By TERRANCE HARRIS, SportsRadio 610

HOUSTON (CBS HOUSTON) – The Rockets are continuing to improve their draft positioning in hopes of being able to lure All-Star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic.

A day after shipping Chase Budinger to Minnesota for the No.18 pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, the Rockets on Wednesday traded starting center Samuel Dalembert and No. 14 overall pick to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the No. 12 pick and Shaun Livingston, Jon Brockman and Jon Brockman.

The Bucks also reportedly are receiving a future second round pick and cash from the Rockets in the deal.

What it all means is that Rockets general manager is a step closer to landing a Top 5 pick or two Top 10 picks now that he has the 12th, 16th and 18 picks in the first round of the draft and some valuable players to bargain with. There is speculation the Rockets are close to a deal with Sacramento that would including swapping a later round pick and possibly point guard Kyle Lowry for the Kings No. 5 pick.

The hope is the Rockets will then have enough bargaining power to convince the Magic to part ways with Howard in a trade that will include draft picks and players from both teams. The Magic brass has continued to say they haven’t made a decision on Howard, who has one season remaining on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Howard has indicated he would like to go to either the Brooklyn Nets or the Dallas Mavericks, which means it is unlikely he will not sign a contract extension unless the trade is to one of those two teams. But the Rockets have given indication they are will to take chance on Howard even without a contract extension as part of the deal.

The trade of Dalembert, 31, seems to indicate the Rockets are confident they will land a big man via a trade, free agency or in the draft. They landed the veteran Dalembert last season and it wasn’t long before he was inserted into the starting lineup because of his shot-blocking and defensive play. The Rockets held a $6.7 million option on Dalembert for this upcoming season.

In addition to Howard, the Rockets could become interested in center Pau Gasol, whom the Los Angeles Lakers are floating as trade bait. The Rockets thought they had Gasol prior to last season a three-team trade that would have sent point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic to New Orleans, but NBA commissioner David Stern nixed the deal.

Contact Terrance Harris at or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris


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