MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
When Kyle Lowry checked into a New York hospital with a bacterial infection, Goran Dragic became the Rockets' starting point guard out of necessity. He rose to the occasion with a breakthrough season, guiding and keying the Rockets' offense and surge to seven games better than .500, including road wins against the Thunder, Bulls and Lakers with Dragic leading them.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
Patrick Patterson seemed poised to become Luis Scola's successor at power forward only seem to spend the entire season playing catch up. He got a late start when off-season ankle surgery kept him out for all of training camp. He never regained the offensive force or offensive rebounding he showed at the end of his rookie season. When the Rockets faded badly late in the season, so did Patterson, struggling with the role as a closer.
With the Rockets back in their familiar spot as the team closest to the playoffs without actually getting in, their shortcoming has not changed since the departure of Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. Though deep with solid role players, the Rockets still lack a star-quality player to build around. They would most like that kind of player to play inside where they had little scoring in the paint.
FREE AGENT FOCUS
The starting backcourt that ended the season -- Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee -- will head into free agency, but keeping them might depend on what happens with the players they replaced. Kyle Lowry is signed for two more seasons and Kevin Martin for one more season, but neither seems to be likely to pick up where they left off before they went out and either or both could be moved. The Rockets would like to keep Dragic, but he will be a coveted free agent. They plan to keep Lee, who will be a restricted free agent. Marcus Camby could also return as a free agent, but that would depend even more than with the guards on what the Rockets do elsewhere with the roster given that they won't want to depend on a 38-year-old center to remain the starter.
--F Chase Budinger finished a second-consecutive season with a season-high scoring game and for a second-consecutive season was a key scorer for the Rockets down the stretch. This season, however, he could be a free agent. The Rockets will face a bit of a decision about whether top pick up his option. If they do, they will have him for a fourth season at a very inexpensive price, but after one more season he will be an unrestricted free agent. If they don't pick up the option, he will be a restricted free agent. They are likely to pick up the option.
--C Marcus Camby ended the season with torn wrist ligaments and a sore back, but still hopes to play three more seasons and would them to be with the Rockets. Long a Houston-area resident, he fit in so well since acquired March 15 that he became a starter and irreplaceable. The Rockets would like to add another center, but liked the idea of keeping Camby in the role Dikembe Mutombo played at the end of his career.
--G Courtney Lee said he would love to be back with the Rockets, but as a restricted free agent, he knew he would have little control of where he will play next season, even if he signs an offer sheet elsewhere. His value would seem to have increased since he and the Rockets did not come to an agreement on a contract extension. With Kevin Martin going out for the season March 11, Lee started 26 games, playing well enough to be important for the Rockets and pursued by others.
--C Marcus Camby (sore back, torn wrist ligaments) is expected to need the only time off after the season to fully recuperate.
--G Kyle Lowry (sports hernia) expects to have surgery, but will undergo further tests before a decision is reached.
--G Kevin Martin (strained shoulder) will continue rehabilitation to strengthen the shoulder, but is expected to begin off-season workouts weeks after the end of the season.
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