Rockets would feel the heat from this bold move, but it's worth it
After their 130-101 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Houston Rockets stand at 11-13. That puts them 12th in the Western Conference and near the bottom (14th place) in the draft lottery. The only way the Rockets keep their first round pick this year is if it is in the top four. In a rebuilding phase like the Rockets are clearly in, it begs the question: should they compete for a playoff spot, or make moves to tank and get a high draft pick?
On the one hand, Rockets' fans would like to think this team, when fully healthy and all hands on deck, is a playoff contender. They're hoping John Wall stays healthy, Jae'Sean Tate, David Nwaba, Mason Jones, and Sterling Brown all improve enough to make them competitive in the Western Conference this season. They're also banking on Christian Wood's continued growth as a future superstar in the league, while Victor Oladipo progresses as an established star.
On the other hand, some are hoping guys like Oladipo, Wall, and others are traded for future assets and expiring contracts (like Oladipo's). If the Rockets' pick is in the top four selections of the draft, they keep their own pick. In my eyes, this draft isn't shaping up to be much, but a top four pick is better than not having one in any given draft, especially when your team is devoid of talent.
So which option is better? Should the Rockets make a run at a playoff spot? Or should they trade away assets and "tank" to see if they can get and keep a top pick in the draft to help with the rebuild? In my opinion, I think they should trade assets and aim for the draft pick. I highly doubt they make enough of a run in the regular season to make a decent seed. Even if they make the playoffs, it's even more doubtful they will make it out of the first round, which would result in them not having that first round pick to help them rebuild. Add that to the fact that they won't have cap space to offer a max contract free agent a spot, and you get a team in purgatory.
This is why I believe they should tank, get the high draft pick, and have that assist in the rebuild assuming the lottery falls their way. Sure, I'd love to see them in the playoffs, but this team isn't built for a playoff run. Look around at the Western Conference. Can this Rockets team honestly beat the Jazz, Clippers, Lakers, or even the Suns in a seven game series in the first round? If you think so, I have a therapist I can refer you to. While they're only three games out of the fifth seed in the West at this time, I can't see them making any waves. I also don't see them keeping guys around, especially since Oladipo has an expiring contract that could prove very attractive come the trade deadline. Here's to hoping they do the right thing for the team's future, whatever you, or I believe that looks like.