Chicago Bulls: A 3-Way Deal Worth Trading Away Omer Asik
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Chicago receives: O.J. Mayo ($5.6M; final year), Jordan Hill ($2.9M; two years left) and Chase Budinger ($850k; two years left).
Houston receives: Omer Asik ($1.9M; final year), Kyle Korver ($5.0M; two years left), John Lucas ($900k; final year) and Chicago's 2012 first-round draft pick.
Memphis receives: Courtney Lee ($2.2M; final year), Goran Dragic ($1.2M; final year) and Chicago's 2013 second-round draft pick.
Chicago receives offensive-minded shooting guard O.J. Mayo, who would immediately form a dynamic duo with Derrick Rose in Chicago's backcourt. Mayo has the ability to create his own shot and shots for others late in games when Rose is being double-teamed and cannot break loose, which is why the Bulls need to do whatever is necessary to sign him.
Chicago loses Kyle Korver in the deal, but replaces him with the much cheaper Chase Budinger, who has the same length left on his current contract. Budinger can space the floor and hit three-point shots similar to Kover; however, he his much more athletic and active on the defensive side of the ball than his counterpart. Chicago can use the money it saves swapping Korver for Budinger to help re-sign Mayo to a long-term deal.
In order to get Houston to bite at this trade, the Bulls must include upcoming defensive-minded center Omer Asik. The Rockets already have a low post scorer in Luis Scola at power forward, but they lack talent at the center spot defensively. Although Samuel Dalembert was signed to add defensive toughness to Houston, his addition has not had the overall impact management hoped.
Losing Asik would be a hit, but the swap would net Chicago Jordan Hill as the new backup to Joakim Noah. Hill's offense would be a welcome addition to a Chicago frontcourt that, outside of Carlos Boozer, has a very hard time consistently producing offensively. Although Hill is not a polished offensive player, he appears to have a higher offensive ceiling than Asik. Additionally, Hill has two years left on his contract, whereas Asik is a free agent at the end of the season and will command a nice-size raise.
The Bulls would hate to trade away their first-round pick in 2012 and their second-round pick in 2013. However, with the Charlotte first-round pick in hand and with Nikola Mirotic stashed away overseas for a couple more years, Chicago can afford to trade away those picks to obtain a potentially elite shooting guard in Mayo, a solid rookie-scale player in Budinger and an solid center in Hill.
The biggest name involved in the trade comes by way of Memphis in O.J. Mayo. Although trading him away would seem like a bad move, it is something Grizzlies fans and management should have already come to grips with due to their financial inability to lock Mayo into a long-term deal at season's end. The biggest unknown for Memphis at this point is what they can get in return for his services.
I am aware that Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley has a known dislike for the Chicago Bulls and probably would not want to participate in any trade that makes the Bulls better. However, he would have to strongly consider dealing with Chicago for a package that lands him Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic and Chicago's 2012 first-round draft pick. Dragic and Lee's offensive output would replace what Memphis loses by trading away Mayo and would make the Grizzlies' bench deeper, especially in the backcourt.
Dragic would represent an immediate upgrade over current backup point guards Josh Selby and Jeremy Pargo.
He is in the final year of his deal, which means that Memphis can rent his services for this year's playoff run while Selby matures for the future. Having Dragic available to bring off the bench if Mike Conley gets into foul trouble, is injured or is just having an off night would be a luxury that Memphis would love to have come playoff time.
More importantly, Lee's above-average defensive presence and smooth touch from beyond the arc would fit in nicely with Memphis' championship plans. Although Lee's contract is finished at the end of this season—like Mayo's—Lee will command much less in the free-agent market and could be re-signed by Memphis at a much more reasonable price, a price it could afford. Trading for Lee allows management to acquire a shooting guard who can fill Mayo's shoes immediately and also be in the Grizzlies' long-term plans.
Finally, Memphis receives Chicago's 2013 second-round draft pick in the swap. The additional pick is the icing on the cake that finally gets Heisley into bed with Chicago. Replacing Mayo with Lee while adding Dragic would represent a nice return for Mayo's services without any draft picks being exchanged. Add the additional pick to the mix and Memphis looks like an even bigger winner. That pick can be used to add another rookie-scale player to help fill out the roster besides its core of high-salary players.
Houston makes the trade because it gets a player it has coveted since last year in Omer Asik. The Rockets were reportedly interested in swapping Lee for Asik around last year's trade deadline, but the Bulls did not want to give up the big Turk. However, if Houston is willing to add Jordan Hill to a package to land the defensive-minded Asik, then Chicago would have to listen.
The Rockets already have an above-average scorer in the starting frontcourt by way of Luis Scola, which makes Hill expendable. Although Houston would not want to lose Hill to get Asik, the latter's defense is much more valuable to the team's long-term success than Hill's offense. Asik is still a very raw player, but his ability to stand tall in the middle of the defense is something Houston fans know fondly from the days of Yao Ming and would welcome with open arms.
Additionally, bringing back Kyle Korver for the expiring contracts of Lee and Dragic would also be a smart move for Houston.
Korver's sweet outside stroke would complement the attacking offensive styles of Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry nicely. Korver is also the type of player who can camp out behind the arc and space the floor for the guards while also creating a reliable kick-out option for the bigs like Scola.
Houston would fight to keep Budinger out of any trade; however, he is a player the Bulls would be willing to upgrade with the second-round pick in the swap to a first-round pick. Budinger would provide the floor spacing Chicago loses with Korver's departure. While Budinger has developed better than many had expected over the past two years, he does not possess the talent to ever be a starting small forward in the NBA.
The long term is where Houston really wins. It can use the Bulls' first-round pick along with the Knicks' first-round pick it already owns to continue rebuilding the team from the ground up. If you add three first-round rookies from what appears to be a very talented draft class (or save the Knicks' first-round pick for a future year) to a core of Kyle Lowry, Luis Scola, Patrick Peterson, Johnny Flynn and Omer Asik, then you have the makings of a very balanced, young team to be reckoned with over the next few years.
More importantly, this trade also allows Houston to keep its current leading scorer, Kevin Martin. It's possible but unlikely that Martin could be part of the rebuilding movement, depending on who the Rockets draft with its picks over the next couple years. However, it's more likely that he will end up a trade chip to help land a franchise player or simply someone Houston lets walk in order to free cap space to chase a superstar.
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