Anderson landed an extended run with Houston last season, and, although the unguaranteed nature of his contract makes his position rather tenuous, he’s done enough to merit the minimum. He could have a Danny Green-like role for someone if he can hone that jumper further.
Houston was better when Beverley was at point guard last year than anyone else. He is a steal of a contract, and despite concerns about consistency being entirely valid, he would be a perfectly capable starter alongside James Harden. And that day might be upon us some day soon.
Blue unexpectedly declared for the draft, after what was a good year for his program but not necessarily a good one for him. As of right now, it’s not obvious what role he could fit. He has a shooting guard’s height, great athleticism, and a strong transition game, yet his jump shot is mediocre, and much as some may want him to play point guard on account of his decent passing vision and pick-and-roll game, he cannot handle the ball sufficiently to be a full time one. Blue needs to develop more, and while he can do so while still being paid to play, he needs consistent work somewhere and minimal upheaval to do so. The D-League, then, may be the place.
The leader and best player of an extremely fun Murray State team, Canaan is mostly a shooter. And he’s an explosive one. The 37% three point percentage belies him somewhat, as Canaan can take over games purely from deep, and often has done. He can create these looks off the dribble, hit them off the catch-and-shoot, has a high quality pull-up jumper, and shoots so quickly that he still gets them off despite his lack of size. He does, however, take a few too many. Such is the side effect of being an NBA talent in a mid-major conference. And at 6’0, he doesn’t have much in the way of point guard skills, save for a solid handle. Nevertheless, Houston has James Harden to run the offence. In theory, if he proves he can defend the position, Canaan is a good fit alongside him.
Like a smaller version of Nikola Pekovic, Cooley scores from the post and the pick-and-roll with a combination of strength and dexterity, seeking out the contact and able to finish through it. The eternal Harangody comparisons fall down when it comes to Cooley’s lack of jump shot – this, combined with his lack of speed, make it impossible to play the power forward position at the NBA level, which he rather needs to at 6’9. Defensively, there’s not a matchup that he projects well against, except maybe Chuck Hayes. Nevertheless, his rebounding rate is prolific, and that, combined with his ability to consistently make shots within 10 feet and from the foul line, is a good combination.
Unfortunately, the “smaller” qualifier there is doing quite a bit of work in that sentence. Pekovic is a horse who can do all this against the biggest and the best, while Cooley, you would assume, isn’t. And while rebounding tends to translate better than anything else, it’s up for debate whether Cooley’s athletic disadvantages would prevent that happening here. Summer league will be a good barometer for him.
Covington has signed, or will soon be signing, a partially guaranteed deal with the Rockets. This is likely nothing more than an extremely early training camp invite, yet it is evidence of what they think of him. Averaging 15.8 points and 7.5 rebounds as a senior for Tennessee State last season, along with 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks, Covington can be found somewhere along the oft-straddled line between small forward and power forward, operating primarily as a face-up shooter whilst best served defensively on the interior with his length and decent athleticism. He projects, then, as a face-up four. But this doesn’t mean he can just disregard everything that isn’t a jump shot.
Henriquez intrigues simply because of his height, fluid athleticism, and excellet shot blocking instincts. However, everything else has always needed significant improvement, and it hasn’t happened. Henriquez is something of an offensive liability, with terrible free throw shooting, no handle, scant little post-up game, and a jump shot which he keeps trying to use but which isn’t very effective. He rebounds through size alone, and, for all the impressive shot blocking numbers, he is easily moved off the spot and fouls too much. Henriquez has a couple of innate skills that cannot be taught. But the ones that can, he hasn’t learnt.
The Rockets waived Honeycutt soon after acquiring him from Sacramento in the Thomas Robinson deal, yet seemingly this didn’t mean they were entirely done with him. Honeycutt’s pro career thus far has seen very little go right – his best run of play was a short 15 game stint with the Reno Bighorns of the D-League, in which he averaged 10.5 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks in only 24 minutes per game, on percentages of 48%, 40% and 83%. Perhaps this is an indication that he is starting to put together his wide range of skills. What is certainly true is that he has some of the best potential of any currently unsigned free agent.
Something of a forgotten man, Jones had a decent rookie season that hardly anyone noticed, in light of the Thomas Robinson era, Marcus Morris, the brief Patrick Patterson breakout, and the Royce White distraction. In the NBA, Jones averaged 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 15 minutes per game, and on assignment with Rio Grande Valley, he upped these numbers to 19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. With all four of the aforementioned players now gone, Jones has a legitimate opportunity to make Houston’s power forward position his own, and he has the size, talent, strength, athleticism and skill to do so.
Murry was the 15th pick in the 2012 D-League draft by Austin, and was later traded to Rio Grande Valley in exchange for Patrick Sullivan. He spent the entire season on a Vipers roster stacked with talent, and averaged 23.4 minutes as a lynchpin on a roster that went through a huge amount of turnover. Murry, something of a combo guard, averaged 8.3 points, 2.8 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, shooting 45% from the field and 36% from the three point line, the three point percentage bring the highest of his career to date. Murry, a big guard with versatility but not a defined position, is a good handsy defender and passer who likes to run, although he lacks next-level athleticism. His smarts, team-based instincts and passing vision are rather mitigated by a handle that is exposed under intense defensive pressure, and he is not a particularly good jump shooter (which itself is a misnomer – Murry doesn’t jump much when shooting). Murry’s a role player, a quality and versatile role player, but he’s a D-League role player.
Ohlbrecht was picked immediately ahead of Murry in the draft, and spent the year with the Vipers before a February call-up to the Rockets. Even then, he spent more of his time with the Vipers on assignment. He has a contract that runs through 2015, but is fully guaranteed, and may well be collateral damage when the Dwight Howard situation is finally ratified. Nevertheless, Ohlbrecht took the pittance of a D-League salary instead of much, much better European offers in order to try and get into the NBA, and it worked out, however briefly. Ohlbrecht averaged a blisteringly efficient 13.3 points (61% FG, 81% FT) to go along with 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game in the D-League – the one-time perimeter player who occasionally played small forward is now a fully fledged centre, able to take contact and finish aroudn the basket whilst maintaining the 18-20 footer he always had. Big guys who score and score efficiently are relevant to any NBA conversation.
If Smith wasn’t the best backup centre in the NBA last season, then I’m struggling to think of who was. (EDIT: oh yeah, JaVale.) After going undrafted, a slimmer, quicker Smith played his way into the league, then the rotation, and then into the conversation the first sentence of this blurb credits him with. He scores very efficiently through pick-and-roll play and catching and finishing around the basket (aided by his 12′ inch hands), rebounds better than he ever did in college, and defends those bigger than him better than expected. He does so while committing far too many fouls, but mistakes happen, and it’s at least counterweighted by impressively low turnover numbers. But largely, with Smith, it’s those hands. Here they are in comparison to a person’s shoulder.
The first two things to note about Casper Ware are that he’s very small and very productive. One will probably overshadow the other, but both are valid. Averaging 17.4 points and 4.3 assists per game as a senior for Long Beach State, Ware played for the Pistons in summer league last year, then went to Italy to join LegaDue side Montferrato. He promptly led LegaDue in points, averaging 20.4 points along with 4.2 assists per game, through relentless penetration, strong mid range game, and a continually improving outside shot. Usual concerns about defence apply, although it should be noted that Ware was one the Big West’s defensive player of the year, a tenacious and nuisance of a defender who picks up full court and gives as much as he does on that end as the offensive one. He’ll likely never make the NBA due to the height issue. But he will prosper in Europe.
Young declared for the draft after his sophomore season but never looked especially close to ever getting picked in it. He is, pertinently, an undersized shooting guard with sub-standard mid- and long-range games, who didn’t improve noticeably from his previous season, and who couldn’t even capitalise on post-season exposure on a Razorbacks team that didn’t have any. What he is is a small transition scorer with mediocre point guard abilities and similarly underwhelming defence. Young has a lot to work on.