The Houston Rockets: What Happens Next

Sean FearonCorrespondent IMay 20, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 12:  Aaron Brooks #0 of the Houston Rockets looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Five of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 12, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

With no draft pick, a summer doomed to monotony and predictable twists, and the possible departures of two of Houston's main men, the future, to me anyway, does not look bright.

After suffering another devastating playoff exit, the Houston Rockets are left wondering "what next?"

For a team that was presumably a title contender at the beginning of the season, something must have gone horribly wrong.

Nothing went wrong—nothing at all. The '08-09 season was an unprecedented success for Houston. When the pessimism is put aside and you begin to view this remarkable year through a different perspective, this season was a success in so many ways.

Staring in the face of trial and tribulation, and confronted once again with the injuries of all-stars Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady, they posted another 50 win season, dispatched Portland in six games, and pushed the reigning Western Conference champion LA Lakers to seven thrilling games.

So, this Cinderella franchise is left with a few make-or-break decisions over the next three months, the consequences of which could potentially lead to an NBA title, or a season in which Houston is condemned to mediocrity and dwell among the leagues peasantry.

To Trade or Not to Trade

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The Tracy McGrady saga is one of hardship, remorse, and unmitigated disaster in his last year at Houston. When he made his debut season with the Rockets, he was nothing short of a fairytale transaction pulling of mind-boggling feats, such as his epic comeback against the Spurs.

He led his team to 22 wins in a row, and consistently showed us his All-Star caliber talent.

However, for many Houston fans, the novelty has worn off, and happiness was quickly replaced with impatience, as the two-time scoring champ's futile attempts to lead his team resulted in humiliating defeats to D-Grade opposition, such as Minnesota.

Personally, I am a huge fan. However, for McGrady to return to All-Star form, stability is key.

The option to trade heavily depends on which T-Mac shows in the '09-10 season. The guy who will post 28 PPG, or the guy who blocks his own dunk on the backboard and limps on a gimpy knee?

Ron Artest

After a stellar debut season with the Rockets, Ron-Ron is still uncertain of his future. He expressed hopes to continue playing with his current franchise, however he also wants to consider various offers as a free agent.

To possess the championship contender status, Artest's departure would be a gut wrenching blow that could potentially leave only one of Houston's trio left standing.

If Houston is to mount any serious title threat in the forthcoming season, Ron Artest's presence will be crucial.

The Supporting Cast

Aaron Brooks and Luis Scola became essential pieces of Houston's regular season puzzle. The sophomore duo became one of the most potent pick-and-roll threats in the league. But in crunch time, their inexperience showed BIG, leaving Yao to carry his team in the clutch, resulting in countless defeats.

Should Houston opt to trade for experience or be patient and quietly watch these two athletes mature?

There is no doubt Aaron Brooks will be a force to be reckoned with in coming years, and Scola has already established himself as one of the league's most efficient rebounders.

So, at the birth of the '09-10 season, the Rockets may be a completely reformed squad, ready to challenge for its third NBA title. Of course, it may remain as the makeshift squad that almost advanced to the Western Conference Finals.

Oh well, we'll wait and see.