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NBA Draft: Houston Rockets try to catch up with Thunder

Rockets stockpile three first-round picks with hopes of contending with OKC in the future.
By John Rohde Published: June 28, 2012

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).

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