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Rockets GM says team might have to trade picks to get into first round

Daryl Morey, right, says he's optimistic at the Rockets' chance of moving into the first round. He'll likely look for players who will fit the scheme of new coach Mike D'Antoni, left. Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

HOUSTON -- Rockets GM Daryl Morey said Tuesday that despite two high second-round picks in Thursday’s NBA draft Houston's moving into the first round via trade is doable.

“I think it will be pretty easy to trade [our] picks into the first (round) this year,” Morey told ESPN. “There are four teams that have almost half the draft in the first round, and none of them wants to use their pick to trade.”

This is the first time since 2013 the Rockets have gone into the offseason without a forthcoming first-round pick. That season, Houston snagged Isaiah Canaan in the second round. Since then, Morey’s first-round picks have seen mixed results.

Clint Capela was drafted in 2014 at the tender age of 20 needing playing experience and bulk to his body. The 6-foot-10 Capela has played in 89 games, including 77 in his second year, and is the projected starting center if Dwight Howard doesn't pick up his player option and becomes a free agent.

Unless Morey snags a center in free agency (the Rockets have interest in Al Horford) Capela’s future seems bright. During the course of this past season, Capela developed a strong chemistry with guard James Harden on pick-and-roll plays and on lobs to the basket. He is more athletic than Howard but lacks the experience that Howard brings on the defensive end to help a team in the short term.

Capela is still learning and is expected to get better.

Last year, the Rockets drafted Sam Dekker in the first round, and he didn’t play in the NBA summer league because of back issues. He eventually underwent back surgery after playing in a handful of D-League games.

Dekker, a small forward, is developing his outside game, something the Rockets need from him in new coach Mike D’Antoni's offense.

Dekker said he will be ready for the summer league this year after getting cleared by the Rockets’ medical staff.

Because of Dekker's health and lack of playing time, his evaluations still contain some unknowns.

Houston could venture toward drafting another small forward in this draft, potentially adding more depth to the position.

“We definitely like to have a mix of veterans and prospects, and Sam is obviously a prospect and hasn’t had a chance to prove himself,” Morey said. “He looks good and he’s on the floor every day and we’re optimistic every day in his ability to come in and do what he can do next year.”

Of course the Rockets want to build around their core of veterans and young players. In addition to Harden, the vets include: Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley and Corey Brewer. Houston has some younger players who should get more playing time such as K.J. McDaniels, Montrezl Harrell (last year’s second-round pick), Capela and Dekker.

“We’re building around James and obviously Dwight,” Morey said. “Outside of James, we don’t ever talk about any untouchable. We really like our core; we won 56 recently and with some upgrades to the roster we can get back to being a top playoff contender.”

The process began with D’Antoni's hiring this spring and continues in finding players who fit his up-tempo system. A ball handler able to push the pace up the floor and a reliable outside shooter are key. Players willing to commit to the defensive system of coordinator Jeff Bzdelik are important, too.

Finding the next young player who can be a strong fit down the line starts Thursday.

“I think the draft has been deep for a while,” Morey said. “The quality of the players coming out of the colleges is very deep. I think, in terms of franchise guys, there are zero to two most years, but in terms of depth they’re good players all the way to 60 every year. I think you just got to find them.”