After a great season last year as the defensive anchor and catalyst to the Houston Rockets' transition based attack, Omer Asik's future with the Houston Rockets is now in limbo with Dwight Howard in town.
As of right now, it looks like the Rockets are going to give it a shot with Asik, but the relationship will likely remain tenuous for the time being.
For that to change, Asik will need to establish that he can coexist in the same frontcourt as Howard and that he won't become a problem in the locker room with a decreased role and less minutes.
However, even if the sailing is smooth with Asik early on, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey may see the window for a championship open up and try to acquire a superstar or simply find a better fit.
By design, the Rockets have plenty of options to explore. If trading Asik looks like the best move, there should be no shortage of suitors for the talented 27-year-old big man.
The Goal: Pair Dwight Howard with an established power forward who can stretch the floor.
The Trade: Atlanta Hawks send Paul Millsap to Houston Rockets for Omer Asik
Why Houston Does It: On December 15th, free agents signed this summer become available for trade. If Asik and Dwight Howard haven't meshed by then, the Rockets could target an established mid-range shooter who has experience playing next to a player who demands plenty of low-post touches.
Millsap's time in Utah next to Al Jefferson shaped his development as a player, as he's shot at least 42 percent from 16-to-23 feet over his last three seasons. Millsap is the type of mobile power forward that would provide floor spacing without sacrificing rebounding in Houston's scheme.
Making a very reasonable $9 million per year over the next two seasons, Millsap wouldn't jeopardize Houston's financial flexibility moving forward.
Why Atlanta Does It: It's hard to contend for anything substantial without a great defense, and it's hard to have a great defense without a solid rim protector.
Al Horford is one of the finest all-around players in basketball, but he's not a particularly intimidating presence defensively. Horford and Millsap's best skills overlap a little too much, and bringing in Asik would allow Horford to play in the high post, where he feels right at home with his sweet shooting and smart passing.
It's an offense for defense trade for a team more in need of the latter.
Why It Might Not Work: Atlanta would have to sign off on actually paying Asik $14,898,938 million in his final contract year, even though his cap number will remain at a steady $8,374,646.
That's a good chunk of change to sell ownership on, so Houston would also likely have to include cash ($3 million is the limit) to smooth things over in order for this to work.
The Goal: Acquire a superstar point guard.
Why Houston Does It: If Rajon Rondo returns and looks healthy, the Rockets are likely one of the few teams with the assets and desire to acquire him.
While the combination of Jeremy Lin and Patrick Beverley should be perfectly suitable, both players could fail to establish themselves as premium options. Adding a third star could get Harden and Howard tons of easy looks, which is something neither Lin or Beverley do at a high level.
This would be a home run swing for Daryl Morey, but it wouldn't be his first.
Why Boston Does It: If you think Rajon Rondo is going to be happy playing on a bad, rebuilding team, you're seriously mistaken. It seems like only a matter of time before Celtics GM Danny Ainge cashes in on his best trade chip once his value is re-established.
Bringing back a first-round pick, promising young players in Beverley and Jones, and the center the roster desperately needs would be a good haul.
With only a handful of teams likely searching for an upgrade at point guard, turning Rondo into something now before the leverage declines when he's an expiring contract next year makes some sense.
Why It Might Not Work: Rondo and Harden may have a little trouble coexisting, and no one values good players on tiny deals (like Beverley) more than Morey does. Boston may want a draft pick with at least a chance of landing in the lottery, and Asik's money owed will be an issue for any team that takes him on.
There's also a decent chance Rondo doesn't recover from ACL surgery soon enough to become a viable trade target.
The Goal: Collect a future asset and fill a present need.
Why Houston Does It: Although it's certainly a downgrade in talent, Trevor Ariza could slot in as Houston's best perimeter defender. Ariza is also surprisingly capable corner three-point shooter, as he knocked in 47.1 percent from that area last year even though he shot 36.4 percent from behind the arc overall.
Ariza could contribute now, but this would be a play towards the future. If the relationship with Asik became toxic and Houston's leverage went down the drain, flipping Asik for a valuable draft pick might be the best-case scenario.
Why Washington Does It: The Wizards have already lost Emeka Okafor indefinitely, and relying on Nene to play anywhere close to 82 games at this point in his career is wishful thinking. If the Wizards start out well and are in the hunt for a playoff spot, general manager Ernie Grunfeld probably wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice future assets in order to make the playoffs and keep his job.
Asik's elite defensive rebounding and outlet passing could spark the transition game that John Wall thrives in, and defensively he could be the future building block inside that Washington currently doesn't have.
Why It Might Not Work: Houston can probably get more for Asik, especially if Washington needs more protection on the draft pick it would surrender.
Daryl Morey understands that windows to contend don't always stay open, so downgrading in current personnel, even if it's for the betterment of the future, might be a tough call to make.
The Goal: Add a stretch 4 with legitimate three-point shooting ability.
The Trade: Omer Asik for Ryan Anderson.
Why Houston Does It: You've seen this one before, so we'll make it snappy. Some of Howard's best years came next to power forwards that hung around the three-point line, and Anderson is probably the best three-point shooting big man in basketball right now. The salaries match up, and there's the bonus of the familiarity factor with Howard.
Why New Orleans Does It: Anthony Davis can certainly block shots with those long arms, but he might not be ready to take the full responsibility and pounding that comes with being a team's lone paint protector.
Lineups with Davis and Anderson together were pretty dreadful defensively for New Orleans last year, and Davis has shown off a nice little jumper that might make him a better fit offensively around the high post area instead of down on the block.
With Asik at the 5, New Orleans could easily become a top-10 defense given their other personnel. That might jibe better with Monty Williams' slow-down, grind it out style of play.
Why It Might Not Work: Anderson has one more year on his contract than Asik, which would essentially take the Rockets out of the possible running for LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love after the 2015 season. The Pelicans, meanwhile, are locked in financially and might not want to run the risk of losing Asik for nothing in unrestricted free agency.
The Goal: Go all-in for a championship right now.
The Trade: Three-team deal with Portland and Milwaukee.
Houston Rockets receive: LaMarcus Aldridge and Wesley Matthews
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Omer Asik, Ersan Ilyasova, Terrence Jones, Houston's 2014 first-round pick and right to swap picks in 2016.
Milwaukee Bucks receive: Jeremy Lin and Donatas Motiejunas
Why Houston Does It: Patrick Beverley, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard would be the best starting lineup in the NBA and make Houston the instant favorites in the Western Conference.
With that starting lineup and a deadly three-and-D guy like Matthews off the bench, this would be the beginning of a dynasty.
Why Portland Does It: If a core of Aldridge, Nic Batum and Damian Lillard is barely scratching at a playoff spot, it's probably time to try something different. Asik and Ilyasova would make for a fascinating offense-defense combo up front, while the potential of Terrence Jones and a future first-round draft pick could give Portland more pieces to build around.
If Aldridge is looking like he'll eventually leave in free agency, acquiring multiple assets for him now might be wise.
Why Milwaukee Does It: Often times it's the third wheel in a three-team deal that gets the best loot. If Brandon Knight continues to struggle with point guard duties, the Bucks should look elsewhere for a high-potential guy like Lin. With an increased usage rate and plenty of capable pick-and-roll finishers, perhaps Lin could rediscover some of that Linsanity magic in Milwaukee.
Donatas Motiejunas could potentially replace a good deal of Ilyasova's production at a much, much cheaper price while clearing the way for John Henson to receive more minutes.
Why It Might Not Work: Portland may want a trade that more clearly redefines its direction, although that might cost general manager Neil Olshey his job. Trading a superstar like LaMarcus Aldridge is never easy, and blockbuster deals between two potential playoff teams rarely happen.
As is the case with any potential deal, Milwaukee and Portland might balk at paying the higher salary of Lin and Asik in their final seasons.