Rockets trade Budinger to Timberwolves for No. 18 pick

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The Houston Rockets have added another pick to their stockpile as they try to parlay those picks into another move up the NBA draft board — and ultimately to make a run at getting Dwight Howard out of Orlando. The Minnesota Timberwolves have added a very athletic forward that can give them some good minutes off the bench.

The Houston Rockets have traded Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No, 18 pick in the draft, first reported by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and since confirmed by other sources.

This move is clearly a precursor to another move or three by the Houston Rockets. They now own the No. 14, No. 16 and No. 18 picks in the draft. They have reportedly been working to use picks and players to get both the No. 5 pick from the Sacramento Kings and the No. 8 pick from the Toronto Raptors.

Then they would try to parlay those to picks and a player like Kevin Martin to get Dwight Howard out of Orlando. Even though Howard’s camp is saying he would not sign an extension in Houston. And more importantly, even before the Magic seem ready to move Howard under the direction of new GM Rob Hennigan (who has not even sat down with Howard yet to make his pitch).

If Howard doesn’t pan out, the Rockets may make a run at the Hawks Josh Smith (who has requested a trade).

It’s a gamble by the Rockets, but it makes sense. They should roll the dice. They got Budinger for a second rounder and parlayed him into a first rounder, that’s not bad.

For the Timberwolves this move is nice, but not thrilling.

You probably remember Budinger from last year’s Slam Dunk competition, he’s very athletic. The former Arizona star has turned into a solid backup forward for the Rockets, giving them 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He had a PER of 14.9, right at the league average. He’s good, and after three years he has another one on his rookie deal. Basically Budinger and Wes Johnson become the rotation at the three for Minny. Maybe not thrilling, but they were not going to get anyone better at 18.

What Budinger does will is finish in transition and on a Wolves team with Ricky Rubio (once he returns from his ACL injury) Budinger could be a good fit. Also, do the Timberwolves really need another rookie? Budinger is not an old veteran but he’s been around the league three seasons already.

Houston has also sent to Minny the rights to Israeli Lior Eliyahu, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.