Predicting Where Houston Rockets Will Trade Center Omer Asik
Disgruntled seven-footers, as we all know, are bad for business. They don't take kindly to small ball and resent the presence of a better, more athletic big man.
When their morale reaches levels of acidic discomfort rivaled only by the decision to inhale entire packages of Sour Patch Kids at once, it's time to move on.
Asik's future in Houston reached a breaking point when he was demoted to bench duty, which, per the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen, caused him to demand another trade. Since then, Asik has been used sparingly, ultimately missing Houston's last six games while tending to a hip "injury."
According to USA Today's Sam Amick, this soap opera will (mercifully) reach a gripping conclusion soon. Amick says general manager Daryl Morey will be dealing Asik any day now, likely before the self-imposed Dec. 19 deadline. He writes that "one rival executive" believes the Rockets already have a deal in place and are merely searching for a better one.
ESPN's Marc Stein neither confirms nor denies Amick's report, but he does add Houston is on course to strike a deal, naming a few trade partners in the process. Similar reports continue to surface, leaving us all with visions of complex three-team deals and potential destinations gallivanting through our heads.
Houston remains determined to deal before Dec. 19, because that's the last day players acquired via trade can be flipped before or on this season's Feb. 20 trade deadline.
"You're going to trade for a guy just to trade him again in two months?" one executive said, via CBS Sports' Ken Berger. "Better to just do a three-way."
But as imaginations run amok, the primary question at hand has yet to be answered: Where is Asik going?
New Orleans Pelicans
Time machine acquired. Destination: July 2013
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported in July that Houston was discussing a potential Asik-for-Ryan Anderson swap with the New Orleans Pelicans. The rumor has since died, but Amick says New Orleans re-entered the mix, and we can only assume Ryno's name was brought up in talks once more.
But again, talks never went anywhere.
Can't say I blame the Pellies either. They've been halfway decent since Anthony Davis went down, and while they're in need of a big to play alongside The Brow, they rank eighth in offensive efficiency.
Trading their leading scorer—Ryno averages 21.7 points per game—would be like mixing celery into cookie dough. You don't do it, because it's insane (and unnecessarily crunchy).
Refusing to trade Anderson ends all hope New Orleans has of landing Asik. The Pellies have few other assets they would be willing to trade, one of which, according to Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling, is Eric Gordon, who doesn't fit into Houston's offensive scheme and complicates things financially.
Barring a sudden willingness to part with Ryno, Asik will have to celebrate Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans.
Stein discusses the possibility of an Asik-for-Varejao trade, but notes that both the Cavs and Rockets seem averse to making it happen.
You don't say?
Pairing Asik with Andrew Bynum would a floor-spacing disaster, similar to dilemmas Houston faced with Asik and Howard. Lanes would be clogged. Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters would never attack rims again.
There's the whole contract thing as well. Asik, unlike Varejao, has one year left on his deal. While his cap hit is a very manageable $8.4 million, he restricts Cleveland's ability to chase LeBron James this summer should he become a free agent. If the Cavs exercise their team option on Bynum, their financial flexibility would be nonexistent.
Did I mention the floor-spacing thing? Alright, good.
It makes sense for Houston to balk at this deal too. Howard is best when surrounded by shooters. Varejao, though he's a rebounding machine, is not a shooter. Rockets head coach Kevin McHale would be faced with the spacing problems he has now, only not as severe, and one of the two bigs would have cooler hair.
Don't rule out Cleveland as a potential facilitator, though. Stein says it would be willing to help push a deal through as a third team. What exactly that entails the Cavs giving up, we do not know. My gut says "Dion Waiters"; my head says "shuddup."
Anyhow, Asik won't be a Cav.
This is an actual thing. Promise.
Stein previously discussed the Atlanta Hawks' potential interest. Sources told him Asik was their top trade target:
Many league insiders maintain that the Rockets' No. 1 target in an Asik deal is Hawks forward Paul Millsap, who will join more than 100 players who signed contracts in July in becoming trade-eligible Dec. 15, which happens to be Sunday. We caution, though, that gauging the Hawks' true willingness to part with Millsap -- after signing him to a two-year, $19 million deal that increasingly ranks as one of the league's best bargains -- remains a mystery thanks to ever-coy Hawks general manager Danny Ferry.
Hold the phone for a minute. Actually, never mind. Hang it up, Danny Ferry. This one isn't going to happen.
Paul Millsap is eligible to be traded now, but flipping him for Asik makes little sense. The move would force Al Horford to play power forward, which, despite what some maintain, is not a good idea.
Last season, according to 82games.com, Horford notched a 21.9 PER at the 5 compared to 17.9 at the 4. This year, his PER is higher when he plays power forward, but he's barely 25 percent into the campaign.
The fact is, Horford has an athletic edge on traditional centers, in turn giving the Hawks a daily offensive advantage. Not to mention Millsap is balling (16.6 points on 49.8 percent shooting per game) and on what is perhaps the most reasonable contract in the NBA (two years, $19 million).
Go ahead and file this one under "Never Going to Happen."
Keep your eyes on the Philadelphia 76ers.
According to Stein and Amick, Philly figures to be a major player in the Asik sweepstakes, if we can even call it that. One source even told Amick the Rockets and Sixers likely have a deal in place already.
Unlike previous destinations, this one makes sense.
The Sixers aren't likely to fork over any first-rounders for Asik, but they have a comparable contract in Thaddeus Young they can send Houston's way. The problem there is that Young earns more than $25 million through 2015-16. Chandler Parsons is due for a major pay raise this summer, and it's unclear whether Houston will be willing to line his pockets in addition to absorbing Young's deal.
Young also doesn't fit the mold of a typical stretch 4. He's athletic and great at finishing near the rim, but he's shooting just 33.4 percent from deep for his career.
One name to keep your eye on is Spencer Hawes, who meets all Houston's needs. Hawes can come off the bench as Howard's backup at center, but he can also play alongside him as a floor-spacing 4. He's hitting 43.6 percent of his long balls this season, making him an ideal candidate to come off the bench behind both Terrence Jones and Howard.
Potential hang-ups here include Hawes' deal. He's priced at a reasonable $6.6 million, but his contract comes off the books this summer. Morey isn't about to mortgage an asset like Asik for a player who can leave over the offseason. Other pieces would have to be involved, hence the potential for a third team to enter the mix.
Still, eyes open at all times. There's something here.
Stein names the Boston Celtics as another potential destination, citing a deal built around Jeff Green, and perhaps Brandon Bass. Boston also has a surplus of first-rounders it can use to catch Houston's attention.
The Celtics' interest should be obvious. They're playing inspired basketball under rookie head coach Brad Stevens, but they don't have a true center. Vitor Faverani fever has been awesome, and Kelly Olynyk is fun to watch, but a defensive-minded big like Asik would bolster their rotation considerably, especially when Rajon Rondo returns.
Because of Asik's back-loaded deal, he'll be owed nearly $15 million next season. But his cap hit is little more than half that, and he comes off the ledger in 2015, fitting nicely into Boston's rebuilding plans.
Yet this deal isn't perfect. Green earns over $25 million through 2015-16, which is once again a bill the Rockets won't necessarily be willing to foot with Parsons due for an extension.
Bass is owed just over $13 million through next season and has played alongside Howard before, but he alone will be nowhere near enough. Even with a first-rounder included, you have to wonder if Morey will approve a deal built around a role player.
Then again, we have that fabled third team. Other outfits could have interest in Green while possessing assets that appeal to Houston's fiscal and tactical preferences.
And if a third team becomes involved—say, one with a spare stretch 4—this becomes a more appealing scenario.
And Asik Goes To...
Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love, Asik.
With Nerlens Noel still rehabbing a torn ACL, the Sixers have a need for a big man to bang down low. Asik, while a bit pricey, fits into their future plans as well. He comes off the books after next season and more importantly, he will be on an expiring deal when Noel is healthy. Can you say trade bait?
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie also worked in Houston's front office when the Rockets first acquired Asik and has continued to show interest in players he helped bring in (Royce White anyone?).
I won't rule out a third team's involvement here, another organization that slinks into the picture and grabs Asik instead of Philly. Consider this more of a "Hawes will wind up in Houston" prediction. Or something like that.
Hawes fits in with the Rockets perfectly, and if another team enters the fold, willing to facilitate the deal with a pick or another asset of interest, watch out.
Alas, there's no way of knowing for sure. Morey has a tendency to lurk in the shadows, driving league-wide engagement before ultimately negotiating a deal out of nowhere. That could happen here. Or Asik could wind up Philly.
We, like Asik himself, will just have to wait and see.