As is his nature, Daryl Morey is giving off the vibe that he'll be very active during the draft on Thursday. The trade of Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 18th overall pick this year gives the Rockets a lot of ammo to use to either move up to grab a player the Magic might want or to trade to Orlando outright. There is very little chance the Rockets will make all three picks they own so far at 14, 16, and 18; the feeling I get is that every move they make is to give them a better chance at acquiring a star, more specifically Dwight Howard.
The Rockets have tried for several years now after the demise of T-Mac and Yao to get their next star but the trades have fallen through and the free-agents have turned them down. Morey over the last several years has gone after Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard but nothing has materialized. It seems after Howard's circus this season that got Orlando's head coach and general manager fired, the Rockets will get a 2nd chance to acquire the All-Star center. If my guess is right, what will most likely happen is the Rockets will use a combination of their three 1st round picks, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, and Kevin Martin to acquire the 5th pick from Sacramento and the 8th pick from Toronto. Then on draft night the trade for Dwight Howard will be announced but won't be official until a date in early July, so the Rockets will make the picks for the Orlando Magic; much like what happened with the Shane Battier/Rudy Gay deal.
Some Rockets fans have expressed concern over the possibility of Howard being just one and done here in Houston. Unless the Rockets acquire another big time player to play with Howard, there is a good chance he'll bolt, but I don't think that worse case scenario is all that bad. I've said before that the Rockets should go through a full blown rebuilding process by tanking because that's the best way to acquire a star (see Bulls, Thunder, Magic, Spurs, and Heat with Wade), well considering what it will take to trade for Howard, if he leaves, the Rockets roster will be bare and they'll have no choice but to tank a couple seasons and start the rebuilding process we've asked for.
If the trade for Dwight Howard does happen, what will be interesting to watch is the effect it has on other players willingness to come to Houston. The Rockets are hoping that a move for Howard will convince free-agent Deron Williams to change his mind on his rumored favored teams. According to Mark Stein of ESPN, Deron Williams has told his representatives that the only options he'll consider on July 1st are re-signing with Brooklyn or signing with the Mavericks in his hometown of Dallas. Those two teams are still very much the heavy favorite, but I have to believe that if the Rockets traded for Dwight Howard; he might reconsider. The Nets have been rumored to be trying to acquire Howard as well, in part to convince Williams to stay, maybe the same will work for the Rockets. If I were a free-agent, playing with the 26-year-old Howard in his prime would be more appealing than playing with the 34-year-old Dirk Nowitzki on the downside of his career. Plus, Houston is just a 4-hour car drive or a 30-minute flight away from Dallas, so he could still visit more often than he did while playing in Utah or New Jersey.
Daryl Morey has hit a lot of singles over his career with several very good small moves like the trades for Luis Scola (Vassilis Spanoulis), Goran Dragic (Aaron Brooks), and now this Chase Budinger trade, but has failed to hit the home run; he has a great chance to hit that home run this week.