NBA teams are allowed to trade players until after Valentine's Day, but an important preliminary date looms on Thursday, Dec. 19. Any player traded after that date is ineligible to be traded again before the Feb. 20 deadline, and that means some swapping will occur this week.
Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is likely to be dealt soon, and disgruntled Houston Rockets big man Omer Asik is all but certain to be wearing a different uniform by Christmas.
The Kyle Lowry Sweepstakes
The New York Knicks had been in conversation with Toronto to acquire Lowry, but that swap is looking increasingly unlikely. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports wrote in his Dec. 16 power rankings, "The Knicks are adamant about not trading any more first-round picks in future trades, a source said."
This came just three days after a report from his Yahoo! colleague, Adrian Wojnarowski, stated that Knicks executives were desperately trying to convince owner James Dolan to revisit the deal the team had in place. That would have netted Lowry in exchange for fragile Raymond Felton, rickety Metta World Peace and a 2018 first-rounder.
As Wojnarowski wrote, "Without the future first-round pick, there's little chance of the Knicks landing Lowry, sources said." Well, if both Yahoo! writers are correct, the deal for Lowry to the Knicks is dead.
Just when the Knickerbockers had a chance to land a dynamic young point guard, they finally decided to stop trading first-round draft picks. It's both a curious and an unfortunate coincidence, but maybe the franchise is becoming more prudent and less impulsive. Knicks fans are skeptically shaking their heads.
Lowry turns 28 in March and he has continually displayed two worrying characteristics: being injury-prone and inconsistent. But there's no denying that he can rack up stats when he's in the groove. Through 22 games this season, Lowry is averaging 14.3 points, 2.0 three-pointers, 6.9 dimes and 1.7 steals per game. However, he can also be expected to shoot around 41 percent and average 2.5 turnovers per game.
Not only has Dolan remained staunch about not trading the draft pick, he was reportedly "livid" that the terms of the deal had been leaked. This negotiation also took place with Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, the same GM who swung the draft-pick laden Carmelo Anthony trade for the Denver Nuggets. That's just another day at Madison Square Garden for the 7-16 Knicks.
Worse still, Wojnarowski reported that talks had occurred between Toronto and the Knicks' crosstown rivals, the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn would send Mirza Teletovic, Tyshawn Taylor and 2011 second-round draft pick Bojan Bogdanovic—who is playing in Turkey—to the Raptors to add Lowry to their thin backcourt. The Raptors would prefer draft picks, but some of the Nets' young players might suffice.
The Omer Asik Poker Game
While the Lowry trade is probably not imminent, a deal for Omer Asik very likely is. As noted by Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will almost certainly pull the trigger on an Asik deal by Dec. 19. Morey is shrewd and loves flexibility, so he would want the ability to move any of the players he acquires for Asik in February if he chooses.
Morey is the same fierce negotiator who brought James Harden and Dwight Howard to town, and he's seeking a king's ransom for Asik. According to Zillgitt, "the Rockets want a lottery pick or a high-level power forward in return." Howard has rendered Asik obsolete just a season after he averaged 10.1 points, 11.7 boards and 1.1 blocks per game.
There are several teams in the hunt for the Turkish center, including the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks, but the Philadelphia 76ers seem like the linchpin of the deal as Morey looks to trade with the highest bidder, according to David Aldridge of NBA.com.
Aldridge elaborated on the rumored framework of the Asik deal with the Sixers:
A source confirmed Sunday that Boston may be trying to work its way into the deal, as ESPN.com reported. But many around the league continue to believe Morey has a deal in place, likely with Philadelphia, either for forward Thaddeus Young or center Spencer Hawes, and is looking to see if anyone will sweeten the deal.
Young is just 25 years old and was Philly's 12th overall pick in 2007. He's somewhat underrated due to the team he plays on, but he posted solid averages in 76 starts last season: 15.4 points on 53 percent shooting, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
Hawes would be even more of a coup as he's enjoying a breakout season for the 76ers. He could be a sell-high candidate, although giving him up might be too rich for the Sixers' blood.
Hawes is also 25 and got selected two picks ahead of Young in 2007. Through 23 games, he is posting 17.1 points, 10.1 boards and 1.9 blocks; he's shooting 50 percent from the field, which he has never done in his career, in addition to an unreal 44.6 percent from behind the arc with an average of two treys per game.
The Celtics have draft picks to ship and the Hawks would likely part with Paul Millsap as the "high-level power forward" Morey seeks, but the Sixers have the most attractive offerings reported so far.
Furthermore, the swap is likely to require more than two teams to go through. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle quoted a source on Dec. 15 as saying, "it very likely will be a pretty complicated, three-way deal. There are a lot of moving parts."
In a revelation that would make for good reality television, Morey will let us know his choice by Dec. 19.