The Houston Rockets have a whopping three first round picks in the 2012 NBA Draft, thanks in part to some recent trades. While these moves may be used as a bundle to trade for Dwight Howard, there is still a chance that the Rockets may end up using all three picks.
The latest mock draft at DraftExpress suggests that if the Rockets do indeed hang on to the No. 14, 16 and 18 overall picks, they would target the following players.
At No. 14 overall, center Meyers Leonard of the Illinois Fighting Illini.
As we've mentioned before, Leonard's physical tools make him a rare and very intriguing prospect defensively, especially as his frame continues to fill out. He did a better job denying deep post position this season and generally displayed a good effort level, which combined with his size and length, makes him an effective one-on-one defender on the interior, as players have trouble scoring over the top of him.
His excellent agility for a player his size should also help him defending pick-and-roll sets, giving him the ability to hedge and recover quickly. A big key for him defensively will likely the mental side of things and how well he can focus and bring consistent energy on each possession and pick up on team defensive concepts.
At No. 16 overall, small forward Moe Harkless, of St. John's Red Storm.
Harkless definitely looks the part of a NBA player from a physical standpoint. Standing somewhere around 6'8 with an excellent wingspan and a wiry frame, he has ideal size for the NBA small forward position. He must continue to get stronger, but should have no problem doing so in time as he matures and his body fills out. He is a very good athlete as well, looking fluid and explosive around the basket, and showing a solid first step and excellent quickness in transition. Furthermore, Harkless is a scrappy player, with solid energy and aggressiveness, which allows him to capitalize on his athletic potential.
And at No. 18 overall, point guard Kendall Marshall of the North Carolina Tar Heels.
When looking at Marshall's game from an NBA perspective, his passing ability is clearly his greatest selling point, and it's hard to overstate how good of a passer he is and how great a feel he has for managing a game.
In terms of point guard style, Marshall is a prototypical pass-first point guard taken to the extreme, as evidenced by his just 6.2 field-goal attempts per game in 32.9 minutes. He possesses an uncanny, second nature feel for the game, always instinctively playing with his head up and quickly moving the ball to the highest percentage scoring opportunity. Managing the game clearly comes very easy for him both in the half court and transition, as he looks as natural as any player in the country finding teammates for easy baskets.
That would certainly be quite the bundle of prospects if things shake out that way. We will have to wait and see.
Read more about the Rockets at The Dream Shake and SB Nation Houston.