The 2012 NBA draft isn't until late June, but with the college basketball season coming to an end next week, here's a preview of some players the Rockets should be targeting. A quick reminder, the Rockets own two first round picks, but neither one is their own. Their pick this year belongs to New Jersey (Terrence Williams trade), while the Rockets own the 1st round picks of the Knicks (McGrady trade) and Dallas (via Lakers in Derek Fisher trade). Their pick traded to New Jersey is top 14 protected, so if the Rockets missed the playoffs, it's possible that they could have three 1st round picks. Based on the current standings, the Knicks pick would be 15th (assuming they lose in the 1st round), while the Mavericks will most likely need to win their 1st round series because their pick is top 20 protected (1st round losers pick between 15-22).
For the sake of this article, I'm going to assume that the Rockets make the playoffs so they'll lose their pick to New Jersey, I'll assume that the Knicks lose to Miami/Chicago in the 1st round so their pick would be at 15, and that the Mavericks win their 1st round series, making their pick at about 24-25 overall. Here are a few prospects that I like that are slotted to go between 15-25 according to nbadraft.net.
Tyler Zeller (Center - North Carolina) - A young, legit 7-footer, something the Rockets haven't had since Yao Ming. He's not a polished offensive player, but makes up for it by being a plus defender, rebounder, and shot blocker. That being said, he has potential offensively with a nice jump hook and range out to 18-feet. I like Zeller a lot, seems like a hard-nosed, hard working kid. I think he'll be a 12 point, 9 rebound, 1 block guy for a long time; comparable to Marc Gasol or Al Horford.
Moe Harkless (SG/SF St. John's) - The center position gets the most attention as the Rockets big need, but the wing spots are pretty thin as well. Kevin Martin owns the 2nd worst FG% in the final five minutes of games, and it seems his minutes dwindle daily; I'm ready to move on. Harkless, the Big East rookie of the year, averaged 15.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 1.5 blocks per game, and shot 45% for the season. He's quick, he's athletic, a good defender, a good scorer, and a great rebounder for his position. Putting Harkless next to Parsons would give the Rockets a young duo of athletic wing players and would improve them defensively. His weakness, like Parsons, he's a poor 3-point shooter. His upside compares to Gerald Wallace or a smaller Josh Smith.
John Henson (PF/C - North Carolina) - A great shot blocker at 6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan. Similar to his teammate Zeller, has a decent jumper but not polished offensively. The Rockets should be willing to wait for that to develop though because he averaged 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game over the last two seasons. Think a younger Samuel Dalembert with a lot more upside.
Doron Lamb (SG - Kentucky) - I think Lamb would be a great replacement for Kevin Martin as the shooter on the perimeter next to Kyle Lowry and Chandler Parsons. A smooth, consistent shooter who made 47.8% of the his 3-point attempts during his two years at Kentucky. Also a decent defender with the length and quickness to play the passing lanes.