The Houston Rockets have the least chance of moving up in the 2011 NBA Draft Lottery after finishing the 2010/11 season with a 43-39 record, the best among the 14 non-playoff teams. The Rockets have just five possible combinations in the lottery and therefore have just a 0.5-percent chance of getting the number one pick.
Only twice has the lottery team with the best record moved up into the top three: in 1993, when the Magic improbably won the lottery, and in 1999, when the Hornets got the third pick. The odds are long, but it has happened.
The Rockets desperately need size. Yao Ming's contract and feet are up, and without him, Houston was mediocre defensively and were doomed to finish near the .500 mark despite a very good offense. Chuck Hayes has dutifully manned the position for the last couple years, but he is so undersized that it puts the Rockets in a tough position. Picking where they are likely to pick probably isn't going to yield the kind of starting-caliber big man the Rockets need. Their best hope is to find someone who can provide depth and play in a rotation along with Hayes, Luis Scola and promising rookie Patrick Patterson.
Houston could also use a small forward, though Chase Budinger really came on at that position last season.
IF THEY WIN
Even with Kyle Lowry's excellent season, it will be tough to turn down the dynamic talent of Kyrie Irving. Derrick Williams could also fit in at small forward and in small lineups. But the Rockets aren't winning barring a miracle, so this is a moot point.
Further down the list, an athletic big man like Kansas' Markieff Morris, Texas' Tristan Thompson or Florida State's Chris Singleton would make a lot of sense.
The Rockets won the lottery in 2002, going from the fifth-worst record to winning the Yao derby. The Rockets had the 14th pick last year, and were the eighth pick in 2006, when they drafted Rudy Gay and traded him to Memphis.