Whether the Houston Rockets are actively shopping Omer Asik or not, one thing that seems reasonable is that if someone were to pick up the phone and make the right offer, the Rockets would jump. So what sort of trades might they make?
When assessing what makes sense as a trade, we sometimes look at things as fans, not as GM's. As fans, we would like to see players who make the game more fun to watch.
However, the job of the GM is to make the team better. That doesn’t always mean the most aesthetically pleasing addition.
The goal here is to view trades from a GM perspective, not from a fan’s perspective.
Assessing Potential Trade Objectives
Ergo, in order to determine what would improve Houston, we first must assess what they need and where they are successful.
The Rockets have almost as much trouble scoring as I do breathing. They are incredibly efficient, sitting at second in the league in offensive rating and second in effective field-goal percentage. They are also sixth in offensive rebounding. They rank fourth in three-point makes per contest.
Meanwhile, the only position at which they are ranked in the bottom half of the league in net efficiency is power forward, so, for the most part, that scoring is coming from all over.
Things aren’t so swell on the other end.
They also give up the 10th-most points to opposing backcourts, indicating a lack in perimeter defense, which anyone with eyeballs and a basic grasp of the game can tell you is a case of stats telling the truth. The Rockets aren’t going to change up their backcourt though, so what they need is help defense.
In sum, there are three areas of concern for the Rockets, which could be helped by trade: interior defense, help defense and defensive rebounding. Ideally, this would come from a power forward.
Terrence Jones has been blossoming of late in the starting power forward spot, but while he’s put up good numbers as a starter (14.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 56.6 percent shooting), so have his opponents. When Jones sits, the Rockets defensive rating improves from 105.0 to 98.6.
It’s great to have him starting, but when the game's on the line and you need stops, the Rockets could use a reliable defender to close games while Jones develops.
So the ideal trade acquisition is a power forward who is a solid defensive rebounder, a solid post defender and a versatile help defender. It doesn’t hurt if he can help to stretch the court.
Assessing Potential Trade Partners
The next thing we have to do is filter out the teams who have a need for a starting center and where Asik is going to be an upgrade over who they already have.
Going division by division, starting in the Eastern Conference, there aren’t many potential trading partners. The Atlantic is set. In the Central, Zaza Pachulia is starting for the Milwaukee Bucks, but you could argue that Asik would be an upgrade. In the Southeast, the Miami Heat could always use a center.
In the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Thunder would probably gladly take him. The Los Angeles Lakers could use a center for the future. The Dallas Mavericks are starting Samuel Dalembert, and Asik would be an upgrade. Finally, you have the New Orleans Pelicans, which could use a true starting-caliber center, and Asik would fit nicely beside Davis.
Some might suggest the Portland Trail Blazers, but I don’t see the point in messing with something working so well there.
That’s about all the potential destinations for Asik: Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Dallas. However, not all of those are realistic.
Miami doesn’t have the assets in that price range to deal. Oklahoma City would want to get rid of Perkins' contract, because anyone would. The problem there is no one wants to acquire it, including Houston. The Lakers don’t want to burn that much of the cap space on Asik.
Assessing the Options
That leaves three potential destinations for Asik: Milwaukee, New Orleans and Dallas. Each has a power forward that is in the range of his salary (counted as $8.3 million per year, even though it’s technically paid out as $15 million in the final year.)
The Bucks have Ersan Ilyasova, the Pelicans have Ryan Anderson and the Mavericks have Shawn Marion.
Ilyasova had a breakout year in 2012 after the All-Star break when he scored 16.1 points on a remarkably efficient 55.2 percent from the field, which included 50.8 percent from deep.
Since breaking out, though, he’s broken back in. This season, he’s averaging just 9.3 points and 4.1 boards per contest, although he is still very efficient on his attempts, boasting an effective field-goal percentage of 55.3.
He’s also a pretty awful defensive player, yielding a Player Efficiency Rating of 23.9 to his opponents, according to 82games.com.
Ilyasova offers everything the Rockets don’t need and not what they do need. If you’re stuck on the idea of a stretch 4 though, he’s a good fit.
Ryan Anderson is a better version of Ilyasova.
He’s a knockdown three-point shooter, making 53.1 percent of his shots from deep so far this season, and 38.6 percent over his career. He’s also always been a terrific offensive rebounder, with a career average of 2.1 per game, and 3.2 per 36 minutes.
While that might not seem like much, it makes him the only player in NBA history with career averages of over two threes and two offensive boards per game. Living on the outside offensively would seem to negate getting in position for the boards, but he seems to find a way to live both places at once. That’s what makes him valuable.
However, those aren’t needs the Rockets have. While Anderson is terrific on the offensive glass, he’s marginal grabbing defensive rebounds, at just 3.2 per game. He’s also a below-average defensive player with limited athleticism who certainly isn’t going to be able to help stop elite perimeter players.
Shawn Marion, on the other hand, is intriguing. He’s an effective defender, even if he’s not quite as good as he was when he helped to frustrate LeBron James in the 2011 NBA Finals.
He’s a respectable, even good, defensive rebounder, snaring 5.4 per game.
And he’s still a respectable shooter who can stretch the floor, making 38.2 percent of his threes.
Marion fills up the holes the Rockets have and has the experience of winning a ring—the kind of experience Houston could use on their roster. He’s also in the final year of his contract, meaning Houston would free up that salary at season’s end.
Marion would be a high-reward, low-risk proposition for Houston.
The Rockets have a couple of potential trading partners if they want to emulate the old Orlando days, surrounding Howard with three-point shooters. Heck, one of them, Anderson, is from Howard’s old Orlando days.
However, it makes more sense from a basketball perspective to take Marion, with his defense and rebounding. It doesn’t hurt that he also happens to have the ability to stretch the court. If winning is the goal, the Rockets should get to marryin’ Marion (which would be weird because they wouldn’t be able to court him until after the nuptials).