Dig in, folks. This Houston Rockets offseason review might take a while.
SIGNED JEREMY LIN
This was the Rockets' marquee move of the summer, and it was done with one purpose in mind: find the star player that can help lead the Rockets to the promised land. Before you laugh, understand that the Rockets have been in the middle of the NBA pack for so long, and they're tired of it. If it means jettisoning key pieces to create cap room to sign guys like Lin who have a small chance of being a star, so be it. It may seem a little silly, but I follow the Rockets' logic here.
Of course, nobody really knows how good Lin is. For a 10-game stretch when he first began, he was one of the the best players in the league, but even the Rockets know that was a bit of a fluke. Nevertheless, he's also probably better than he showed at certain stretches of the season, and there's no reason to believe he can't grow as a player. Whether that happens depends on how well Lin adjusts as the rest of the league adjusts to him. Last year, he surprised everyone with his ability to get to his strong hand, his difficult finishes and the speed in which he attacked pick and rolls, but he can't rely on that anymore. He needs to develop counters to his opponent's counters, and he must do so with a completely new set of teammates and a very different off-court role.
It's a challenge, but ultimately, I can understand why the Rockets feel he is worth the risk, given where their franchise is at right now.
SIGNED OMER ASIK
There's a natural tendency to group this signing with Lin's, but I think they're very different. The Lin signing was the Rockets' gamble that they could procure a star-quality player for a slightly above-average NBA salary. The Asik signing, though, feels much more practical. No matter how bad the Rockets will be, they need a center to hold down the fort. Asik should be that guy, even though he has played limited minutes due to his offensive limitations.
It's easy to scoff at this contract, but I think this was smart value. Asik is that valuable defensively, and big men tend to become more disciplined as they get older. Centers that can rebound and protect the rim have become even more valuable in today's hybrid-zone defense era, and Asik is right up there among the best in the league in those categories. He is too limited in other areas to get a seven-figure contract, but at three years and $25 million, it's not too absurd a price.
TRADED KYLE LOWRY
This became necessary after Lowry expressed his displeasure at coach Kevin McHale prior to the NBA Draft. The Rockets at least did well to secure a potential lottery pick for Lowry, but it's unfortunate how things ended. The Rockets believed in Lowry and helped develop him into a star, so I'm not sure why things devolved so quickly.
LET GORAN DRAGIC GO
Using the Rockets' logic, here's a question worth asking: is it more likely than Lin or Dragic becomes a star? Both signed comparable contracts, and both broke out last year for their teams. Dragic is a little older, but he also has more experience in big-time situations and clearly took to McHale's style of play. Lin's upside is probably higher, but Dragic probably has a better chance of reaching his full potential.
Personally, I would have kept Dragic and not pursued Lin. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out.
LET COURTNEY LEE GO
Lee was an underrated key to the Rockets' rise at the end of the year, and he will help the Boston Celtics a lot. That makes it easy to criticize the Rockets for just letting him go. At the same time, remember the Rockets' goal this summer: get out of the middle of the NBA. That means letting guys like Lee go sometimes.
USED AMNESTY CLAUSE ON LUIS SCOLA
See above. The only difference: the Rockets have a proven shooting guard in Kevin Martin, whereas they don't have a proven option up front without Scola. Then again, Scola is older, his game declined significantly last year and the team has about 700 young power forwards on the roster. It would have been nice if the Rockets could get some value back for him, but given where they are trying to go, I can understand just cutting him loose.
TRADED MARCUS CAMBY AND SAMUEL DALEMBERT
These deals paved the way for the Asik signing, and they also brought back some draft picks and other assets. Given that the Rockets were going to go after Asik anyway, it makes sense that these deals happened.
DRAFTED JEREMY LAMB, TERRENCE JONES AND ROYCE WHITE
I'm sure the Rockets would have preferred moving these three picks for Dwight Howard, but at the very least, they seem to have gotten good value with all of them. Lamb's on-court demeanor is an issue, and White's ongoing battle with anxiety is well-documented, but there's a decent chance at least two of these guys become legitimate NBA players. When it comes to picks in the teens, those are good odds.
It is worth noting, though, that the Rockets dealt a couple rotation players in Dalembert and Chase Budinger to get these selections. Dalembert is a veteran that didn't have much of a place on this team, but Budinger was still relatively young and had some room to grow. The Rockets may end up losing out in that exchange when it's all said and done.
BROUGHT OVER DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS
This was a perfect time to bring him over, and so far, he's looked pretty impressive. If he can keep this up, he might start for many years to come.
SIGNED CARLOS DELFINO
I've always liked Delfino's game, but this is an odd place for him to be. Contenders should be lining up to secure his services, not the Rockets. Maybe Houston is hoping that he plays well for half the season before being traded for future assets, but if no contenders were willing to meet Delfino's price this summer, it's hard to believe any will do so in February.
OFFSEASON GRADE: B
I think this is a fair grade for a team whose full plan has not been completed just yet. It feels like the Rockets have been trying to acquire a superstar for ages, and thus far, they've consistently struck out. It remains to be seen if sinking towards the bottom of the league will aid their effort to find their building blocks, but one can certainly understand what they're trying to do at least.