In the past week the Dwight Howard discussion has gone from anticipated blockbuster with the Boston Celtics, to a swap with the Miami Heat, then a discussion with the Charlotte Hornets, to begging for a first round pick, then a morning of silence and now Houston is being "ultra-aggressive".
The market juts doesn't seem to be there for Howard or for troubled guard Ty Lawson. So here's my uninspiring low-risk prediction... Between now and draft day Daryl Morey will either make a deal for or buy a top 10 second round pick with an eye on the future.
If Howard stays the Rockets will have to adopt a "future is now" mentality. The public narrative for the Howard-Harden relationship has never been worse and the team will be sitting on expiring contracts that could reach $30 million (Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Marcus Thornton, Jason Terry and Josh Smith).
And when the Rockets are focused on the future Daryl Morey does one thing, he gathers assets. And "ooh-wee, Rick" does Morey love him some early second round picks. Even when the Rockets aren't bad enough to land an early second round pick the shrewd general manager has gone out of his way to trade or even buy early second round picks.
The strategy has paid Chandler Parsons dividends. The plan is based on a few simple realities Morey has exploited over the years:
- There's no discernible difference in talent between the 30th pick of the NBA draft and the 32nd pick of the draft. Strong draft or weak draft, there's just not going to be a precipitous decline in talent between the final picks of the first round and the starting picks of the second round.
- Second round picks don't come with predetermined contracts like a lottery pick, so you can lock your second round pick into a Chandler Parsons style contract. This is where a player signs a multi-year contract above the league minimum to cash in on their new NBA status. For Parsons this was a four-year nearly $4 million contract.
- Lots of NBA teams don't even want to deal with the second round picks. With only 15 roster spots not every team wants to make a commitment to tending and developing a second round pick.
Despite being in the playoffs the Boston Celtics have the Philadelphia 76ers 2016 second round pick and get the Minnesota Timberwolves 2016 second round pick (unless Minnesota finishes outside the lottery).
This prediction isn't inspiring, but if Houston strikes out at dealing Dwight Howard or Ty Lawson I'd expect them to flip Terrence Jones or another auxiliary piece for one of these 10 picks.