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Houston Rockets: Can They Bust Out Of This Slump?

The schedule is about to get easier, but are they capable of going on a run?

At this pace, the Rockets are on track to finish the season at 16-50. Maybe my expectations of 35-38 wins and at least the 7th seed in the West were too high, but this team is not as bad as their 2-6 record would indicate...I think. If this team is the team I thought it was, if the team is going to be a playoff team, they have to go on a run over their next 16 games. During that stretch, they have 12 very winnable games; the Rockets have to go 10-6 at minimum to get themselves back into the playoff conversation. I know it's early, but remember that this season is only 66 games long and after these next 16 games, they'll basically be at the 1/3 mark. I know they have injuries, I know they're still learning a new system, but they don't have time to fall behind; as of now they're tied for dead last in the Western Conference. The remedy for this? 9 total games coming up against teams like Minnesota, Washington, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Sacramento who have a combined record of 10-33.

If there's a silver lining, the teams they've lost to have a combined record of 32-13; most teams would have a losing record against their schedule. That doesn't mean they're aren't things to fix, they have a lot of issues to work on; first on that list is defense. The Rockets currently rank 28th in points allowed, 25th in point differential, and dead last in opponents field goal percentage. To put it simply, they're giving up way too many wide open looks and easy buckets at the rim. The biggest reason for this is that neither starter on the wing can guard anybody. Ultimately I think they should look to trade for a SG/SF defender, but until then I'd give Courtney Lee or Terrance Williams a shot at small forward. In my opinion, Chase Budinger just isn't doing anything right now to warrant starting. Budinger isn't shooting well, he's not scoring double digits, he doesn't rebound (2 per game), doesn't distribute it well (0.9 assists per game), he doesn't defend (0.1 blocks, 0.6 steals per game); what net positive does he give you? In a short season, I don't think they can afford to be patient with Budinger.

Besides Budinger, they need to do some experimenting with different lineups. Almost every player on the team can score, but only a few of them defend. They could try bringing Scola off the bench for a game and start Hill at PF, Dalembert at center. That doesn't mean Scola wouldn't play, but maybe use him like the Mavericks use Jason Terry. They could also try bringing up their 1st round pick Marcus Morris from the D-League and experiment with some bigger lineups with him at the SF, Scola/Patterson at PF, and Hill/Dalembert at center.

Even if they make the playoffs, this is not a team capable of advancing. The most important goal this season is to find out what they have and start playing/coaching up who they decide to build around. They need to find out what they have in Patterson and Morris, and make some decisions on veterans like Martin and Scola as to who they want to build with going forward. If they don't bust out of this slump, they shouldn't be afraid to trade everyone; this draft looks to be loaded.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.