MIAMI, FL - APRIL 22: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat shoots over Chandler Parsons #25 of the Houston Rockets during a game at American Airlines Arena on April 22, 2012 in Miami, Florida. 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 Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Playoff chances are officially dead, what now?
With their loss to Miami yesterday, the Rockets have officially been eliminated from the playoffs. Yesterday's game really summed up the season with the Rockets starting off well (led 69-66 after 3 quarters), and then blowing it late (outscored 31-19 in the 4th). Unfortunately this wasn't the first time Rockets fans had seen this script; they led 84-78 after 3 quarters vs. Dallas last week only to lose 117-110. They also led at halftime vs. Phoenix and both games vs. Denver during the losing streak.
The reason the Rockets lost 6 in a row and went from a lock to make the playoffs on April 9th to dead on April 19th, I think is the same reason they fade at the end of games. Their defense falls apart giving up easy layups and wide open looks, they get nothing out of their post game, and the jumpers they hit early on to get the lead, fall short when their legs get tired. They don't get any dribble penetration outside of their point guards, Scola is the only guy with a reliable post game; they just aren't capable of getting enough easy looks when their jump shot fails them.
This is not a young team (Scola 31, Martin 28, Lowry 5th year in the league) and I'm in favor of blowing it up and rebuilding through top draft picks. Look at the best teams in the league; Thunder with Kevin Durant (2nd overall pick), Magic with Dwight Howard (1st overall pick), Bulls with Derrick Rose (1st overall pick), Spurs with Tim Duncan (1st overall pick), and the Clippers with Blake Griffin (1st overall pick). There are always exceptions and some teams have improved via trade or free-agency, but Houston isn't a great destination city like Los Angeles or Miami.
What will the Rockets plan be? Owner Leslie Alexander seems unwilling to consider going with a full rebuild, so my guess is more of the same. Depending on what the Mavericks do during the post-season, the Rockets could have three 1st round picks, so they'll have the assets to make a few moves. They'll also have salary cap space with the expiring contracts of Marcus Camby, Goran Dragic, and Courtney Lee (15.5 million) coming off the books. If the Rockets are able to convince a high-level free-agent to sign here and find a way to trade their 3 first round picks to get into the top 3 of this years draft; then they won't have to start over, but I believe the odds of pulling those two feats off are slim.