(Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Being an 8 Seed)
Beginning on Bleacher Report, and now on another fanpost, there are calls to gut the entire Houston roster to rent Dwight Howard for one season. The argument goes: either A. we get Howard and D-Will, or B. we tank and will win again.
The first problem here is the suggestion that scenarios A and B are even close in terms of likelihood. D-Will has never shown any interest in Houston and may even have a negative attitude toward the Rockets due to our intense rivalry with Utah ever since he was drafted. Howard has never taken Houston seriously. There's a reason the acquisition would be called a rental.
Second, the idea that tanking somehow puts us in a better situation is unwarranted. Realistically, a Rockets team composed of Nelson or Turkoglu, Morris, Dragic, Lee, and Budinger, isn't bad enough to have a consistent chance at a top 3 or even top 5 pick. Factor in the fact that Houston will almost certainly have to package draft picks in a trade for Howard, and the end result is really just a watered-down version of the current Rockets, without Kyle Lowry, Chandler Parsons, and Patrick Patterson, all who have shown the potential to be major future contributors. In the game in OKC last night, our young core, including several rookies and sophomores, showed that they have the potential to take it to the best in the game.
Every successful NBA team requires a strong element of teamwork to succeed (see: Heat at beginning of last season vs. playoffs). As the Thunder have illustrated, sometimes developing your young talent can be a faster way (or as the Knicks have been displaying, sometimes the only way) to create a team-first mentality. By the time the tank will be completed, we'll have lost out on 3-5 years of mutual experience for our core players. I'll take Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, and Chandler Parsons over wishful thinking that we will be guaranteed top 3 picks and that those players will be a good fit for Houston.
The third issue I want to address is the notion that "middle-of-the-pack" teams will mire in mediocrity and the 7-11 seed for years. I don't know who began spreading this idea, but recent history tells us that in the current state of the NBA, this just isn't true. There is no such thing as a perennial 7-9 seed in the NBA in either conference. The closest any team comes is Milwaukee, who has been a 6-8 seed the past three seasons... but after a horrible 34-48 2008 season.
If we look at the 7 and 8 seeds from last season, it becomes evident that teams get better over time. Philly and Indiana have both moved up to the 4 and 5 seed in the East. The only major move between these two teams has been the signing of David West, a non-superstar. Memphis is also currently a 4 seed (I'll admit I'm a bit surprised), without any major moves in the offseason. The only middle team that has not improved is NO, and we all know why that is.
The point here is that we all need to have a little bit of patience. With Daryl Morey finding gems every year in the draft (our previously-dire SF problem has been solved with a freaking second round pick), along with his penchant for getting maximum value out of trades and McHale's effectiveness with young players, we might not end up having to be so patient after all.
[Promoted from the FanPosts. Great insight here, and a nice rebuttal to an idea that many of us have otherwise encouraged.]