2011 NBA Offseason: Houston Rockets

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Houston Rockets (Last Year: 43-39)

2011 NBA Draft Team Grades:

I kept getting lit up by angry Rocket fans whenever I projected Marcus Morris as their pick, and look what happens. For a team that has solid depth at power forward, they add a combo forward who might end up being an undersized power forward in Morris, a 7-footer who is a perimeter-based power forward in Donatas Motiejunas, and a 6-10 small forward in Chandler Parsons. It seems like a bit of a waste of three picks, and I am not sure how they will fit into the rotation, but Daryl Morey does love to acquire assets and he did accomplish that. (Team Grade: Don’t get it)

Live 2011 NBA Draft Grades:

14. Marcus Morris, F, Kansas
Did they feel obligated to take Marcus right after Markieff? Houston has a ton of guys who can play power forward which is Marcus’ more natural position. He might be able to play the three at some point but when guys like Kawhi Leonard, Chris Singleton, and Jordan Hamilton were still on the board, I think this is a mistake. (Pick Grade: Don’t get it)

20. Donatas Motiejunas, F, Lithuania (ACQUIRED FROM MINNESOTA)
The Rockets acquired Moteijunas who was the 20th pick and Jonny Flynn to Houston for Brad Miller, No. 23, and a future first-round pick. Houston needs size but is not a true center. They do dump Brad Miller’s contract even though it costs them a future first-rounder. Jonny Flynn is another asset for Daryl Morey although will he crack the rotation with Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic (who is a restricted free agent) already at the point. (Pick Grade: Don’t get it)

38. Chandler Parsons, SF, Florida
Parsons is a versatile glue guy, but I am not sure how he fits in Houston who took Marcus Morris in the first round. (Pick Grade: Don’t get it)

*** 2011 NBA Offseason Needs and Free Agents listed below this comment box. ***

2010-11 Season Summary:
A rough start to the season was simply too much for the Rockets to overcome down the stretch as they finished three games back of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, missing the postseason for a second straight year. When you look at the Rockets roster, the fact that they finished above .500 might come as a surprise since they lacked the star power needed to contend out West.

Yao Ming was supposed to return in a limited role after missing the entire 2009-10 season due to injury but was once again strapped to bench in street clothes as injury held him out for all but five games. With Yao sidnelined, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola emerged as the top players for the Rockets. Martin provided scoring on the wing while Scola posted career numbers serving as Houston’s only real low-post threat.

Aaron Brooks was the league’s Most Improved Player a year ago but wound up in Rick Adelman’s doghouse before being dealt to Phoenix for Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. Brooks was benched in favor of Kyle Lowry who had his best season as a pro and showed signs of being the new point guard of the future which was supposed to be Brooks’ job.

General manager Daryl Morey remained active in the trade market acquiring Terrence Williams from the Nets for a future first-round pick, and dealing free agent-to-be and team leader Shane Battier to the Grizzlies for project center Hasheem Thabeet and a future first-rounder.

Outside of Martin, Scola and Lowry, no Rocket averaged double-digit scoring as Houston went with a team concept. Chase Budinger, Courtney Lee, Chuck Hayes, Brad Miller, Patrick Patterson, Jordan Hill and Dragic were all worked into the rotation, but had their ups and downs throughout the season.

A second straight season missing the playoffs cost Adelman his job, and the Rockets have already replaced him with former Celtic great and ex-Timberwolves’ general manager, Kevin McHale. He now faces the challenge of getting the franchise back to the postseason.

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Luis Scola/Hasheem Thabeet

PF: Patrick Patterson/Jordan Hill/Marcus Morris/Donatas Motiejunas

SF: Chase Budinger/Terrence Williams/Chandler Parsons

SG: Kevin Martin/Courtney Lee

PG: Kyle Lowry/Goran Dragic/Jonny Flynn

NBA Free Agents:

C-Yao Ming (UFA)

F/C-Chuck Hayes (UFA)

SF-Marques Blakely (UFA)

PF-Marcus Cousin (UFA)

Offseason Transactions:

Rockets acquire PG Jonny Flynn, PF Donatas Motiejunas from Timberwolves for C Brad Miller, 23rd pick, and 2013 first round pick.

2010-11 Team Salary: Approximately $44.3 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

1. What to do with Yao?: Chronic feet and ankle injuries have plagued Yao the past two seasons as he has only played in only five games. He has stated that he will pursue a comeback rather than retire, but how much can the Rockets count on him or afford to pay him if they decide to retain his services? If he does come back healthy, he will likely be nothing more than a role player as he just cannot be counted on to play heavy minutes on a nightly basis due to the wear and tear on his body.

Yao is a huge risk, and if the Rockets give him anything more than a 1-year deal worth the league minimum, I would be shocked. However, if another team rolls the dice and tries to steal him from the Rockets with a more lucrative contract, general manager Daryl Morey will have a tough decision to make.

2. Center: Barring a Yao medical miracle, the Rockets sorely need an upgrade at center. Last year, they started 6-6 Chuck Hayes at center for 63 games. While Hayes plays bigger than his listed height and is a ferocious rebounder, he just cannot handle true NBA big men. Plus, he is a free agent. The Rockets do have Brad Miller and Hasheem Thabeet, but neither is starting material. With this being a weak draft class for true centers, Houston would have to address this need with their mid-level exception or via trade.

3. Small Forward: When the Rockets dealt Shane Battier, it thrust Chase Budinger into the starting lineup. I have liked Budinger dating back to his Arizona days, but he just is not a starter in the league and better serves a team coming off the bench as a scorer. He is a restricted free agent this summer meaning some team can try and steal him away for the right price. Terrence Williams never found his groove after being dealt to Houston, so he is a question mark heading into next season. That leaves Houston in search of a starting small forward.

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