Coming off a remarkable season that included a lengthy 22-game winning streak, the Houston Rockets must once again retool a team from a first-round playoff defeat in the hands of the Utah Jazz.
It has been 11 seasons since the Rockets have tasted the second round of the playoffs.
For the 2008-09 season, the Rockets are slated to return all relevant players— rookie, foreward, Carl Landry and center, Dikembe Mutombo, both of who will be free agents this summer.
The Rockets, however, are expected to attempt to re-sign Landry, and Mutombo remains undecided as to whether or not he wishes to return for his 17th NBA season.
Going into the draft, the Rockets' primary concerns appear to be adding a backup swingman, as well as adding depth to the front line.
With this seemingly deep and talented incoming draft class, there are several directions the Rockets can go.
The 25th selection is not typically one that teams are looking for an immediate-impact type player with. Instead, teams are interested in adding players that can contribute more in a reserve role, and if they get lucky, perhaps develop into reliable rotation players down the road.
With Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady already on the roster eating up payroll, there is not much room for more star-power with the Rockets, in that case.
Should the Rockets look to add a swing player with their first-rounder, 6’5” Guard from Western Kentucky, Courtney Lee, would be a viable option.
Scouts say that Lee is one of the more NBA-ready players available, and whichever team is fortunate enough to land him, will be getting a player capable of contributing immediately.
Lee is an excellent mid-range shooter with improving skills at creating his own shot, and is a great on-the-ball defender.
Unless, McGrady is moved in the off-season, Lee would most likely be the backup shooting guard— a spot that has been occupied the past two seasons by Luther Head, who is likely to be traded.
Should the Rockets try to pick up a big man with the pick, seven-foot center from Stanford, Robin Lopez and California Devon Hardin are possibilities.
Lopez would give the Rockets more of what they need from the power forward position, as he has been scouted to be a great post defender and shot blocker, with a developing offensive game.
The Rockets also, hold the 54th overall selection in the draft.
The Rockets should address whichever need was not chosen with their first-round choice.
If they go with a powerhouse in the first round, expect them to look at players like Demarcus Nelson from Duke, J.R. Giddens from New Mexico or Anton Ponkrashov out of Russia.
Should they take a swingman with the first round pick, Kansas center Sasha Kaun, Memphis’ center Joey Dorsey, and Maryland F James Gist are all possibilities.
It has been speculated that Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey would be interested in trying to move up in the first round. Every player on the roster, with the exception of Yao, would be available for the right price.
Given Tracy McGrady's injury problems, hefty contract and lack of playoff success to this point, he remains a very attractive trade piece to many franchises, and could help the Rockets net a very high lottery choice if they were so inclined.
Houston has a lot to think about.