It seems like a long time ago, but the Rockets entered into this season with so much promise and intrigue – not to mention two bankable All-Stars in James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

But they ended the season Sunday in much the way it was the entire 2020-21 campaign, in disarray and disappointed – and without the star power of departed Harden and Westbrook. The short-handed Rockets fell to the Atlanta Hawks 124-95 to put an end to one of the worst seasons in franchise history.

After years of excitement, the Rockets ended in a whimper with an NBA-worst 17-55 record. The promising thing is that it makes them the odds-on favorites to win the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery.

In the meantime, the focus will be on what first-year general manager Rafael Stone and first-year NBA head coach Stephen Silas can do to get the Rockets moving in a winning direction. The first instinct is to attract the biggest names possible in free agency this offseason and quickly begin chasing NBA titles.

But given the newness of the Rockets front office brass and the pile of current and future draft picks the franchise is sitting on, the smart money is on a slow and sensible rebuild.

The Rockets have three important areas to consider as they head into this offseason. Stone and Silas have to figure out who is worth keeping and who needs to be let go in order for growth to happen. Then the attention turns to the draft and what are the primary needs. Finally, there will be free agency.

Let’s take an early look at what decisions the Rockets front office must make.