I haven't been able to figure it out. I haven't been able to figure out how a team that was 21-14 and in 4th place in the Western Conference 9 days ago, have managed to lose 5 games in a row (2 to teams with losing records) and drop out of the playoffs as the 9th seed. After spending the last day thinking of trades, changes to the rotation, and any other way to fix their slump, the obvious answer finally came to me; this is who they are, they're a mediocre team. The Rockets were 43-39 last season and without making any significant changes to the roster, would be on pace to win 43 games this season if they were playing a full 82 game schedule. This is who the Rockets are; they're not great, they're not bad, they're average. This notion became even more obvious when looking at their roster, position by position compared to the other Western Conference teams.
Think of it this way; look at each Rockets starter, how many starters at their position in the Western Conference are they obviously much better than? How many others would they start over? How many would they be traded for heads up? When broken down that way, it's plain to see that the reason they're a slightly above average team, is because their best players are slightly above average. Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola are fringe All-Star caliber players, but that's the point, they've never been All-Stars, and other teams simply have better players.
Kyle Lowry (16 ppg, 7 assists, 41%)
Would Start Over - Jamal Crawford, Devin Harris, Jason Kidd, Isaiah Thomas, and Derek Fisher
Wouldn't Start Over - Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Mike Conley, Ty Lawson, Ricky Rubio, Jarrett Jack, Stephen Curry
Kevin Martin (17 ppg, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 41%)
Would Start Over - Marco Belinelli, Jared Dudley, Raja Bell, Luke Ridnour, Arron Afflalo, Vince Carter, Randy Foye, Tony Allen
Wouldn't Start Over - Monta Ellis, Kobe Bryant, Tyreke Evans, Nicolas Batum, James Harden, Manu Ginobili
Chandler Parsons (8 ppg, 4.5 rebounds, 1 steal, 45%)
Would Start Over - Dorell Wright, Grant Hill, Josh Howard, Wesley Johnson, Metta World Peace, Richard Jefferson
Wouldn't Start Over - Trevor Ariza, Marcus Thornton, Gerald Wallace, Corey Brewer, Shawn Marion, Caron Butler, Rudy Gay, Kevin Durant
Luis Scola (15 ppg, 6.5 rebounds, 48%)
Would Start Over - Gustavo Ayon, Jason Thompson, Channing Frye, Kenneth Faried, Marreese Speights
Wouldn't Start Over - David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, Kevin Love, Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, Tim Duncan
Samuel Dalembert (7.5 ppg, 7.5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 49%)
Would Start Over - Kendrick Perkins, DeJuan Blair, Brendan Haywood, Marcus Camby, Andris Biedrins
Wouldn't Start Over - Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Andrew Bynum, Nene, Nikola Pekovic, Al Jefferson, Marcin Gortat, DeMarcus Cousins, Chris Kaman
What I found most surprising when making this list, the only Rockets starter who would start on more than half of the other Western Conference teams is Kevin Martin; and most Rockets fans want him traded. It's simple, they need better players. Problem is, with their record always sitting near .500, their draft pick won't be high enough to grab a great player unless they get lucky.