward skills and frame. There might be reason to check out Arizona center Christian Koloko as a potential rim protector pick with the Nets pick.


The Duke trio of (left to right, in uniform) AJ Griffin, Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams will give scouts plenty to watch when they take on Texas Tech on Thursday night.

The Duke trio of (left to right, in uniform) AJ Griffin, Paolo Banchero and Mark Williams will give scouts plenty to watch when they take on Texas Tech on Thursday night.

Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Scout three blue devils for the price of one

Duke vs. Texas Tech, 8:39 p.m. Thursday (CBS)

There will be plenty of scouts to study with every Duke game, assuming CBS can pull its cameras off Mike Krzyzewski. Paolo Banchero demonstrated why he was considered a potential No. 1 pick when he took over against Michigan State. He is seen so often that there has been a tendency to overreact to questions about him, as if every freshman has no questions to answer. He could continue to show why he’ll be a coveted prospect, especially against another tough defense. But with Duke, scouts also get a glimpse of one of the best shooters expected in the draft, AJ Griffin, and a rim protection center, Mark Williams, with Williams having the ability to move to be a prospect. . it would be fine before the Rockets used their Nets pick. Trevor Keels could be considered in this lineup, but how many combo guards does a team need?


Purdue's Jaden Ivey played a key role in sending Texas home in the Boilermakers' second-round win over the Longhorns.

Purdue’s Jaden Ivey played a key role in sending Texas home in the Boilermakers’ second-round win over the Longhorns.

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Will the NBA Become an Ivey League?

Purdue vs. Saint Peter’s, 6:09 p.m. Friday (CBS)

Purdue’s Jaden Ivey was already a top-five prospect before the tournament began. He showed why against Texas. An electric attacking talent, he showed his improved shooting range and defensive potential. Since Saint Peter’s has become a staple on TV, scouts can watch the boys from Jersey City and think about how a top prospect might fit into their teams.


Kansas' Ochai Agbaji has put on plenty of flicks over the years with another chance to increase his draft stock as the Jayhawks advance.

Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji has put on plenty of flicks over the years with another chance to increase his draft stock as the Jayhawks advance.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Don’t forget the Nets pick

Kansas vs. Providence, 6:29 p.m. Friday (TBS)

As difficult as it may be to predict which players will be available when the Rockets return to use the Nets’ first-round pick, it’s impossible to know exactly when that will happen. If the Nets lose in the qualifying round — they’re currently lined up to face the Raptors, indicating Kyrie Irving won’t play until the playoffs or a second-chance game currently against Charlotte or Atlanta — the pick could jump to the top. It is extremely unlikely. If the Nets reach the playoffs, the pick is currently set at 16. That could make Kansas’ Ochai Agbaji worth watching. He could go earlier and there is a lot of information about a senior wing. But he’s the kind of stable, reliable contributor who could improve his stock in March.

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