Mediocrity just doesn’t cut it in the NBA anymore. The Houston Rockets are entering a pivotal off-season in which they have the flexibility and assets to make some major moves, and possibly turn their franchise from one that has narrowly missed out on the playoffs the past few years, to becoming a major player in the Western Conference.
Houston Rockets (34-32 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
For the third straight season, the Houston Rockets finished with a winning record yet missed out on the post-season. That pretty much speaks to the type of team general manager Daryl Morey has built since losing Yao Ming to injury; a lot of quality talent but no real star player who can help carry this team to the playoffs.
Morey has acquired a ton of assets over the past couple years in the likes of young, highly-regarded players coming out of college. Guys like Kyle Lowry, Courtney Lee, Chandler Parsons, Chase Budinger, and Patrick Patterson have become important parts of the rotation. However, this year Morey finally gave up some of the dead weight that hasn’t panned out; Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, Jordan Hill, and Terrence Williams.
Thabeet and Flynn were dealt to Portland for Marcus Camby who added some needed size in the frontcourt to pair with Luis Scola even though Camby brought a similar presence to the floor that free agent acquisition Samuel Dalembert did. Scola was his usual self though his rebounding numbers did dip partially because he was forced to play more minutes out of position at center. Patterson made some decent improvements during his second season in the league while 2011 lottery pick Marcus Morris couldn’t crack Kevin McHale’s rotation and only appeared in 17 games.
Perhaps the biggest emergence for the Rockets was the talented one-two punch at point guard. Both Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic had career years though Lowry’s season was hampered a bit by injuries. Despite a solid season, Lowry expressed an unhappiness with McHale even saying that he wasn’t sure the two could co-exist together in the future.
Houston also had a solid rotation on the wing with Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee sharing the shooting guard position and Chandler Parsons and Chase Budinger splitting time at small forward. Martin only appeared in 40 games though due to injury which was a big loss since he was the team’s top scoring threat. Parsons was a pleasant surprise going from second round pick to starter and being one of the steals of the 2011 NBA Draft.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: #Samuel Dalembert/Greg Smith
PF: Luis Scola/Patrick Patterson/Marcus Morris
SF: Chandler Parsons/Chase Budinger
SG: Kevin Martin/*Courtney Lee
PG: Kyle Lowry
NBA Free Agents:
*SG-Courtney Lee (RFA)
C-#Samuel Dalembert (TO)
PG-Goran Dragic (UFA)
C-Marcus Camby (UFA)
PG-Earl Boykins (UFA)
F-Diamon Simpson (UFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $34 million
1. Star Power:
Since Yao Ming’s injury problems, the Rockets have lacked any sort of true star talent. They have a ton of cap space to work with this off-season as well as some tradable assets in young players and a pair of first round picks (14th and 16th overall.) While building depth is great, it hasn’t gotten the Rockets to the post-season. Acquiring a star (Pau Gasol?) whether via trade or free agency is a move Houston should actively pursue this summer.
With Camby a free agent and team holding an option on the final year of Dalembert’s contract, the Rockets will be looking for a center this off-season, preferrably one who can score on the block. It’s unlikely Houston will find an immediate fix with one of their first round picks so they will have to look for an answer via free agency or trade.
3. Point Guard Dilemma:
The Rockets have a bit of dilemma at point guard. Lowry is unhappy with McHale and might demand a trade if a coaching change is not made or the two cannot reconcile whatever differences they may have. On the other hand, Dragic is an unrestrcited free agent and could be coveted by a team looking for a starting point guard. Do the Rockets pay up to keep Dragic and trade Lowry or find peace with Lowry and let Dragic walk? It’s hard to see how both guys will be on the roster at the start of next season.
OTHER NBA TEAM NEEDS PAGES:
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NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.