HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Rockets added a prospect Thursday night and then turned around and added a guard. Both moves could be seen as a way to help Houston in free agency.
Houston picked power forward Clint Capela with the 25th overall pick of the NBA draft and added Arizona junior guard Nick Johnson at No. 42 in the second round.
“It’s a great organization,” Johnson said. “They are a playoff team. They have a great group of guys. I was excited. I’m speechless.”
In three seasons at Arizona, Johnson scored over 1,300 points and shot over 42 percent from the floor. He shot nearly 37 percent from behind the arc last season as he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, averaging 16.3 points and 4.1 rebounds to lead Arizona to the Elite Eight and the Pac-12 title.
Johnson, who described himself as a combination guard, said he plans to latch on to starting Rockets guard Patrick Beverley and learn from him.
“I think we have a lot of similarities,” Johnson said. “His grit and grind that he really plays with is something I have in my game. I think I can come in from day one and be that person that he is being. That defensive player, that energy guy. I’m going to come in and listen, work hard and do whatever I can to get on the floor.”
Johnson also has a tie to coach Kevin McHale, who played with Johnson’s uncle, the late Dennis Johnson, in Boston.
“It just feels right,” Johnson said. “With my uncle being his teammate for as long as he was and me growing up watching the old Celtics tapes with my uncle and him being on it and him being that player that was, it just feels right. It feels good.”
The 6-foot-10 Capela averaged 9.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last year playing for Elan Chalon in France. But the 20-year-old Capela is expected to remain overseas next season, which should help the Rockets save some money as they try to clear cap room to make a run at LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony in free agency.
Houston has already dealt backup center Omer Asik and cash considerations to New Orleans for a protected future first round pick, The Associated Press reported earlier this week. A person with knowledge of the deal also told AP the Minnesota Timberwolves had traded the 53rd overall pick - Italian forward Alessandro Gentile - to the Rockets for cash considerations.
The Rockets also could be looking to trade point guard Jeremy Lin to free up cap space.
The Rockets added Dwight Howard a year ago, but were ousted in the first round of the playoffs for a second straight season.
Howard had a solid first season in Houston, averaging 18.3 points, and was fourth in the NBA with 12.2 rebounds a game.
James Harden embraced a bigger leadership role in his second season in Houston and again led the team in scoring.
The Rockets got an up-and-down season from Lin, who lost his starting job to Beverley. His inconsistent play continued in the postseason. He had four points and three turnovers in Houston’s Game 4 loss to Portland before coming off the bench to score 21 points and spark the Rockets to a win in Game 5 with Beverley battling an illness.
Capela, who compared himself to Serge Ibaka, said he wants to play in the NBA this year and the Rockets know that. He said he can run the floor and play tough.
“It’s like a dream,” Capela said of being drafted. “When I watched the NBA from France, it was like a dream. I want to prove I can play here against the best players in the world.”