Tanking is dishonorable and it is considered a huge disservice to the fans. But, by losing 4 or 5 games out of the remaining 9, the Houston Rockets could ensure a better future. The question is should they?
It is irrefutable that the Rockets are having a forgettable season. But, they are not so bad that it is unrealistic to say that the Rockets should tank, so they could have a top 10 pick. The Rockets realistic draft position would be between 13th-19th. That means either the Houston Rockets would just barely make it to the playoffs or they’ll miss the playoffs completely.
Logistically, the Rockets could still make the playoff and obtain the 5th seed, but 6th, 7th, or 8th are more likely. Now, competition-wide, I don’t see the Rockets beating the Spurs, the Thunders, or the Clippers in round 1. Basically, extending the season for 4-7 games and missing out on a first round draft pick sounds like a bad move to me.
The reason why the Rockets shouldn’t make the playoff this year is because they dug themselves a hole during the free agency period when they acquired Ty Lawson and sent the 2016, first round pick top 14 -protected to the Nuggets.
Ty Lawson, a lost bet of the Rockets.
If the Rockets do not have a lottery pick, they will lose the pick. While second round picks could get you some nice players such as Montrezl Harrell (32th 2015) or Shelvin Mack (34th 2011), it cannot be counted on, unless the pick turned out to be an absolute steal like Paul Millsap (47th, 2006), Draymond Green (35th 2012) or Isaiah Thomas (60th 2011).
What would you rather see, a sweep by the Thunders or a promising young player that would fill some of the Rockets’ need? I’ll take the latter any day.
Now, one could make an argument this draft year won’t be good or it is so uneven that prospects outside of the top ten are not worth the time. If we have another 2013 draft, then risking it all against the top four might not be such a bad idea after all.
But, the 2016 NBA draft class seems not to be the case. This year might not be as good as last year (2015 might live on in history as one of the best draft year in the modern NBA), however there are certainly some good players that would likely fall into the Rockets’ range. Let’s touch on a few here (NOTE: remember to check back with SCS as draft day approaches when a full mock draft and articles on who the Rockets should select will appear). The Rockets have two critical role needs coming into the draft: point guard and center.
The Power Forward – Centers
The starting center position would be vacant when D12 decides to leave the Rockets next year. So, the Rockets need to prepare for the worst (or best if you don’t think that Dwight Howard should be a Rocket next year). Out of the 2016 draft class, three good centers are likely to end up within the Rockets’ range: Skal Labissiere, Jakob Poeltl, and Henry Ellenson.
Labissiere and Ellenson are versatile capable of playing center or power forward. This is relevant given the expected departures of Josh Smith and Terrance Jones. Let’s assume the Rockets will retain Donatas Motiejunas, Michael Beasley. Additionally Harrell enters his second season and Trevor Ariza can play PF role in small ball. While 5 players who can slot in at power forward may seem extensive remember this is the new position-less NBA.
Out of those four draftees, Labissiere has the highest ceiling; it would be nice if we could draft and develop him the way we did with Capela. Arguably Jakob Poeltl would be the best of the group, given Labissiere’s poor performance this year.
The Point Guards
The Houston Rockets point guard position is incredibly thin, with one true PG – Patrick Beverley. Even though any PG we drafted would not be handling the ball a lot, we still need someone to cover the position. Preferably a play maker, who could take care of the rock when Harden is rested would take precedence. Among the prospects, Kris Dunn would be the best, but it is more than likely that a team like New Orleans Pelicans or Boston Celtics (with their unlimited numbers of pick) would take him. The next best would be either Tyler Ulis or Demetrius Jackson.
In terms of play making, Ulis is way better than Jackson. If Ulis is somehow available when the Houston Rockets pick, and Morey determines the priority is a PG, he should absolutely draft him.
Here is both Tyler Ulis’ stat and Jakob Poeltl’s stat from ESPN.go.com. A 17 point, 7 assist combo guard and a 17 point, 9 rebound double double machine with an above Dwight’s free throw level ability should be the two exciting young players that the Rockets should invest in. The easiest way they could do that is by tanking (not too obviously, of course) and retain the pick for themselves.
Now, there is also the honorable argument – tanking would be looked down upon. It would also be somewhat disgraceful if a team that reached the Western Final last year fails to qualify for the playoffs the year after. However, all would be forgotten if the Rockets return to dominance a year after the tank (no one seems to remember the tanking of the Spurs during the 1996-97 season).
With the ‘almost in their prime’ players like Harden, Beasley, and Beverley, the veteran leadership of Ariza and (possibly) JET, together with the young players like Capela, Harrell, KJ McDaniels, and the 2016 pick, the future could be bright for the Clutch City.
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