HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – The one thing for certain is the Rockets general manager Daryl Morey isn’t going into Thursday night’s NBA Draft with a timid approach.
He’s intent on bringing a big-name star to the Rockets’ roster one way or the other. It’s the other we should be concerned about.
Morey has all but guaranteed the Rockets will move into the Top 10 of the draft after he secured the team’s third top 20 pick with the trade of Chase Budinger to Minnesota for the 18th overall pick on Tuesday.
The Rockets, according to sources, will try to package that pick with the No. 14 and 16 picks they already have to try to move up as possibly move into the top 5. The ultimate hope is with a top 5 selection they can entice the Orlando Magic to relinquish All-Star center Dwight Howard in a blockbuster trade.
If the deal for Howard doesn’t work out, the Rockets could also use the top 5 pick they get from packaging their picks and select a quality young star to build around. Several reports have circulated for days that the Rockets had been in talks with Sacramento for its No.5 overall pick, but by adding the 18th overall they could have upped the ante some.
The Charlotte Bobcats have given indication they may be willing to move out its No.2 for extra picks, which could position the Rockets to draft a player like Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson or UConn power forward Andre Drummond, who is expected to be among the first five players taken in the lottery.
But the main goal for the Rockets right now seems to be landing Howard, which could be for just one season since he has indicated his desire to play with Deron Williams in either Brooklyn or Dallas. Howard has one more season remaining on his current contract before becoming an unrestricted free agent next summer after agreeing to opt in with the Magic right at the trade deadline in March.
The Rockets and Morey seem willing to mortgage the future of the franchise for Howard even with no guarantee that he will stay beyond next season. The hope seems to be that they will be able to convince the best center in the game to sign a long-term deal with the club once he is here.
It’s an obviously dangerous gamble for the Rockets, but one the franchise seems willing to take in the quest to land a big-name star that can lead the franchise to an NBA title.
But the only thing that is for sure at this point is the Rockets will not draft three players in the first round Thursday to go along with three rookies they added to the roster last season. The hope is they will land one rookie and perhaps one or two veteran stars this offseason.
The Rockets have some cap flexibility and they also still have some trade bait to dangle in an effort to land Howard. The most notable trade option is disgruntled point guard Kyle Lowry, who has said he can’t play for Kevin McHale. But Luis Scola and even Kevin Martin’s expensive expiring contract ($13 million) could be attractive to a club like Orlando that will be looking to rebuild without Howard in the middle.
There are a lot of possibilities out there as the draft fast approaches. The only certainty is Morey will be active and more moves will be made.