Now that basketball is back, it's time to look at the big picture for the Rockets. The Houston Rockets hold a plethora of good, slightly-above average players, but nothing more. Over the past two years, players like Courtney Lee, Jordan Hill, and Terrence Williams have all been acquired in hopes of being pieces of either a championship-contending team, or small parts of a large trade brewing in the future. So far, we're 0 for 2. I'd like to take a bit of your time and analyze our "pieces", seeing who's worth what and (my personal opinion of) if we're heading in the right direction as a team moving forward. This is mainly a piece on our prospects, so I'm going to leave out the big names (Scola, Lowry, ect.), also I don't care at all for college sports so I can't rate any of the incoming rookies we have coming in.
Williams is an interesting prospect, dividing the fanbase in terms of who supports the growth of Williams and who feels like he's just trade-bait after being picked up last year from the New Jersey Nets. Williams has looked somewhat impressive in the short amount of playing team earned under former coach Rick Adelman, but at times looked disinterested and apathetic. Williams holds the athletic potential of a superstar, but the engine of a 1973 Ford Pinto (No? Okay). Key word? Potential. Williams provides a risk because of the fact that at this point we can only hope he develops. If he doesn't, the best-case scenario is that some other team takes him off of our hands in hopes that he's a late-bloomer, but that's not what the Rockets want. What they want, and especially what we want to see as fans, is Williams develop into a guy who start and contribute on a championship team. While I do believe Williams will be given a fair chance to make his mark on this team with a new coach, I still have my doubts about his off-court behavior and work ethic.I personally believe that Williams should be held onto for at least the next season due to the fact that he might have been at a disadvantage under the past coach, and should be looking forward to a fresh start.
Thabeet was an interesting pickup by the Rockets 8 months ago during the 2011 Trade Deadline. A team that is desperately in need for a shot-blocking center, Thabeet would seem to fit the role perfectly if he would develop. But that's the problem; he won't. Thabeet became the highest draft pick in the history of the NBA to be sent down the D-League while he played for the Memphis Grizzlies, and was sent down again in his time with the Rockets. Playing four minutes in two games last season for the Rockets, Thabeet racked up three fouls. Not a good statistic, and something he's had constant problems with during his NBA career. Rockets personnel and fans alike want nothing more than to see Thabeet develop into the player he was advertised as coming out of college, a monster shot-blocker who could start on a good team. Chances of this happening aren't looking very good, and Thabeets contract totals up about 5.2 million dollars a year. That's really bad. If the Rockets were forced to use the Amnesty Clause on somebody right now, I would think Thabeet would be at or near the top of that list.
This one is hard to write without being subjective, since Courtney has been my favorite Rocket since the Ariza trade was completed, but I'll do my best. Courtney had a slow start to the season, not gaining much playing time, but still proving to be an effective 3-point shooter and a good defender. As the season went on, Courtney gained more time by showing his offensive skills outside of shooting an open 3, and continuing his great defensive play. Most of you remember the past trade deadline when Courtney Lee rumors filled the air; mainly the ones about him ending up as the starting shooting guard for the Chicago Bulls. This trade included Omer Asik, a good prospect at Center, coming to Houston. Morey refused to give up Lee, and many fans questioned this decision. Lee has potential to be a starting guard on a good team, and most likely the teams best wing-defender. With experience on a good team (Orlando Magic), a bad team (New Jersey Nets), and an average team (Houston Rockets), Courtney has seen it all, and is ready for his chance to play a starting role for a team. While I don't want to overstate his need for a starting role by implying that Kevin Martin is now expendable, that is a fair option, but not the only one. The top option is that Courtney Lee, while also being a restricted free-agent in 2012, is most-likely our top prospect for sale. Courtney fits in nicely with our team, and while keeping him would be great for the overall growth and development for our team, if Daryl Morey sticks by his "there's a big trade coming, I swear!" philosophy, Courtney Lee will most likely be a piece in that big trade.
Thrown into a starting role midway through the season, the struggling Budinger put up great offensive numbers for the second half of the season. These numbers, on some nights, exceeded most of our expectations. But, on the flip side, Chase also showed that he is completely useless when his shot isn't on. His defense is questionable, and his decision making is sometimes poor when the ball is in his hand. His ceiling is based on the amount of shots he takes, and what is made for him, rather than what he can create for himself. Although very athletic, he seems to shy away from driving in the lane (although late in the season he showed flashes of this), and lives off the Reggie Miller-like screen setup. On defense he is a liability due to his lack of lateral movement, but could develop into a decent shot blocker thanks to his great jumping ability. Overall, he's a good backup small forward, but the Rockets should be actively shopping for an upgrade.
Jordan Hill, considered a steal for the price we got him at. A lottery pick from the 2009 draft, Hill has shown flashes of being a good player, but overall is considered a major work in progress. Hill was lost in the rotation at the beginning of the season (anyone remember that GSW game?) and eventually earned some time in Adelman's rotation. Mostly used as a change-of-pace kind of player in place of Scola and Hayes, Hill uses his athleticism more than anything, and is known for his rebounding. Personally, I think with the addition of Marcus Morris, Hill is going to have trouble finding time in the rotation, but with Hayes possibly not coming back that could open up some minutes for him. While the price we paid for him was pretty low, the return we could get by including him in a bigger trade would be great. I think teams look at Hill as someone who could become an elite rebounder, not to mention developing offensively (which we've all seen signs of). I'd put Hill's name on the list of people I don't see in a Rocket uniform in the coming years, although not because of talent reasons.
Goran "the Dragon" Dragic! This guy would run into a bed of spikes at full speed if it was under the basket. His motor is always set on HIGH and he's got the skillset to show for it. Playing under Steve Nash has had it's effect on the 6'3 point guard, and it's shown. While also active defensively, Dragic is a great shooter and playmaker on offense. The one main area he's lacking in? Dribbling skills. Goran is more suited at the shooting guard position, but his size limits the amount of time he can get there. Dragic was acquired for former fan-favorite Aaron Brooks, and the Rockets have not looked back. Overall, Dragic is a piece acquired by the Rockets for the use of the Rockets, and no other team. Morey would not hesitate to trade him for the right price, but overall he was brought in to secure the Point Guard position by Lowry, and he has done just that in his short time here.
That's all I'm going to do. I didn't really put the amount of effort I thought I would going into this (I have an SAT to study for), but I mainly made this to get discussion started about how our prospects should be valued (since the general notion is coming to the feeling that we've overvalued them). Who's a keeper and who's a goner?