After another season without capturing an elusive playoff berth, the Houston Rockets, a team that finished with a mediocre 34-32 record, will most likely undergo a series of changes to return to the realm of basketball's biggest stage. One of these alterations is trading away productive pieces of their current core for new talent.
But, which players should the franchise sever ties with in order to obtain postseason action?
Whether it be from a cumbersome contract, lack of consistency, a young prospect waiting to take the reigns or advanced age, the players featured in the subsequent slides should be shopped by the Rockets organization during the offseason.
Name: Kyle Lowry
Position: Point guard
2011-12 Stats: 14.3 PPG, 6.6 APG and 4.6 RPG
Contract: Two more years at a total of $11.9 million on his current contract
“I don’t think so,” Lowry, 26, said. “I honestly think it would be tough. Things have to be addressed. The situation would have to be addressed. If things aren't addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved."
Lowry also added that he is unsure of the idea of playing with backup point guard Goran Dragic for another year. This is most likely an effort on Lowry's part to secure a starting gig with the Rockets, as Dragic filled the starting role admirably in his absence at the end of the season.
Lowry's disgruntled state coupled with his extensive injury history, which includes a surgery a few weeks ago to repair a sports hernia and torn abductor muscles, and the Rockets possessing another competent guard may be enough for Houston to start dangling the former Villanova product.
Name: Chase Budinger
Position: Small forward
2011-12 Stats: 9.6 PPG, 1.3 APG and 3.7 RPG
Contract: Rockets have a club option to keep Budinger one more year at $942,292.
Chase Budinger is one of the brightest young small forwards in the Association, but he becomes irrelevant due to a plethora of wings on the Rockets roster. Sure, his leaping ability and shooting touch are exceptional, however, the trio of Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee and Chandler Parsons eat up almost all of the playing time at the swingmen positions.
Also, there is little possibility that Budinger passes any of the aforementioned players on the depth chart.
Martin and Lee are two high-octane scorers capable of putting up rather gaudy numbers. Lee, additionally, is Houston's best defender.
Parsons, on the other hand, seems to be clicking in Kevin McHale's system. Not only did the second-round selection start in his rookie season, but he excelled in his point-forward role, especially in pick-and-roll situations.
The former Florida star credited his early success to his time spent in Gainesville.
“Being able to have the ball in my hands at 6-9, 6-10, being able to create, make plays for others, Coach Donovan gave me that flexibility the same way (Rockets coach Kevin) McHale did, giving me so much confidence that I was able to go out there and play basketball,” Parsons said. “Coach McHale told me before every game, ‘Just go out there and have fun. It's going to fly by. Just play your game.' ”
Budinger's time in Houston may be coming to a close.
Name: Samuel Dalembert
2011-12 Stats: 7.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG and 1.7 BPG
Contract: The Rockets have an option to retain Dalembert with a one year, $7 million extension.
Samuel Dalembert's tenure in Houston has been mediocre to say the least. Signed this offseason to a reasonable deal, the former 76ers center was believed to become a mainstay at the starting big man spot.
However, this notion quickly changed once Marcus Camby was brought in during a deadline deal. The veteran not only took Dalembert's role, but outplayed the 6'11" center immensely. After all, this was Dalembert's worst season statistically since his rookie year in Philadelphia.
While Dalembert slightly defeated Camby in the scoring department, the established elder statesman completely dominated his teammate on defense and rebounding. Camby averaged nearly 10 boards per contest in the 19 games he played for the franchise.
Additionally, Camby even stated his desire to return to the team, as he is currently without a contract.
All these factors induce that Dalembert is expendable to the organization.
But with his veteran presence, fantastic size and solid defense and rebounding skills, Dalembert will turn into a valuable trade asset for the Rockets.
Name: Luis Scola
Position: Power Forward
2011-12 Stats: 15.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and .4 BPG
Contract: Three years, $30.6 million left on current contract
This may be hard for Rockets fans to hear, but it is time to part ways with their most consistent player of the last five years. While Scola still put up gaudy numbers, the statistics were a huge drop-off from his monstrous 2010-11 campaign.
His advanced age and declining athleticism is absolutely beginning to weigh in the back of the Rockets' mind. Coupled with two veteran centers, Dalembert and Camby, the Rockets boasted one of the least athletic big man cores in the entire Association.
It may be time for an infusion of youth on this frontline, which is just what backup Patrick Patterson brings. The former Kentucky star is so versatile that he can play on the perimeter if coach McHale needs him to do so.
Plus, there are numerous reports indicating how much work Patterson is putting in to improve his game. After a disappointing sophomore season where he failed to raise his stats significantly, Patterson is gearing up to be a lead candidate for next year's Most Improved Player of the Year Award and people are beginning to notice.
“He’s really focused,” general manager Daryl Morey said. “He’s coming in every day. We expect a lot from Patrick. He feels a lot better, and he’s really working hard.
Luis Scola's contributions were huge for the Rockets this past decade, but it may be time for him to step aside in favor of this talented prospect.
Even if the draft class is tremendously deep, the 14th overall pick is never a great selection for any franchise. Not only does it signal that the organization was most likely on the cusp of reaching the playoffs, but there are usually no future stars to be found. Instead, the team, in all likelihood, will draft a prospect that will need time to develop before contributing.
The Rockets, in my opinion, should draft an aspiring talent filled with potential and ship him to a franchise on the rebuilding path.
This, in turn, will better utilize the pick by trading for a talented, athletic big man. The Rockets are set at the point guard and swingmen positions, but the core power forward and center group is essentially filled with players on the downside of their respective careers.
Possible Destinations: Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers