Trade talks between the Sacramento Kings and Houston Rockets have intensified in the hours leading up to Thursday night's NBA draft and have put the Rockets in position to acquire the Kings' No. 5 pick if Sacramento elects to trade it, according to sources close to the process.
One source said this potential deal is being "heavily discussed."
Sources told ESPN.com the Kings plan to wait as long as possible before committing to the trade to see who falls to them at No. 5. It's believed that Sacramento will walk away from the trade if Kansas' Thomas Robinson is still available.
Yet sources say the Kings, in that scenario, would be walking away from "a lot," suggesting the Rockets have offered even more than the widely reported package of versatile but disgruntled guard Kyle Lowry and multiple picks later in Thursday's first round. Houston holds the Nos. 12, 16 and 18 picks.
ESPN.com reported earlier this week that UConn center Andre Drummond -- who ranks as the second-youngest player in the draft at just 18 -- is the player Houston wants at No. 5. Still unclear, though, is whether the Rockets would be drafting Drummond for themselves or if they want to acquire him to offer to Orlando in Houston's longstanding trade pursuit of Magic center Dwight Howard.
As ESPN.com reported Sunday night, Houston has been trying for weeks to acquire multiple top-10 picks to throw at new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, believing that Hennigan -- after working alongside Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti for years -- would consider trading Howard if he could get two top lottery picks to start rebuilding his new team through the draft.
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. Howard has one season left on his Orlando contract after ending a months-long saga about his future by unexpectedly opting in for the 2012-13 campaign in March in conjunction with the NBA's annual trade deadline.
Houston has continued to aggressively pursue Sacramento's pick this week despite indications that Hennigan wants to take one more run at trying to convince Howard to sign an extension before the start of next season. ESPN.com reported earlier Thursday that the Magic have registered their interest in trying to trade for Atlanta's Josh Smith, who is one of Howard's closest friends and whose arrival in Orlando presumably would affect Howard's willingness to commit there for the long term.
As for Drummond, many scouts believe he has the second-highest upside of any player in the draft behind consensus No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis. The 7-foot, 279-pound Drummond registered an impressive 7-foot-6 wingspan at the NBA draft combine earlier this month.
Personnel experts regard Drummond as an elite athlete and shot-blocker who moves laterally especially well, but Drummond's inconsistent play as a freshman -- combined with questions about his passion for the game -- have made it difficult to project exactly where he'll be drafted in the lottery.
The tipoff that the Kings are planning to deal the No. 5 pick has been the handful of players they've brought in for draft workouts who are expected to be drafted in the middle of the first round. Sources say two of those players in particular -- North Carolina's John Henson and St. John's Moe Harkless -- are high on the Kings' draft board.
Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz was used in this report.