2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets

2011-2012 Record: 34-32, 4th in Southwest
Stat Leaders: Kevin Martin, 17.1 ppg. Samuel Dalembert, 7.0 rpg, 1.7 bpg. Kyle Lowry, 6.6 apg.

Depth Chart

C - Samuel Dalembert (TO), Greg Smith (TO)
PF - Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson (TO), Donatas Motiejunas
SF - Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, Jeff Adrien (TO)
SG - Kevin Martin
PG - Kyle Lowry

Restricted Free Agents: G Courtney Lee
Unrestricted Free Agents: C Marcus Camby, G Goran Dragic, G Earl Boykins, G Courtney Fortson, F Diamon Simpson

The Good: The Rockets are a young, versatile and deep team. Ten guys played major minutes for them last year. The point guard position, in particular, made fantasy owners very happy at least. Kyle Lowry came out of the gate on a tear, filling up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. He eventually got injured, opening up the door for Goran Dragic, who played in all 66 games and put up similar numbers as a starter. Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, the two veterans who were almost moved in the nixed Chris Paul deal, put up their usual solid, but not spectacular, production. Those guys should be role players on good teams, but are probably the best two players on this team. The ageless Marcus Camby provided the Rockets with his usual shot blocking and rebounding. Camby and Samuel Dalembert make a good defensive center duo. Youngsters Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Patterson also had nice seasons. The Rockets have a ton of young assets to move in a potential trade for a superstar.

The Bad: The Rockets really need to land that potential superstar. This is a team full of role players, and they won't ever be anything better then .500 unless they can add a superstar or two. Scola is a decent post option and Martin is a good shooter who needs volume to get his points. You don't want those two guys being your best, most consistent, players. The Rockets just don't have that player that can carry the team on his back. They haven't had that since pre injury Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. Houston has the ammunition with players and draft picks to get back into the playoffs in a hurry.

Key Free Agents: The Rockets would love to bring back Courtney Lee, Marcus Camby and Goran Dragic. Houston is not completely sold on Lowry as their starting point guard. He has clashed with head coach Kevin McHale and they are dangling in him in trade offers. Dragic excelled for Houston and the Rockets have the cash to bring him back. Camby is 84 years old but can still rebound and block shots. He hates that he has bounced around so much during his late career and will probably stay with the Rockets.

Projected Cap Space: $15,698,271. Houston can also clear another 12 million or so if they decline all of the team options, putting them in a very good position to add veteran talent to a roster full of young players. Kevin Martin, Samuel Dalembert and Luis Scola are the only three players making over 5.7 million per year, giving the Rockets plenty of flexibility as they work this roster back into playoff form.

Amnesty Possibilities: The Rockets have more flexibility then any team in the league. Virtually their whole roster is on team options, and only Scola and Martin are making big time money. Both guys are probably overpaid, but not terribly so. Scola will bring home 30 million over the next three years, but they could probably find a trade partner before having to cut him loose with the amnesty. The Rockets will probably not take advantage of this clause.

Free Agent Possibilities: Though he is not a free agent, it is clear that Dwight Howard is the guy this team covets. His camp has sent out vibes that he does not want to go to Houston, but Texas is a very desirable state to live in and the Rockets have the cap space next year to go after another max free agent, plus a ton of good young players to build around. I could see the GM trading for Howard even without an assurance that he would resign. If they choose to go the free agent route, Chris Kaman or one of the restricted free agent centers are options. Maybe they could entice the Nuggets to part with JaVale McGee for a draft pick or two in a sign and trade. The options for Houston is endless, but they are stockpiling all of these picks to make a trade for an established star, not sign free agents.

Draft Possibilities: Again, it is mostly pointless to guess what the Rockets are going to do with their draft picks. It would have been easier for me to do this preview a few weeks ago, but alas, here we are. Houston owns the 14th, 16th and 18th picks in this years draft. There is a zero percent chance they use all three of these. The team already has Donatas Motiejunas joining them next year, and 2011 first round pick Marcus Morris basically went through a redshirt rookie season. Guys who could be targeted in this range, either by Houston or another team, are Arnett Moultrie, Royce White, Terrence Jones, Perry Jones, Jared Sullinger and many more.

Contending, Rebuilding or Status Quo?: I say the Rockets do not fall into any of these categories. Houston is not content whatsoever with the status quo of .500 seasons. Houston tried to shake up their roster last year by adding Pau Gasol, but were blocked by David Stern. Now they are going the route of adding as much first round picks and young players as possible to swing to another team for an established star. The Rockets have never been very interested in bottoming out and rebuilding through the draft. Houston has drafted well but do not have any stars, or even sure fire starters, to show for it. The next couple of weeks are going to be very interesting if you are a Rockets fan.

All logos courtesy of http://www.sportslogos.net/.

Jonathan Carrano

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