The Houston Rockets are in a Sticky Situation: To Trade or Not To Trade?
With the season winding to a close, Rocket fans have come to the realization that the playoffs just weren't meant to be this season.
So as a result, many have turned their attention towards the 2010 NBA Draft.
With recent success in the draft, Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry in 2007, the second round steal of Chase Budinger in this past year's draft, it'd be hard to justify the Rockets trading their highest draft pick since the infamous 2006 draft.
Ironically, when the Rockets were in a position to draft a player in the lottery, in a still heavily debated move, the Rockets traded Stromile Swift and the rights to Rudy Gay in exchange for Shane Battier.
Since then, Shane has helped the Rockets make the playoffs in these past seasons providing those intangibles that go beyond the box-score.
But Rudy Gay has broken out as a potential star averaging nearly twenty points and six rebounds per game for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Some would call that move a mistake, others would say it's justifiable considering the Rockets position at the time.
The Rockets find themselves with the same problem this season.
It's first important to identify what the Rockets goals are for next season, along with what's lacking or could be improved on to achieve that particular goal.
The move bringing in Kevin Martin made the Rockets goal obvious, as it was to bring an all-rounded supporting cast to a hopefully healthy Yao Ming in order to compete for an NBA Championship.
That itself is a large enough "IF" factor for the Rockets to bank on. But for a minute, let's pretend the basketball gods are kind enough to grant Yao a healthy season.
If that's the case, the Rockets would be loaded on all fronts.
On the wings, Battier, Ariza, Martin, and Budinger make up enough depth with talent to go around. Even Jermaine Taylor has shown flashes of being a potential rotation player as well. It seems obvious that the Rockets needs would be elsewhere.
At the point guard position, Brooks has come into his own as a scorer and albeit as a play-maker as well.
The big question mark is Kyle Lowry. No, not because he's not a good fit, in fact he perfectly compliments Brooks game, but whether he'll resign with the Rockets has yet to be answered.
If he gets a starting spot elsewhere, he's as good as gone. He's expressed he'd like to start, and be in a situation in which he could expand his game. But if that situation were to not present itself, I'd expect Morey to do everything in his power to try and retain him.
Again thinking optimistically, let's assume Lowry is resigned for a reasonable deal, then a third PG would be needed. But not an area in which the Rockets would use their lottery pick on.
It'd likely be the same scenario, even if Lowry were not to resign, as using a lottery pick on another potential PG, already having Brooks, and Llull overseas would become overkill.
So we've established, barring trades, that anything on the perimeter would likely be out of question.
At power forward, Morey has already shown his cards and stated the Rockets will resign Scola "at all costs." And with Jordan Hill developing nicely and Chuck Hayes moving back to his more natural position (an assumption his team option is picked up, no reason for it not to be), the Rockets would seem fine here as well.
And it comes back to the man in the middle. We're optimistically assuming Yao will be able to stay healthy, but the chances of that are slim. The signs would point towards the Rockets main priority this off-season being a center.
Glancing quickly at the prospects, Aldrich, Cousins, and Favors are likely to be gone. Possibly Ekpe Udoh and Solomon Alabi would be available, but neither would likely be the contributors the Rockets need to fully contend in the Western Conference.
The likes of Camby, Miller, or other free agent centers would be able to contribute more for a win now approach, while being more reliable as an insurance policy in case Yao were to go down again.
Maybe I'm going about this all wrong and the Rockets will address those needs via free agency or trade, and use the pick on the best available prospect to add to the team.
But, Brooks, Martin, Budinger, Ariza, and Hill are still rather young so it'd be redundant to try and find another prospect at those positions, as they wouldn't have much a chance to develop.
There are only two legitimate options I could see the Rockets realistically doing:
1) Drafting a big man with the talent and potential of stepping into Yao's shoes in the future if he were to prove unreliable with his health once again. Fill the rest of the voids through free agency, namely MLE.
2) Trade the pick, with other pieces for an upgrade.
The first option is the safer and likely route, but Morey is putting all his cards into the basket for a large-scale championship run for next season.
A trade could potentially improve the team to even greater heights, much faster than a draft pick would be able to.
It's too complicated to divulge into the possible trade venues that would be available, especially with the playoffs yet to answer so many teams burning questions.
And if there's anything we've learned from Daryl Morey in the past, it's to expect the unexpected.
Rewind back to 2006 and fast forward to 2010, the Rockets eerily find themselves in a similar situation on whether to trade the pick or not.
But with a plethora of assets to work from, the Rockets find themselves with a dilemma many teams would love to have.
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