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The Houston Rockets are looking to package some of their assets, including two first-round picks, to move up in the NBA Draft and the most likely trade partners appear to be either the Sacramento Kings or the Toronto Raptors, according to ESPN's Marc Stein and Chad Ford.
The Rockets, the report states, covet the high pick so that they can draft UConn big man Andre Drummond or maybe even as part of a scheme to get TWO top-10 picks that they would then offer to the Orlando Magic for big man Dwight Howard.
Although sources stressed that no deal is imminent, Sacramento (No. 5) and Toronto (No. 8 ) have let Houston know that their top-10 selections are available. Sources say that the Rockets, in turn, have made both of their first-round picks available (No. 14 and No. 16), but the key to any trade going through could be point guard Kyle Lowry.
The Raptors have been especially fond of Lowry, who has been regarded for months as a borderline untouchable in Houston but more recently has publicly expressed his dissatisfaction with Rockets coach Kevin McHale. Whether the Rockets are indeed prepared to part with Lowry, as talks with the Kings, Raptors and other teams continue, figures to be one of the bigger stories of draft week.
What's clear from the Rockets' end, sources say, is the player they're fondest of in the upper reaches of the draft: UConn big man Andre Drummond. Many scouts believe Drummond has the second highest upside of any player in the draft behind consensus No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis, but the 7-foot, 279-pounder would almost certainly still be available at No. 5.
Drummond, as the second youngest player in the draft at 18, registered an impressive 7-foot-6 wingspan at the NBA draft combine earlier this month. Personnel experts regard him as an elite athlete and shot-blocker who moves laterally especially well. But Drummond's inconsistent play as a freshman, combined with questions about his passion for the game, have caused his draft stock to take a slight hit in recent weeks.
The tipoff that the Kings are likely to deal the No. 5 pick between now and Thursday night, sources say, is the handful of players they've brought in who are expected to be drafted in the middle of the first round. Sources say two of those players in particular -- North Carolina's John Henson and St. John's Moe Harkless -- are high on the Kings' draft board.
Henson has already worked out for the Kings and Harkless is scheduled to work out on Monday. Sacramento has also tried to get several other candidates for the middle of the first round, including UConn's Jeremy Lamb and Washington's Terrence Ross, into town for 11th-hour workouts.
If Houston does manage to strike a deal it wouldn't affect the Pistons plans too much. While an earlier report indicated that the Pistons were hoping that Drummond would fall to them, the same report indicated that the team might pass on him even if he was available.
Perhaps the missing piece to that seeming contradiction is the Rockets' well-known fondness for Drummond. Maybe the Pistons wanted him there so they could make a trade with the Rockets. If that was their hope it seems the odds are even longer and that the Pistons will have to get in line behind the Kings and Raptors.