The Houston Rockets have sent forward Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 18th pick in the NBA draft. That gives Houston the 14th, 16th and 18th picks this Thursday. But chances are they won’t make any of those picks for themselves
Although sources stressed that no deal is imminent, the Rockets have had substantive discussion about sending their other two first-round picks (No. 14 and No. 16) to the Sacramento Kings for the No. 5 pick. The Rockets have also been exploring moving point guard Kyle Lowry to a team in the top 10 to acquire another pick.
Sources say the Rockets are hoping to acquire enough assets to entice the Magic to trade Dwight Howard to them.
One thing Rob Hennigan won’tdo in Orlando is be held hostage by a player’s petulant demands. If he has conversations with Dwight Howard and determines that he will be disruptive or planning an post-season exit, He won’t hesitate to move him now. His mentor, OKC’s Sam Presti, made similar moves in Seattle when he gave up Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis for cap space, picks and the rights to key bench players. Hennigan will do what’s best for the organization, not capitulate to a star’s whims.
What’s best for Orlando would also mean taking advantage of a desperate Houston team. If they could put together a package palatable for the Magic while accepting the possibility of a one-and-done Dwight Howard, the Orlando would have to listen. Houston’s sudden and fast-moving efforts to acquire a player like Howard will also put pressure on the other suitors to get their best offers ready so they don’t miss out on their chance. That means the newly-hired Hennigan will be jumping in with both feet, making a major determination on his franchise’s future about a week into his new job. Houston, for their part, will take over the role of trying to convince Dwight to stay, possibly selling him by using Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Rockets might not be out of luck if Orlanod finds a more desireabledance partner. The report also mentions the pursuit of Atlanta’s Josh Smith, which would put the same kind of “welcome to the new job now make a super-huge major decision about your team’s future NOW” pressure on Danny Ferry, who only just took the job yesterday. Regardless, the Rockets are clearly sick of being a middling team that floats along and maybe reaches “Playoff Sleeper” status. They’re ready to go for broke and make a run at major names to join the ranks of top playoff seeds. The question is… will they be able to acquire enough pieces to get that player in the next two days, and still leave themselves the room to fill out the roster with complimentary players.
One last note on the other side of this trade. I’m not quite sure what Minnesota is doing. Martell Webster has a team option and the team has to decide on whether to offer Michael Beasley an $8 million qualifying offer. If the team passes on either or both of those, then that could be where Budinger fits. Honestly, trying to figure out Minnesota’s moves are migraine-inducing.