As the Houston Rockets prepare for a run at Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, they've secured another top 20 pick in the NBA draft, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Rockets traded forward Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 18th overall pick in the draft, giving Houston the 14th, 16th and 18th picks in Thursday's draft.
The Rockets included the rights to Israeli Lior Eliyahu in the deal with Minnesota.
Budinger, a second-round pick in 2009, developed into a solid performer at small forward for the Rockets. At 6-foot-7, he averaged 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds for Houston last season. He'll have a chance to play significant minutes for the Timberwolves.
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Houston has been undaunted by Howard's private insistence that he wants a trade to only the Brooklyn Nets or Dallas Mavericks, sources said. Houston is willing to make a deal for Howard, believing it can convince him to re-sign before he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2013. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been determined to use the assets on his roster to secure a high-level league star.
Houston will work to flip those three picks (14, 16 and 18) into higher picks that could be used for an impact player out of Thursday's draft, or to further sweeten a deal for Howard or another league star, sources said.
Howard had back surgery in May and will be sidelined throughout the summer. He bypassed a chance to become a free agent this summer but has shown the Magic no indication he wants to re-sign with them long-term after another falling out with the organization near season's end.
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