Continuing to improve their draft assets, the Houston Rockets have traded the No. 14 pick and Samuel Dalembert to the Milwaukee Bucks for the 12th selection, Shaun Livingston, Jon Leuer and Jon Brockman.
Sources have told ESPN.com's Marc Stein that the Rockets are hoping to acquire enough assets to entice the Magic to trade Dwight Howard to them.
The Rockets' willingness to trade for Howard -- even without the All-Star center's signature on a contract extension -- is an open secret around the league. But it's believed that two top-10 picks, assuming Houston managed to complete trades with Sacramento and another team, seriously would pique the interest of new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, who then could quickly start to follow the same sort of roster-building blueprint relied on by his previous employer in Oklahoma City.
There has been speculation that the Rockets may be trying to use the picks to land Lakers big man Pau Gasol. The Rockets pursued him in December and thought they had a deal for Gasol as part of the larger Chris Paul deal to the Lakers that the NBA scuttled.
However, a league source told ESPN.com that the Rockets are no longer pursuing Gasol.
The trade gives the Bucks some much-needed help at the center position. The Bucks were painfully thin in the middle since dealing Andrew Bogut to the Warriors at the trade deadline last season. The move also frees up the Bucks to pursue a wing in Thursday's draft. The Bucks like both Washington's Terrence Ross and UConn's Jeremy Lamb but felt they may have been forced to go big with a player such as North Carolina's Tyler Zeller to fill a hole in the middle.
Besides moving up in the draft, the Rockets also could save some money in 2013. Dalembert was slotted to make $6.7 million next season. The Rockets can slice as much as $4.7 million off their cap if they waive Livingston and Leuer. However, a source said the Rockets are likely to keep both Livingston and Leuer to add depth at the point guard position and the front line, respectively.
Dalembert averaged 7.5 points and 7.0 rebounds last season, his only campaign with Houston. He has averaged 8.0 points and 8.2 rebounds in 10 seasons with the Sixers, Kings and Rockets.
Livingston averaged 5.5 points in his only season in Milwaukee. He has bounced around the league after suffering a gruesome knee injury with the Clippers in 2007.
Leuer averaged 4.7 points in 46 games, while Brockman put up 1.1 points per game in 35 games.
Information from ESPN.com's Chad Ford and Marc Stein was used in this report.