When the Rockets and Timberwolves agreed to swap Chase Budinger for a first-round draft pick this morning, the T-Wolves' motives were clear, as Budinger gives the team a perimeter shooting threat it has lacked in recent years. For the Rockets though, the deal looked like the first in a series of bigger moves. We've heard that Houston is targeting Dwight Howard, or perhaps Josh Smith, but what exactly is the next step for GM Daryl Morey and the Rockets? Here's the latest from Sam Amick of SI.com and from Bill Ingram and Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld….
- Even if the Rockets were to acquire Howard and win a championship, the star center would still want to become a free agent next summer, says Amick.
- The Magic's front office changes could be inspiring Morey's newfound aggressiveness, since he knows new GM Rob Hennigan recognizes that Howard probably needs to be moved, according to Amick.
- Kevin Martin isn't looking to re-sign in Houston when his contract expires next summer, so he's a strong candidate to be used as a trade chip.
- While Amick hears that the rumored deal involving Kyle Lowry and Tyreke Evans wasn't actually proposed, he says the Rockets may have offered Nos. 14 and 16 for the Kings' No. 5 pick. Personally, I like that deal better for Sacramento when the two players are included, though I'm still not sure it'd be worthwhile.
- Plan A for the Rockets is finding a way to acquire Howard and sign Deron Williams, according to Ingram and Kennedy. Kennedy tweets that while Williams had reportedly narrowed his choices to the Nets and Mavericks, "everything changes" if Howard is dealt to Houston.
- If that plan doesn't pan out, the Rockets have a few other ideas for acquiring a star to pair with Howard. According to the HoopsWorld report, Josh Smith and Rudy Gay would be the team's top trade targets, as the Rockets believe Howard could be more amenable to a long-term extension with a perimeter star like Smith or Gay on board.