POS Starter 2nd 3rd
PG Rafer Alston Bobby Jackson Aaron Brooks
SG Tracy McGrady Luther Head Steve Francis
SF Shane Battier Steve Novak Mike Harris
PF Luis Scola Carl Landry Chuck Hayes
C Yao Ming Dikembe Mutombo Loren Woods
The starting lineup, should everyone ever be healthy at the same time, would be good enough to contend. The scoring would come from McGrady, Ming and Alston. Defense from Battier. And rebounds and general scrappiness from Scola. The bench of Brooks, Harris, Landry and Hayes is very good. Undersized, but very good.
Yao and McGrady aren't ever healthy together, or at least that's what it seems. Mutombo played well in relief, even though the team seemed reluctant to play him. He brings zero offense, but still has that defensive presence and some rebounding ability. Number one priority to me would be a backup center. One who can relieve Yao of some minutes and play some big minutes when Yao is hurt. The center they are looking for should have an emphasis of defense, with the ability to score some scrappy points - the offense would go through McGrady. I'm looking for a guy who can put up 10 pts, 7 rbs, 1blk when playing for more than 24 minutes. (Note: this may seem like a lot, someone who can average 20 pts, 14rbs per 48 minutes, but the other players on the bench can explode for some good numbers when given the chance). Besides, I've never heard of Loren Woods.
Second priority should be a big guard. McGrady doesn't stay health either. When he is healthy, he isn't TMac anymore. Anybody can take 20 15-foot jumpers a game. But say I give him the benefit of the doubt. He could use somebody to spell him. Play significant stretches off the bench with the ability to score while not being upset by the irregularity of playing behind McGrady. Not an easy find. However, I think CDR would fit very well. A tenured player in college, big guard, can defend and can create a shot with the ball in his hands. But I digress. Luther Head is undersized and okay at best, Stevie Franchise used to be good.
Third priority - point guard. The Rockets seem hellbent on replacing Rafer Alston every year. Yet every year, Skip wins the spot and performs well if not very well at the position. He assists when Yao and McGrady are in the lineup and scores when they aren't. Rafer seems to embrace the opportunity to prove himself and shifts his game to compensate for the team's absences. I'm okay with Rafer. Bobby Jackson did great down the stretch and in the playoffs. He takes a lot of shots and hits some of them, but he's getting old. Time to find some new blood. Aaron Brooks is really quick and seems sharp. Maybe he could take the reigns with some veteran leadership. It's hard for me to believe that Rafer and Jackson haven't already taken this kid under their wing. Bottom line, I don't think this is a position the Rockets should address in the draft. Yet. If they can find a PG better than Rafer, they should do it, but it would be unlikely for them to find something in the draft better than the Jackson/Brooks combo.
Small Forward - I hated the draft day trade that brought Shane Battier to Houston for Rudy Gay. It should also be noted, I wasn't that hot on Rudy Gay. That said, I really, really like what Shane Battier brings to the Rockets. In addition to being the default (read: college educated) team spokesman every night, he is a legitimate first-team all-defensive player. He takes the hardest defensive assignment (Kobe, Carmelo, etc.) and still brings energy to the offensive and defensive glass, along with some three-point threat. The impact of this type of player would be invaluable should the Rockets ever find themselves beyond the first round of the playoffs. And because Battier does it the right way (moving his feet, body position, jazz hand to the face-type deal) he should be able to defend well for seasons to come. Because he isn't a scorer, he can be had on the cheap. I'm high on this guy. I'm also high on Mike Harris. That dude works every minute he's in the game. Rebounds and put-backs, he's money. Unfortunately, at 6-6 he's undersized for the position. I don't like putting a lot of stock into the prototypical size requirements of the NBA, but I know he isn't an every day, every minute SF. Steve Novak is a great shooter, and should have warranted some more minutes, but he doesn't play inside the three point line at all. This is a position the Rockets could gain some ground.
I love the Rockets' power forwards. All three of them. Chuck is a defensive presence, even though he's 6-6. Landry showed some flashes of offensive brilliance, along with a willingness to do the dirty work. Luis Scola blends the best of European finesse and offensive rebounding of a player hungry to succeed in the NBA. If Yao is healthy, I think Scola is a great fit for the Rockets. He has shown a willingness to score points without having the offense run through him (which it won't) and is also a more active rebounder than Yao.
It seems to me the obvious holes are SG and C. The order in which they are addressed probably isn't important. Dead weight at center isn't necessary. The Rockets can play small effectively, moving Scola to the 5. Without McGrady, the Rockets currently play very, very small with Rafer at the point and Head at the two.
Those are the holes, next comes my draft commentary.