Rockets Acquire Assets for Howard Deal?
Call it a setup move.
The Houston Rockets have agreed to trade Chase Budinger and the rights to Lior Eliyahu to Minnesota for the No. 18 pick in the draft. With picks No. 14, 16 and 18 as well as two first-rounders from a year ago (Marcus Morris and Donatas Motiejunas), Houston hopes to present an overwhelming stockpile of assets to the Magic in return for Dwight Howard … even if it has no assurances he’ll stay more than one season.
This may even be a move that sets up the move that sets up the big move. Houston may very well be looking to package multiple draft picks to move into the lottery, then using that lottery pick as the bait to lure Howard.
In the big picture, it seems Houston’s gambit is to count on Brooklyn being unable to keep its salary cap powder dry for another season while still retaining Deron Williams. If the Nets are off the table — either because Williams bolted or because they used their cap space to keep Williams happy — it’s not clear where Howard would go that might be preferable to Houston. According to a report at NBA.com, Howard’s people are busy trying to scare the Rockets off, as partnering with Williams in Brooklyn is his preferred destination, but Houston doesn’t seem deterred.