Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's superstar sights had been locked in for years.
Through cost-cutting maneuvers and savvy draft-day selections, Morey's Rockets had collected a pile of assets like something seen on A&E's "Hoarders." His collection had size, talent and potential oozing from every corner of the roster.
Finally that tantalizing intrigue had aligned itself perfectly for Morey to make his move. After days that seemed more like months of deliberation, free-agent center and perennial All-Star Dwight Howard tabbed Houston as his most desirable destination to continue his NBA career.
With budding superstar James Harden and rising star Chandler Parsons already in tow, Morey had finally landed his proverbial big fish. The only problem for Morey is that he already had a prized catch lurking on the interior in the form of 7'0", 255-pound center Omer Asik.
Asik, like the rest of the hoops world, isn't sure about where he fits in Morey's master plan after Howard's arrival. According to ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst, Asik has no interest in finding out either and has "formally" requested a trade.
While Windhorst reports that the Rockets are turning away offers and "will continue to do so," maybe there's a trade package out there that will prove impossible to resist.
Maybe that package looks an awful lot like one of these.
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Omer Asik
Houston Rockets receive: Thaddeus Young, 2014 first-round draft pick
The Philadelphia 76ers dove headfirst into rebuilding mode by sending first-year All-Star Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in a draft-day exchange. Most rebuilding clubs are looking to stockpile picks, but Philly holds its own along with New Orleans' first choice in 2014, meaning the worse of the two picks could become expendable.
When Nerlens Noel returns from his torn ACL rehab, he forms a strong defensive duo in the paint alongside Asik. The 76ers could be hurting for offense in the short-term, but if they get their paws on one of the potentially transcendent stars of the 2014 class (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Marcus Smart, etc.) then those concerns start to diminish.
CBS Sports' Ken Berger reported that the 76ers could have interest in Asik since Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie was part of the Rockets front office that brought the big man to Houston last summer.
Young (career 33.2 three-point percentage) isn't a prototypical stretch forward, but he's active on the glass and on the defensive end. He's athletic enough to defend either forward position and has a reasonable contract (three years, $27.4 million remaining with a player option for the third season) given his production (14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds per game).
Cleveland Cavaliers receive: Omer Asik
Houston Rockets receive: Anderson Varejao
The Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to cash in on their draft lottery luck that has netted them Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett over the last three years.
Asik brings Cleveland a formidable interior presence with more defensive impact than Varejao and a more consistent interior offensive touch than Thompson. With Irving and Waiters taking aim from a distance, Asik fills the clean-up duty that Varejao handled before a blood clot ended his 2012-13 season prematurely.
Asik's $8 million-plus cap hit for the next two seasons doesn't cut too deep into Cleveland's financial future to prevent this trade from taking place. He's also a far more secure investment than the one-year gamble on Andrew Bynum that ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports the Cavs are considering.
For Houston, Varejao instantly assumes the role of second-team hustler that Asik has made abundantly clear he has no interest in filling. Varejao forced his way into the elite rebounding ranks last season (14.4 per game) and is expected to make a full recovery from his injury.
He also has experience playing the four spot, so he should offer a more seamless transition playing next to Howard than Asik would. If the move doesn't pay off the financial damage is minimal, as Varejao holds only a $9.8 million team option beyond the 2013-14 season.
Dallas Mavericks receive: Omer Asik
Houston Rockets receive: Shawn Marion, 2014 second-round pick
The Dallas Mavericks have been hesitant to part ways with Shawn Marion's expiring $9.3 million contract. At some point, though, they'll have to consider offers and none may be more enticing than a double-double machine like Asik.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports that the Mavericks' incumbent starting center, Chris Kaman, has agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving a sizable void in the Dallas interior behind. Stein adds that the Mavericks are looking at Andrew Bynum, but Asik comes risk-free and on a potentially more cap-friendly contract.
Marion proved last season that he still has on-court value in his 35-year-old body (12.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game). He's comfortable operating away from the basket (career 33.0 three-point percentage) and moves well without the ball.
Defensively he uses his length (6'7") and quickness to slow either forward position. His championship pedigree could prove invaluable inside Houston's locker room and that aforementioned expiring deal could do the same for Houston's financial books.
New Orleans Pelicans receive: Omer Asik, Donatas Motiejunas
Houston Rockets receive: Ryan Anderson
The New Orleans Pelicans might not be graded on a championship-or-bust scale quite yet, but expectations are surely on the rise in the Big Easy. Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans have been added to New Orleans' improving core that already featured dynamic scorer Eric Gordon and defensive stopper Anthony Davis.
The last piece missing on the Pelicans' revamped starting five is the center spot, where New Orleans is searching for a replacement for Robin Lopez. Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports that New Orleans has targeted Asik to man the middle of its attack.
An Asik-Davis interior combo is a nightmarish thought for opposing offenses, and Davis' ability to knock down mid-range jumpers could give this pairing some legitimate staying power. Even after Houston cut ties with Thomas Robinson and Royce White, the combination of Terrence Jones and Greg Smith makes stretch-forward Motiejunas expendable.
Anderson enjoyed the best statistical season of his career playing alongside Howard with the Orlando Magic in 2011-12 (16.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, 39.3 three-point percentage). Howard helps mask Anderson's defensive limitations, while Anderson's sharpshooting creates optimal space for Howard to operate offensively.
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons, Donatas Motiejunas, 2014 first-round pick
Houston Rockets receive: LaMarcus Aldridge
At a time when NBA teams are valued only by the number of superstars on the roster, don't be surprised if Morey's star-driven appetite is still craving more after Howard's acquisition.
LaMarcus Aldridge is reportedly open to moving away from the Portland Trail Blazers according to Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune, and Houston could provide an ideal landing spot for the all-star forward. Aldridge has always looked apprehensive about moving as close to the basket as his 6'11" frame suggests he should, but the Rockets would actually encourage him to fire at will from the mid-range to free up Howard underneath.
Between Howard (12.4 rebounds per game) and Aldridge (9.1), Houston would have one of the best glass-eating tandems in the league. Those two combined with Harden give the Rockets a formidable three-headed monster without the cupboard needing to be entirely cleared to make it happen.
Parsons is the big loss for Houston here (and probably the only reason Portland entertains this offer), but if Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi and James Anderson can consistently convert perimeter looks, the impact of that loss is greatly decreased. Parsons, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Mathews are versatile enough to share the wing minutes in Portland.
Asik joins a crowded interior with Robin Lopez and Meyers Leonard already in town, but any of the three can facilitate another trade down the road.