Rockets Pursuit of Dwight Howard Intensifies: Houston Traded Chase Budinger to the Timberwolves for the 18th Pick

Houston, now the fun begins.

The Rockets traded small forward Chase Budinger to Minnesota this morning for the 18th pick in the draft. It’s a smart move for the T-Wolves and comes one day after their top target, Terrence Ross of Washington, got a Green Room invite. For awhile it seemed as if Ross would fall to Minnesota at 18, but he’s one of the best shooters in the draft, and probably will wind up in Phoenix at 13.

Minnesota is desperately in need of anyone who can reliably make 3-pointers, something Michael Beasley (space cadet, chucker, 37 percent on 3’s), Martell Webster (oft-injured, 33 percent on 3-pointers) and Wes Johnson (No. 4 pick in 2010 shot 31 percent from deep, feels like a bust) have been unable to do. Budinger, a 3rd year pro who was a 2nd round pick in 2009 (by Detroit, then traded to Houston), shot 40 percent on 3-pointers this year.

It’s a great trade for Houston, which coveted a big man last summer — first Howard, which they couldn’t make happen, then Pau Gasol, which they made happen, until the commish stepped in — and is going HAM after another one this summer. The Rockets now have the 14th, 16th, and 18th picks in Thursday’s draft, which they’ll surely dangle in some way to get Howard.

Option 1: Hey Cleveland/Sacramento – any interested in three picks for the No. 4/5 pick?
Option 2: Hey Charlotte – you’ve got plenty of holes to fill. How about three picks for No. 2?
Option 3: Hey Orlando, how about three 1st round picks, Kevin Martin’s expiring contract and point guard Kyle Lowry for Dwight Howard? (Feel free to swap Scola into the deal for one of those two if you like.)

My guess is the Rockets will either try to move into the Top 5 and then put together a package for Dwight Howard.

[Before Cleveland fans piss on the idea of giving up No. 4 – say, Harrison Barnes – for 14/16/18, consider this: Moe Harkless of St. John’s, Royce White of Iowa State and Doron Lamb of Kentucky. Three very good college players, a couple of whom could start — Irving, Lamb/Parker, Harkless/Gee, White/Jamison, Thompson. You could upgrade three positions instead of just one. Oh, and you still have the 24th pick, where you could get a shot blocker like Fab Melo or a sleeper like Quincy Miller of Baylor. So Cleveland would have 4 of the first 24 picks in the draft.]

Your move, Brooklyn.

[Back to the Timberwolves, briefly: Going to be tough to keep the Wolves out of the playoffs next year. Assuming Rubio and Love are healthy, Minnesota should be in the mix for a 6-7-8 seed. Pekovic had a tremendous 47 games, finishing up at 13.9 ppg and 7.4 rpg. Love is a Top 10 player in the NBA. With the continued emergence of Derrick Williams, perhaps the shooting of Budinger, and the bench scoring from Beasley, the Wolves will have a solid rotation 1-9. The only question: Which teams fall out of the playoffs? If Houston gets Dwight Howard, they’re Top 8. Does Denver drop out? If Dallas doesn’t get Deron Williams, does it drop out? If healthy, will Golden State contend?]

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