The Rockets are not Western Conference contenders. Given how the team has played this year, it's fair to say even if they make they playoffs, a seven-game first round series loss just might be a best-case scenario.
At the trade deadline, the Rockets had the option of calling this season a bust and re-tooling for next year. There weren't many trades that would have made the team better this season. Every deal that could have been made on deadline day would have been done looking towards the future.
They missed prime opportunities to move Dwight Howard, Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer and others for assets next year and beyond. They did manage to turn Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton into a protected first round pick, which they will likely receive, but they could have done much more.
By not moving the big names, it's pretty clear that the Rockets are content with still trying to make a push for the playoffs. But making the playoffs is not what the Rockets need, missing the playoffs while it would be painful, is exactly what they need.
Missing the playoffs would allow the Rockets to re-tool on the fly fairly quickly. Since they did not trade Lawson or Howard, both those contracts come off the books, freeing up around $30 million.
Daryl Morey on the coming offseason: "We feel like (Houston is) a top-5 destination and we'll have the ability to offer two max deals."— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) February 18, 2016
Plus, they would likely have two first round picks (Pistons pick and Nuggets pick for Lawson stays in Rockets control if they miss the playoffs).
But if they did more by moving the big names, they would be able to play the younger players like Sam Dekker (when healthy), Montrezl Harrell and McDaniels, plus whoever else they would have received. They would have been able to really evaluate those players and see if they could play a role on a playoff team which the Rockets feel they are.
The Rockets chose not to hit eject on the season. If they make the playoffs and have a quick first round exit, we will look back at this trade deadline as a failure. They missed a chance to get younger, get more draft picks and develop and evaluate their own young players. And, if Donatas Motiejunas becomes a star, the Rockets might be questioning deadline day for years to come.