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The Rockets Want To Move Up In The Draft, But Will They Find A Willing Trade Partner?

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From Jonathan Feigen (by way of Red94):

Then again, they might not pick at 14 at all. The one thing I'm hearing more than any is that they are working the phones hard to move up. And since we can assume there is little chance to get to the very top of the draft, if they are inclined to gamble on upside, accepting risk, that might mean they will target DeMarcus Cousins.

This is the assumption that Rahat and I have shared all along: the idea that the Rockets will either try to make a big splash and move up, or, if unsuccessful, will attempt to trade down and secure extra value. Neither is a guarantee because any team that wants to trade always needs a trade partner with similar intentions. The Rockets may not have the ability to pick and choose their spots. Having said that, Daryl Morey has found an unexpected way to make it work in the past - because of that, the jury's still out on what the Rockets could end up doing.

Quickly, let's take a look at the teams atop the draft board with whom the Rockets could potentially swing a deal. As Feigen noted, Cousins would be an ideal player to trade up to select. In addition, I could see Morey making a move to take Derrick Favors, Al-Farouq Aminu (don't know why I keep thinking of him, but just go with it), Greg Monroe or even Xavier Henry, as long the Rockets fancy Henry enough to move up (though that seems unlikely, and there's a good chance he could slip).

1. Washington: No. John Wall was the selection the very minute they won the lottery.

2. Philadelphia: No. With options such as Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins available, it seems unlikely that the Sixers would part ways with an opportunity to add even more young talent to a team on the rise.

3. New Jersey: No. We have yet to see how Mikhail Prokhorov runs a basketball team, but general logic would assume that the Nets will stick with whomever they think is the best player available at number three. Pairing Cousins or Favors with Brook Lopez is about as appealing as a young frontcourt tandem can get.

4. Minnesota: Probably not. David Kahn has done crazy things before, but it would take on heck of a package to convince him to jump from the fourth pick to the 14th. Aaron Brooks' name, for some reason, has been brought up on many occasions, but the last thing that the Timberwolves need is another point guard. Their most pressing need is a consistent, scoring wing player, but Kevin Martin isn't going anywhere, and apparently Kahn doesn't want him, either. If, by some small, miniscule chance that a deal gets done, the only player that would make much sense for Minnesota to acquire would be Jordan Hill. Adding Hill to the rotation would allow Kahn to move Al Jefferson or Kevin Love (most likely Jefferson) and attempt to add a true center in free agency or at the fourteenth slot while picking up a wing player by moving Jefferson. But this can become very complicated, and a ton of stuff has to happen for it to work out. Plus, it seems that Kahn has decided that Wes Johnson can fill the hole at small forward if available, which he almost certainly will be.

Likelihood of trading with Minneosta? Somewhere around 5-10%.

5. Sacramento: Probably not. Tom Ziller of Sactown Royalty notes:

As we've been over ad nauseum, Geoff Petrie isn't a fan of trading down. If he likes a player who'd be available at No. 10, he will pick that player at No. 5 without hesitation.

While I keep hearing Greg Monroe's name mentioned with Sacramento, it doesn't make much sense as long as the Kings intend to stick with Carl Landry. I don't see Monroe becoming a better player than Landry is - he has plenty of tools, but Landry's drive and steadfast dedication to playing his butt off every night is much more of a guarantee than a player with a bad habit of underachieving. If Petrie sticks to his aforementioned draft strategy, then we won't be seeing a deal with Sactown. It would be in their best interest to select a less-risky player at five than to trade down to the Land of Upside and take a chance on Hassan Whiteside or Daniel Orton.

6. Golden State: I don't know. They've been dangling Anthony Randolph for some time now. It would make more sense for the Rockets to deal for Randolph than for the pick, and it appears that the Warriors would rather take a player with the sixth pick than hold onto the LSU product, though their stronghold on Randolph doesn't seem to have loosened by any measurable degree. Keep an eye on them, but don't expect much. The Rockets and Warriors make for a fresh rumor every season, yet nothing has ever become of them. This shouldn't be any different.

7. Detroit: It makes sense for the Pistons. Many people have tabbed the seventh slot as Al-Farouq Aminu's landing spot, which confuses me. How many more SF/PF-types are the Pistons going to select before they realize that Jason Maxiell isn't a good solution at center? They already took Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers last year, neither of which has contributed thus far, and signed Charlie Villanueva to a large contract. Would they really take Aminu and add yet another tweener to their roster? I don't see it happening. Detroit would make perfect sense for an upside guy like Daniel Orton or Hassan Whiteside - it would simply depend on what the Rockets were willing to give up to move up to the seventh slot instead of the fourth or fifth. In my mind, this is the most logical place for a trade. That said, I thought the same thing last year, and it didn't work out. Perhaps Joe Dumars really is that poor of a GM. Let's hope not.

8. LA Clippers: Unless Aminu is available and they really, really want him, I don't see the Rockets moving up to get the eighth pick. The only logical reason for the Clippers to make the move lies in their confidence in signing LeBron James away from New York, thus adding a ton of value to the New York Knicks' pick that the Rockets currently own. But that's just a fun little daydream. This is an unlikely destination for Houston.

At this point, the Rockets won't move up. The players worth making a play at would likely be gone, and if the Rockets were to stay at 14, they'd do so only if they thought Xavier Henry would be available. If not, expect an attempt to trade down. I'm backing off the Daniel Orton selection for now, because that's what I'm obliged to do as a self-proclaimed "draft analyst": change my mind a lot.

Fact is, there's a ton of smoke hovering over each of the lottery teams. Not much can be clarified at this point, and not much fits between each of them and the Rockets. But, as mentioned before, if there's a way, Daryl can find it. This one might be a little tougher, though.