While the Rockets traded Rudy Gay for Shane Battier and selected Steve Novak in the second round of last year's draft, lost in the shuffle was another second round pick that the Rockets made: Lior Eliyahu.
Houston acquired the draft rights to Eliyahu from Orlando for cash considerations on draft day last year and the 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward has shown improvement. Eliyahu thrived in Israel, but moved up to Maccabi Tel-Aviv of the Euroleague this past year, where he averaged 10.8 points on 57.5% shooting to go with 5.3 rebounds and a steal in just over 21 minutes a night in his debut season.
Rockets VP of Basketball Operations Dennis Lindsey took a timeout from the Orlando predraft camp and workouts on Monday to answer some of our questions about Eliyahu and the upcoming draft.
"Lior has progressed very well this season and he is one of the better 21-year old big men in Europe," said Lindsey. "He is a good athlete who can really finish in the paint."
"In addition, he has good value around the NBA as several teams have asked for his rights."
While the team has not put a timetable on Eliyahu joining the NBA, Lindsey added that the Rockets are planning on bringing him over for the summer program this year, so fans should get a good look at him.
However, there could be a minor delay.
"Lior currently has a small fracture on his index finger and he is going to have minor surgery on his nose therefore we might not get him to Houston as soon as we anticipated," said Lindsey.
As for Malick Badiane, who the Rockets took in the second round in 2003, the now 23-year old forward moved from the Opel Skyliners to the Artland Dragons this past year, and played sparingly, averaging 4.7 points, 3.6 boards and 0.8 blocks in just over 12 minutes a night.
"Malick joined Artland later in the season so he did not contribute as much as he did with Opel last year," said Lindsey. "But he is still rebounding and blocking shots at a good rate. He also has very good individual defensive integrity but we are not sure about his status for the summer at this time."
The Rockets made a coaching change this season, with Rick Adelman replacing Jeff Van Gundy. The offensive game plan is assuredly going to change, so does this impact the Rockets scouting strategy?
"With any coaching change in basketball, it is our opinion that because the coach has the ultimate power to choose who plays and who does not play, that management has to adjust with the style and preferences of the coach," added Lindsey.
The Rockets have the 26th pick in this month's NBA Draft and the Rockets VP was optimistic about the team's options with that selection.
"We like the prospects who seem to be in our range," said Lindsey. "There are several players who compliment our current team and some other players who could differentiate our roster, which is attractive as well."
"It seems the 26th pick has some value to us in various ways as we speak to other teams, so we are confident the pick will turn into a good player in some way."