This must make Sean Miller feel pretty good: When the GMs of the Orlando Magic and Houston Rockets talked about the Arizona Wildcats players they chose in Thursday’s NBA Draft, both said defense was a big factor.
“Perimeter defense has been a challenge for us,” Rockets GM Daryl Morey said. “That’s something (Nick Johnson) excels at. He’s got the athleticism and the focus. He knows what he’s going to hang his hat on in the league and it’s what he’s already hung his hat on at Arizona.”
The Magic opened some eyes by going all-out for defense, picking Aaron Gordon at 4 and trading to get Elfrid Payton.
“We wanted to get some hard-nosed dudes, and people who are going to get after people,” Magic GM Rob Hennigan said today in a news conference streamed on the Magic’s website. “We feel these gentlemen are certainly going to add to that.”
Both Payton and Gordon were teammates on the USA Basketball U19 team that won the U19 World Championship last July, and Hennigan said “you could see the competitive spirit that both of those guys had” in the tournament.
Of Gordon specifically, Hennigan said on draft night, “Aaron’s a great player, a great competitor and a great teammate. As we started to parse through all the options, we felt this was the top of the list for us.”
While Gordon won’t have trouble getting on the floor in Orlando, Nick Johnson will have more of a challenge in Houston. The Rockets won 54 games last season, tied for fifth most in the league.
“It will be tough for any of these guys (that Houston drafted) to be able to crack our rotation,” Morey said. “But both Nick and (No. 53 pick Alessandro) Gentile will have a chance to do that.”
In his draft night press conference, which is posted on the Rockets’ web site, Morey said of Johnson:
“We think he was the most productive player on the best team in the country at Arizona. He’s a multiple position defender, can defend the one and the two. Big time athlete, Pac-12 Player of the Year. … Tough guy, and he’s really driven Arizona’s success the last couple of years.”
In his introductory news conference today in Orlando, Gordon said he would wear the No. 00 jersey for several reasons.
“It was my first ever AAU number,” Gordon said. “I think it’s unique. Not a lot of people have it. … 00 represents how wide I want the fans’ eyes to be when they’re watching us play.”