2012 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: 34-32)

2011-12 Season Summary:
For the third straight season, the Houston Rockets finished with a winning record yet missed out on the postseason. That pretty much speaks to the type of team that general manager Daryl Morey has built since losing Yao Ming to injury: one with 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: Luis Scola/Greg Smith/Jon Brockman

PF: Patrick Patterson/Marcus Morris/Jon Leuer

SF: Chandler Parsons

SG: Kevin Martin/*Courtney Lee/Shaun Livingston

PG: Kyle Lowry

NBA Free Agents:

*SG-Courtney Lee (RFA)

PG-Goran Dragic (UFA)

C-Marcus Camby (UFA)

PG-Earl Boykins (UFA)

F-Diamon Simpson (UFA)

Offseason Transactions:

The Rockets acquire the 18th pick in 2012 NBA Draft from the Timberwolves for G/F Chase Budinger and the rights to Lior Eliyahu.

The Rockets acquire the 12th pick in 2012 NBA Draft, G Shaun Livingston, PF Jon Leuer, F/C Jon Brockman from the Bucks for the 14th pick and C Samuel Dalembert.

2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $38.4 million

NBA Offseason Needs:

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 offseason 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 team to the postseason. Acquiring a star whether via trade or free agency is a move Houston should actively pursue this summer.

2. Center: With Camby a free agent and the team holding an option on the final year of Dalembert’s contract, the Rockets will be looking for a center this offseason, preferrably one who can score on the block. It’s unlikely Houston will find an immediate fix with one of its first-round picks, so the team 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 unrestricted 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.

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