Many of you have expressed confusion over my stance on ‘tanking’ in recent days. I’m writing this here because 140 characters won’t suffice. You’ll most likely see me link to this as reference during our chats, as the season progresses.
When I promote ‘tanking’, it should be understood that I mean that that is what should have been done from the start, or early on. I am not advocating that it should now be a policy going forward.
Despite the team’s recent string of losses, it’s now far too late to tank; it would be pointless. If even continuing to lose at a consistent rate, the Rockets’ current record already precludes a top draft slot. Getting a pick in the #10 to #14 range would serve little benefit. It’s unlikely that the player chosen would even break the rotation (see: Morris, Marcus) and he would tie up scarce resources. Donatas Motiejunas is already slated to return and teams do not like to carry multiple high-priced rookies.
The worst scenario right now would be for the Rockets to barely miss the playoffs, as has been the case the past two seasons. If they make it, at least they can build upon the ‘good feelings’ of the playoff berth in free agency. While this would have nowhere near the long-term impact of a high to mid lottery pick, it probably does more for the franchise than a late, low one.
For these reasons, I feel that the Rockets will, if they strike out on one of the big names (Gasol, Howard, Williams), still pursue some short-term stop-gap solution at the deadline. While the player might not help in the long run, he’ll make them better this season. After already getting so far out ahead and destroying their draft position, I think the Rockets feel that they simply cannot afford to miss the playoffs yet again. They will go all in [to the point that it does not hurt their future flexibility.] Missing the playoffs, barely, yet again, would be a colossal embarrassment for the franchise and a marketing disaster. If they make it, even as just an 8th seed, they can spin themselves as an up-and-coming team looking to “build upon last year’s success.” Had they had a high pick, they could market the hot-shot rookie or the big name veteran acquired by trading the rookie. If finishing 11th or 14th, they’ll be the butt of every joke.
Last night, I mentioned Grant Hill as an example of a guy I think they could pursue. Now obviously, Hill has unique circumstances which would make him difficult to acquire (namely that the Suns would not trade him out of respect to Steve Nash.) But he fits the mold of the type of player the Rockets could pursue. They want someone who would improve their team this season, filling a hole, who could be acquired relatively cheaply, and whose contract does not extend beyond this year.
Hill would slide right in as the backup wing, could probably be had for Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, and his $6.5million salary comes off the books this summer.
Another target would be Chris Kaman. In general, look for them to try to flip some combination of the ‘09 busts for a veteran who can actually help them. This would improve their on-court personnel while keeping their financial outlook at status quo.