While third place in the Southwest Division of the NBA's Western Conference isn't a bad place to be, there's undoubtedly ways that the Rockets can improve moving forward into the second half of the season.
The improvements the Rockets need to make moving forward starts with changes that Kevin McHale needs to make to the Rockets' eight/nine-man rotation.
Ahead is a list of five rotation changes that Kevin McHale needs to make for the Rockets if they want to be legitimate contenders in the second half of the 2011-12 NBA season.
If you just look at the statistical comparison between the Rockets' small forwards, Chase Budinger and Chandler Parsons, it's clear to see that Budinger is the more efficient and productive player.
Chase Budinger: 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, PER of 15.95, 44.7 FG%
Chandler Parsons: 7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, PER of 12.52, 42.8 FG%
Interestingly enough, Parsons not only starts over Budinger, he also averages more minutes per game than Budinger, with an average of 25.7 minutes per game as compared to Budinger's average of 19.7 minutes per game.
I'm sure McHale has a valid reason as to why Parson sees more time than Budinger, but moving forward into the second half of the 2011-12 NBA season, if the Rockets want to become legitimate contenders in the Western Conference, they need to put the more efficient Chase Budinger into the starting lineup.
Efficiency is a huge piece of being able to win games in the playoffs, and that's exactly what Chase Budinger brings to the floor that Chandler Parsons doesn't. McHale needs to make the right decision and insert Budinger into the starting lineup, giving him more minutes than the rookie, Chandler Parsons.
Terrence Williams is a freakish athlete and a guy who knows how to score the basketball. Unfortunately though, Williams is also immature at times, which has held back his NBA career.
Either way, with the right coaching and on-court leadership around him, Williams is proving that he can be a solid shooting guard off the bench in his time with the Rockets.
Williams is averaging five points and 2.6 rebounds a game in only 16.4 minutes per game, which isn't all that impressive, but it's because Williams isn't seeing enough consistent time on the court. Anyone who watched Terrence Williams at the University of Lousiville knows that he's a streaky player that has the potential to absolutely explode offensively if he's given the chance.
Limiting Williams' minutes to 16.4 per game seriously holds him back, and if the Rockets want more production out of him, they need to keep him on the court for at least 20.0 minutes per game.
It's going to be hard to get Williams 20.0 plus minutes per game with Courtney Lee earning minutes ahead of him, but with some creativity, McHale can help the Rockets out by getting Terrence Williams into the rotation more often.
The Rockets got the worse of the two Morris twins in the 2011 NBA draft, with Marcus' brother, Markieff, having a solid year with the Phoenix Suns.
It's not that Marcus Morris isn't as good of a player as his brother, it's just that the Rockets have significant depth at the forward position, which has limited his minutes so far in the 2011-12 NBA season.
Marcus Morris has only found his way into three games this season, averaging only 1.7 points and 0.7 rebounds in an average of 5.7 minutes per game. There's no point in keeping Morris on the bench when he can be learning the speed and style of the NBA game in more minutes in the D-league.
It might seem like Morris is being demoted by moving him to the D-league, but in reality, keeping Morris sitting on the Rockets' stacked bench is absolutely pointless when he can be working on developing his game elsewhere.
Morris is no stranger to the NBA D-leauge, either, spending significant time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, which is another reason why it would be a smart move for McHale to send Morris to the D-league.
Moving Patrick Patterson to the center position, making him the first option off the bench in minutes replacing Samuel Dalembert, is a smart move for the Rockets to make for many reasons.
First of all, Patrick Patterson's bruising style of game fits more into the center position than it does at the power forward position. Patterson's physical frame and post-up style offense makes him a better fit to fill in at the center position than Jordan Hill, mainly because he's a more explosive and strong player in the paint.
Patterson's averages of 7.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game is impressive, but his production can undoubtedly improve if he sees more time in minutes replacing Samuel Dalembert.
I'd even argue that Patterson could work his way into the starting lineup at the center position, moving Dalembert to the bench, where he's more suited to play from.
Kevin McHale has already been doing this a little bit as of late, but he needs to do it more as the Rockets progress through the second half of the 2011-12 NBA season if he wants an increase in production out of the Rockets' frontcourt.
Before going down with a sprained knee a week ago, Jordan Hill was a productive member of the Rockets' solid second unit, coming off the bench to replace Samuel Dalembert.
The only problem with Hill is that he's earned his minutes replacing the wrong player. Kevin McHale needs to move Jordan Hill from the center position to the power forward position, because that's where Hill is more suited to play.
Throughout the first half of the 2011-12 NBA season, Hill's averaged a decent five points and 4.8 rebounds per game, with a solid PER of 15.03. While those averages are good, they can be better, but only if Hill takes his talents out of the paint and into the mid-range game at the power forward position.
Jordan Hill would create more mismatches at the power forward position than he does in the paint at the center position, and that would not only benefit Hill's averages, it would also benefit the Rockets and their second unit as a whole.
McHale definitely needs to pull the trigger on this roster rotation, because it could help the Rockets solidify themselves in the Western Conference.