Rockets Targeting Dwight Howard, Deron Williams?
The clock is ticking for the Houston Rockets, and not just on the 2012 NBA Draft. The current management team, headed up by general manager Daryl Morey, was supposed to lead the Rockets into a new era of contention, but a rash of injuries to the core components of that team – Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady – prevented them from ever reaching that goal. Now, ownership is growing impatient, as the Rockets have been just good enough to miss the playoffs over the last three seasons.
It’s widely recognized that Houston is one piece away from being a contending team in the Western Conference, but that one piece has eluded them. Now, it sounds like the Rockets are attempting to land two All-Star pieces in moves surrounding this week’s NBA Draft.
The Rockets have been linked to Dwight Howard in recent days, but sources close to the situation say that acquiring Howard would only be the first step in Houston’s master plan. The team would then try to acquire a second star player, with Deron Williams atop their wish list, to put next to Howard. If all goes as planned, Houston will have the resources to trade for Howard and sign Williams to a max contract.
The Rockets have been busy working to add draft picks, and already have a nice collection started. They own the 14th and 16th picks on their own, and just acquired the 18th selection when they traded Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves. There are also a couple of prominent rumors that have them grabbing a couple more picks between now and the draft on Thursday.
The Sacramento Kings own the fifth pick in the draft, and several rumors have the Rockets acquiring that pick via trade. The rumor that seems to be gaining the most momentum has Houston sending former Kings center Samuel Dalembert and the 16th pick to Sacramento for the fifth pick. DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony recently reported that one possible deal involved Houston taking back Tyreke Evans and sending Kyle Lowry, the 14th and 16th to Sacramento, though Sports Illustrated’s Sam Amick has since shot down that rumor.
It seems unlikely that the Rockets would send Lowry to Sacramento, as another prominent rumor has them sending Lowry to the Toronto Raptors for the eighth pick.
If the Rockets were able to acquire the 5th and 8th to add to their other picks, they could add Kevin Martin to a deal with the Orlando Magic, who may look to move Howard on draft night. What’s more, if the Rockets can pull off that deal, they would also have the money to sign Williams to a max contract, allowing Howard and Williams to play together, as they long to do. In the process, Houston hangs onto the rights to Goran Dragic, who could back up Williams, and Courtney Lee, one of Howard’s best friends, who could start at the two. The hope is that playing with Williams and Lee would be reason enough for Howard to commit his foreseeable future to playing in Houston.
To be clear, there are a lot of dominoes that have to fall just the right way in order for this master plan to come together. If it doesn’t, however, Houston has a couple of backup plans in mind, according to sources. If the Rockets are unable to sign Williams, sources say they’ll try to trade for Rudy Gay or Josh Smith. Houston believes that their odds of re-signing Howard after next year would significantly increase if they are able to acquire a perimeter star such as Gay or Smith. Howard is close with both players.
The Rockets are going all in and, over the next few days, will attempt to change the landscape of the NBA.
HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy contributed to this article.