They knew about his well-chronicled struggles with his obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety disorder. They even knew that his fear of flying would open a suitcase of problems given the rigorous travel demands of an NBA regular season.
But, the Rockets thought White—the only player in the nation to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks—was worth the gamble.
The fact that White has yet to appear in an NBA game might suggest that he wasn’t.
But Houston didn’t use the 16th pick of the 2012 draft with the season’s first 15 games in mind. They were clearly thinking big picture with this pick, a concept Houston fans would be wise to embrace.
Houston GM Daryl Morey elaborated on his team’s thought process on a podcast with slate.com’s Stefan Fatsis, Josh Levin and Mike Pesca.
In short, Morey said the pick was talent-based, a wise move in such a talent-driven league.
The Rockets faced the reality that the draft pick was more than a typical draft-day crapshoot. They understand that the move is still a gamble.
But, they also know just how unique White’s skill set is.
White’s game has drawn comparisons to everyone from Boris Diaw to Lamar Odom. Truth be told, the NBA may have never seen a player like the former Cyclone.
He’s big (6’8″, 260-lbs.) and he’s strong (Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said White bench-pressed 185 pounds 30 times in pre-combine workouts, according to The Gazette’s Rob Gray) and his court vision is nearly unmatched at the power forward spot, NBA and college players included.
He’s also an effective post scorer with a shooting range that extends to the mid-range. He’s active on the glass, securing rebounds or keeping balls alive with tips when he can’t secure them.
Clearly, the Rockets have their work cut out for them with White.
His absence isn’t just a media whirlwind sweeping through their locker room, it’s also chewing up valuable time in the 21-year-old’s development.
Whether or not White ever steps on to an NBA court, he was well worth the gamble. The Rockets wanted a superstar and found a player with all of the physical tools to be that guy.