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Pyro 06-28-2007 02:37 PM

Rockets To Move Up In Draft ???

For all the seemingly endless hours of meetings, weeks of study and months of research, the 26th pick of the NBA draft might just come down to luck for the Rockets.

They would rather work their way around that requirement, although for those picking so late, good fortune is always a valued commodity. But heading into tonight's draft, there are other reasons for new Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to keep his fingers crossed.

Morey has a deal in place to move up in the draft, but that trade depends on the other team's not finding the players it wants available.

Morey would not say what team might make a pick available. Philadelphia has three picks in the first round, including one five places earlier than the Rockets' selection. Detroit has two picks, including one at No. 15, and has targeted three players, likely Rodney Stuckey, Nick Young and Julian Wright.

If the Rockets move up, even five to seven spots, they could be in the range to choose from among forwards Jason Smith of Colorado State, Thaddeus Young of Georgia Tech, Sean Williams of Boston College and Josh McRoberts of Duke and guard Rudy Fernandez of Spain, none of whom is expected to last beyond the first 25 picks.

"We've talked to several teams about moving up," Morey said. "One is more likely than others. Prior to draft night, you're trying to create as many options as you can and have them there as the draft is unfolding. We have different ways to move up, depending on who slides. We spent a lot of time being ready for those things."

As with all teams drafting in the last third of the first round, the Rockets are hoping one of their favored picks slides just a bit within their grasp.

Should they stay at No. 26, the Rockets likely will have a chance to pick someone from a pool of players that includes guards Daequan Cook of Ohio State and Morris Almond of Rice and forwards Derrick Byars of Vanderbilt, Nick Fazekas of Nevada and Glen Davis of LSU.

Though Morey said the Rockets could use another frontcourt player, position and style will not be considerations. Though completely different players, Cook or Fazekas could be the most likely Rockets pick if someone does not unexpectedly become available.

"It's completely best player available," Morey said. "Our team was pretty good. We need to make some moves obviously to improve it. It's probably more likely free agent or trade. At 26, we're looking for the best player over time. Obviously, there is a need at the big spots right now. We wouldn't hesitate to take a non-big player if it's the best player."

Cook, who had a spectacular workout with the Rockets, is a 6-5 guard who was the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year as a freshman on Ohio State's NCAA Tournament runner-up team. Fazekas is a versatile offensive player with size (6-11) and shooting range. Davis is a low-post option who has improved his conditioning.

The top two picks, Ohio State's Greg Oden and Texas' Kevin Durant, are certain. But in a draft deep with players evaluated at roughly the same level, any trade into the top five could alter the order to follow.

There have been many teams looking to move up to grab Atlanta's picks at No. 3 and No. 11, with Seattle close to a deal for the latter. Teams have also been talking to the Celtics about the fifth selection.

Those potential ripples likely will not reach the Rockets at No. 26, much less affect their options should they find their way into the second round. (The Bucks have the Rockets' second-round pick after the trade for Mike James.)

"It's very fluid," Morey said. "I guess that happens every year, but it's crazy."

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