The Rockets went 55-27 last season, including a 22-game winning streak, but lost to Utah in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight season. Despite the franchise's best record since 1996-97, Houston could use either a dependable perimeter shooter to take pressure of Tracy McGrady or a powerful big man to back up Yao Ming.
The Rockets were the third-worst shooting team in the Western Conference last season and shot only 41 percent in the playoffs against the Jazz. Yao missed the series and has sat out chunks of the last three seasons with injuries. Dikembe Mutombo capably filled in for Yao the past two years, but he turned 42 on Wednesday, making his durability even more of a question heading into this season.
Morey, preparing for his second draft in Houston, said he's not feeling pressure to use the draft to plug those deficiencies. He said there's not much chance of finding an instant-impact player with the 25th pick anyway.
"Not a lot of home runs at 25," he said. "We're just trying to, if we keep the pick, get who we think is the best player who will help us over time. If we can trade it for an asset, we'll do it. We've got to go with what's best."
Morey has about seven players in mind for the Rockets' first pick and expects at least three to still be available. Houston also holds the 54th overall selection.
"It's something where you're weighing a bunch of different possibilities with the pick -- roster fit, system fit, obviously trying to get better for next year," he said.
Morey said the roster's makeup is already close to what he thinks it should be and it's likely to remain mostly intact for the upcoming season.
McGrady and Yao are still the foundation and forward Shane Battier, one of the league's top defensive players, is signed through the 2010-11 season. Starters Rafer Alston and Luis Scola each have two seasons left on their contracts. Point guards Bobby Jackson and Aaron Brooks will return and Morey said the team will re-sign forward Carl Landry. Forward Chuck Hayes signed a four-year contract last summer and guard Luther Head is signed through next season.
That stability gives Morey some leeway to use the Rockets' picks for players who may not help immediately, but may blossom in years to come.
"We view this pick as someone we think is someone who is going to help us over time, versus next year," he said.
Houston got valuable contributions last season from rookies Brooks, Landry and Scola. The Rockets acquired Scola from San Antonio in a trade in July, and Brooks and Landry joined the team on draft night a year ago. The Rockets picked Brooks 26th overall and acquired Landry in a trade with Seattle.
Brooks played in 51 games last season and averaged five points and two assists. Landry averaged 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds, contributing energy and scoring punch off the bench. Scola was in the running for rookie of the year after averaging 14 points and nine rebounds.
Morey isn't anticipating to hit that kind of jackpot this time.
"Last year was very unique to have three rookies to come in and play minutes and contribute on a Western Conference playoff team," Morey said. "If we can do that again, that would be great. But I think we're more focused on how this pick will help us over the future."