The Houston Rockets behaved more like the Rockettes, kicking up a storm in Thursday night's NBA Draft in an effort to narrow the gap between themselves and the Western Conference champion Thunder.
The Rockets used a slew of moves before the draft to stockpile first-round picks and selected UConn guard Jeremy Lamb at No. 12, Iowa State forward Royce White at No. 16 and Kentucky forward Terrence Jones at No. 18.
Various rumors implied another shoe would drop as Houston reportedly did all this maneuvering in an attempt to land Los Angeles Lakers All-Star forward Pau Gasol in a trade.
Before last season, the Rockets were ready to trade forward Luis Scola, shooting guard Kevin Martin and point guard Goran Dragic to New Orleans in a three-team deal for Gasol. NBA commissioner David Stern nixed the trade for “'basketball reasons”' on behalf of the league-owned Hornets.
The possibility of another Gasol trade popped up again earlier this week when the Rockets traded the No. 14 pick, center Samuel Dalembert, a future second-round pick and cash considerations to the Milwaukee Bucks for the No. 12 pick, guard Shaun Livingston and forwards Jon Brockman and Jon Leuer.
Houston also traded forward Chase Budinger and the rights to forward Lior Eliyahu for the No. 18 pick.
No trade was orchestrated during Thursday's draft, and Rockets coach Kevin McHale said he selected Lamb, White and Jones with the intention of keeping all three.
Houston also reportedly tried to work a deal with Sacramento to move up to the No. 5 spot, but the Kings backed off when Kansas forward Thomas Robinson was still available.
“There were a lot of things in the hopper,” McHale told the Houston Chronicle. “There were a lot of different things we were looking at it. Ideally, it would have been nice to pull off a trade that would have helped the team immediately. When those fell through, we took the players we felt were best and we're really happy with the draft. There were a few trades I was excited we might be able to do. Then you move on and I thought we had a really good night on the draft.”
The Rockets (34-32) finished two games out of this year's playoffs.
The Thunder (47-19) finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference, three games behind the San Antonio Spurs, who tied the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the league (50-16).
The Spurs did not have a first-round choice, having surrendered the No. 30 overall selection to the Golden State Warriors. San Antonio's lone pick was at No. 59, where it selected Missouri guard Marcus Denmon.
OKC disposed of the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Spurs to claim this season's conference crown.
*The Lakers (41-25) had only one pick, and that was the final pick of the draft, where they selected Gonzaga center Robert Sacre.
*Memphis (41-25) drafted Washington point guard Tony Wroten Jr. at No. 25.
*The Los Angeles Clippers (40-26) chose power forward Furkan Aldemir of Turkey at No. 53.
*Denver (38-28) selected shooting guard Even Fournier of France at No. 20, Baylor small forward Quincy Miller at No. 38 and power forward Izzet Turkyilmaz of Turkey at No. 50.
*Dallas (36-30) traded former Tulsa Victory Christian guard Kelenna Azubuike and the draft rights to North Carolina center Tyler Zeller, the No. 17 pick, to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the rights to Oregon State shooting guard Jared Cunningham (No. 24), Florida State center Bernard James (No. 33) and small forward Marquette Jae Crowder (No. 34).
*Utah (36-30) chose Tennessee Tech small forward Kevin Murphy at No. 47.
*Portland (28-38) is coming off a season where it fired coach Nate McMillan on March 15, lost its last seven games of the season and finished eight games out of the playoffs. The Trail Blazers selected Weber State point guard Damian Lillard with the No. 6 pick and 7-foot-1 Illinois center Meyers Leonard at No. 11.
*New Orleans (21-45) endured an onslaught of injuries and transactions en route to the conference's worst record. An astounding 22 players saw action for the Hornets. Shooting guard Eric Gordon, the key component to the Chris Paul trade before the season began, played just nine games due to a bruised right knee that required minor surgery.