|A consistent rumor has the Rockets targeting UConn 7-footer Andre Drummond in the first round. (US Presswire)|
The Houston Rockets continued stockpiling first-round picks Wednesday in a bid to move into the top 10 of Thursday night's draft and enhance their chances of landing a star player they can build around, league sources told CBSSports.com.
While Houston has not given up on making a play for Orlando center Dwight Howard, rival executives believe their swap of the 14th pick with Milwaukee for the 12th pick Wednesday gave them an arsenal of the 12th, 16th and 18th picks that could be used to climb into the upper lottery. The Rockets are targeting at least one premier pick or "significant" veterans, according to a person familiar with the team's plan.
UPDATE: Among several avenues the Rockets are exploring would be a trade with Sacramento for the No. 5 pick in a deal that likely would send Tyreke Evans to Houston, sources said. The teams have discussed several scenarios, and while one person briefed on the talks described the deal as "getting close," rival executives have gotten the strong impression that the Kings are steadfastly resisting the Rockets' overtures.
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Word in front office circles has been consistent that the Rockets' target is Connecticut 7-footer Andre Drummond, although some executives openly wondered Wednesday if that was a smokescreen. Welcome to the 24 hours before the draft. It's possible that Houston's real target is Damian Lillard, whom the Trail Blazers are believed to covet with the sixth pick, sources said.
While executives believed Houston's target was Lakers forward Pau Gasol, a person familiar with the team's strategy debunked that idea and said the Rockets front office has cooled significantly on the 7-foot Spaniard. Gasol made sense when Houston was pursuing him in the past year and was trying to set up a three-year window with Kyle Lowry, Gasol and another big-man target, Nene. But the person briefed on the Rockets' current plan doubted Gasol would make sense for the franchise anymore.
With word beginning to circulate that the Lakers are open to moving Gasol for a starting veteran and prime draft pick, L.A. faces a transformative moment for the franchise. A key goal would be to get younger and ease what is expected to be an enormous tax burden in 2013-14, when the league's more punitive luxury tax kicks in and Gasol and Kobe Bryant are scheduled to earn a combined $50 million.
In their second draft-related trade in as many days, the Rockets sent Samuel Dalembert and the 14th pick to Milwaukee for the 12th pick, Shaun Livingston, Jon Brockman and Jon Leuer. The Bucks, needing a center to replace the traded Andrew Bogut, will "definitely" keep Dalembert even though he only has $1.5 million of his $6.7 million salary guaranteed for next season, according to a source familiar with the team's plans.