LeBron James and Chase Budinger
The Houston Rockets, once considered a lock for a playoff bid, have experienced a meltdown of epic proportions. Just two weeks ago, the Rockets were the favorites to become the sixth seed in their grueling conference's playoffs. This was a surprise and accomplishment, as many expected the roster to struggle due to lack of a clear star and playoff experience.
But, despite not deterring from the challenge at the beginning of this truncated season, the Rockets went on a recent 1-7 slide, officially knocking them out of postseason contention. While their relevancy in the playoff chase did shock the NBA community, there is no denying the unfortunate fact that changes within the organization are a necessity.
A complete overhaul is not needed for this franchise due to their roster being already ladened with talent and depth. Unlike the Charlotte Bobcats or Washington Wizards, the Rockets have a playoff-ready squad that has the potential to strike fear in the eyes of opposing teams. But in order to reach the playoffs next season, the Rockets will have to add and subtract a few players from the rotation.
The Rockets' roster is headlined by their top-tier depth. They have plethora of competent players ready to step in if a starter becomes fatigued. Despite possessing arguably the deepest bench in the NBA, the Rockets struggled at times to win exhibition games. Towards the end of the regular season, the team was inconsistent on both sides of the ball, turnover-prone and disheartened.
Most of these problems stem from the unfortunate fact that the Rockets do not have a star on the roster. Sure, one could make the case that point guard Kyle Lowry or marksman Kevin Martin have blossomed into fringe-stars, but there is no denying their lack of a clear-cut superstar.
Since the distant days of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, the team has failed to acquire the next franchise cornerstone. Last offseason, the team tried to address this problem by adding Pau Gasol in the infamous three-team deal involving Chris Paul going to the Lakers. Of course, the league ended this transaction and the Rockets didn't acquire their man.
But the Rockets must avoid pulling a "New Jersey" and trading all of their most valuable trade assets to bring a superstar to town. After all, the Nets are in a position where they are not just losing the recently-added All-NBA talent Deron Williams, but have no prospects to build on.
The Memphis Grizzlies should be an example for the Houston Rockets, as they obtained former All-Star and nightly double-double threat Zach Randolph for nearly nothing. It was a savvy move that completely changed the basketball culture in Memphis. On top of adding Randolph, the team has also built the depth of their team through the draft.
In the end, the Rockets have a long road ahead of them. They must determine which path they want to take: start a rebuilding process or try to acquire a star and make another run at the playoffs. Either way, Houston must commit to their strategy in order to succeed.
Playing in the ultra-competitive Southwest Division alongside the defending champion Dallas Mavericks must put a fire under Houston to win an elusive championship. Right about now, it looks like the Rockets organization is the awkward sibling in Texas.