At this point, I think even the most wildly delusional Rockets' fan has to concede that this club is not a championship contender. But there's no shame in that. Realistically, Houston never had a chance to compete with the Mavericks, Suns or Spurs this year.
But here's the much larger (and far more pressing) question facing the club: Can the Rockets compete for a title in the near future? Let's face it, Tracy McGrady is almost certainly headed for an early retirement due to his career-long back issues and Yao Ming's plodding style doesn't exactly mesh with the NBA's renewed emphasis on speed and quickness. Then, you have the fact that, together, T-Mac and Yao eat up such a large portion of the team's cap space.
Lately, I've been racking my brain trying to figure out what the Rockets can do, because this club's next two or three years seem destined to be that of a 50-something win squad which is very good, but not nearly good enough to truly compete with the league's elite. Perhaps I'm being too harsh and pessimistic. Maybe the mere addition of a competent point guard is all this team requires to join the cream of the crop. Trouble is, how much more can Houston expect to squeeze out of T-Mac over the course of the next couple of seasons? I like the guy and LOVE his game, but those back problems are never going to disappear; in fact, they're likely to get worse. Put it this way: Do you trust him to make it through an entire two-month title run unscathed? Didn't think so.
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So sound off, Rocket fans. What would you do to transform this club into a true contender? I'm willing to listen to proposals that include trading Yao (since he is Houston's most valuable commodity), but that means you'll still be counting on the brittle body of McGrady to be an integral part of the team, no matter what you get in return for the big fella. So just know I'm likely to be dubious unless you really wow me. Of course, if you think the current nucleus is fine and all this team needs is a little tinkering, that's acceptable too. Just post your proposals in the comments section and in the meantime, I'll put on my own GM cap and deliver my best plan of action next week. Until then, let's just hope T-Mac remains upright and in one piece. — Jason Friedman