The Houston Rockets went into the offseason with big ambitions. The Rockets had big goals for acquiring stars in trades, landing marquee prospects in the draft and grabbing hot free agents.
Despite all of those plans, the Rockets fell short. Their failures this offseason will cost them not only in 2013, but for a few years afterwards.
First, Daryl Morey was unable to pull off the grand plan in the draft. Morey dealt Samuel Dalembert and the No. 14 pick for the Milwaukee Bucks’ No. 12 pick. Also, he swapped Chase Budinger for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ No. 18 pick. The next step, according to the CBSSports.com, was to trade a combination of picks for a top-10 pick, but nothing materialized.
That left them with three picks in the middle of the first round, which isn’t a great place to have three picks. The Rockets ended up drafting three iffy talents with those picks—Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lamb and Royce White.
Jones has the inside-scoring ability and the grit for rebounding to be good, but he needs a coach to get in his head. Lamb tends to jack up shots like someone’s egging him on. He’ll also drift from the action sometimes. White is an intriguing playmaker who can play above the rim, pass effectively and rebound. The catch is that he’s out of shape.
Whether these players will turn into anything is unclear. Kevin McHale and his staff will have to work hard to keep Lamb and Jones focused in their respective roles.
Secondly, the Rockets made two reckless signings. They committed $25 million over three years to both Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Neither player is worth nearly that much money. Both players are nothing more than backups.
Lin is a flash-in-a-pan player who’s cashing in on the six-game outburst that made him a sensation in February. He’s turnover prone. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.71. Also, Lin is only effective going one way with the ball.
The Harvard product isn't a creative dribbler. His style is mechanical and predictable. He doesn't have a set of moves that deceives defenders.
His shooting isn’t that good overall. Aside from the six-game outburst, he shot 40.6 percent from the field (as opposed to 50.6 percent in those six games).
Asik is a very good defender at the basket and sets screens well, but that’s about it. He doesn’t have great defensive range, which Dalembert did. Dalembert could jump out and defend the perimeter, but Asik isn’t that type of defender.
Also, Asik can’t score. He averaged 3.1 points per game while shooting 50.6 percent from the field, which isn’t good for someone who’s as active on the boards as he is. Further, his offensive rating is a dismal 97 points per 100 possessions.
Stockpiling marginal players hurts tremendously. Beyond that, the Rockets passed on some of their own free agents who could have helped a playoff run.
Signing Lin instead of Goran Dragic was a mistake.
Dragic is a true creator. Filling in for Kyle Lowry late in the year, Dragic averaged 18 points and 8.4 assists per game. Losing Dalembert meant losing a true defensive leader. When Courtney Lee signed with the Boston Celtics, the Rockets lost a sweet three-point shooter. Caving in to Kyle Lowry's trade demands cost Houston a dynamic scorer and facilitator.
The Rockets wanted to pick up a big star through the trade wire, but they failed to complete a deal.
These hoop dreams fell through, though, hampering the Rockets' ability to plan and build for the future.
Ultimately, the Rockets lost out on their chances to make the playoffs in 2013 and probably the next few years, as well.
With the signings of Lin and Asik, they buried themselves with salary commitments. By Lin's third year in Houston, Morey will be trying to figure out how to make the roster sustainable according to payroll expectations.
A failed attempt to jump into the top 10 in the draft saddled the team with more draft picks than it needed. That will lead to some players not developing according to what the team would hope for.
McHale will need some magic to get out of the mess Morey put the Rockets in. This confluence of underwhelming talent doesn't give the Rockets all of the tools they need to make the jump to the playoffs.
Rather, it pushes them back.