In the coming days, hours, minutes and seconds, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers will ask themselves a question: Should we trade for Omer Asik?
I repeat: Don't.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski tells us the Houston Rockets are close to meeting their self-imposed deadline for trading Asik:
He also lists five potential destinations, including a mystery locale, for the disgruntled big man:
RealGM.com's Andrew Perna later identified said mystery team:
Among the most likely possibilities, according to ESPN's Marc Stein? You guessed it:
Philly and Boston have emerged as top suitors for Houston's 7-footer, which isn't surprising...if you're looking at this through Houston-sided goggles.
Each team has more than enough to meet Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's demands. First-round draft picks (Boston, anyway), Thaddeus Young, Jeff Green and Spencer Hawes—they have the necessary assets.
But for the Sixers' and Celtics' parts, trading for Asik makes less sense than juggling needle-tipped bowling pins soaked in lethal tarantula venom.
Let's start with the Celtics. The supposedly tanking, yet Atlantic Division-leading Celtics.
Rookie head coach Brad Stevens has Boston ranked ninth in defensive efficiency. Ninth. Without a true center.
Kelly Olynyk and Vitor Faverani have been equally entertaining, but they're not centers of the future. The Celtics will need an everyday 5 at some point. And wouldn't you know it, Asik's a center—just not one the Celtics should be interested in.
Let's be clear: any deal is justifiable. Asik adds size, rebounding, shot-blocking, general defense and another funny-sounding last name. His contract, while expensive next season, fits into their future financial plans as well.
Houston signed Asik to a back-loaded three-year deal in 2012, so the Celtics would pay him close to $15 million next season, even though his cap hit would account for under $8.4 million. Again, that's not the problem. His deal comes off Boston's books in time for a 2015 free-agency binge, if the Celtics don't use him as trade bait next season first. Good. Great.
But not really.
What are the Celtics trying to do again? Tank. Excuse me, I mean rebuild. That's what Boston's GM, Danny Ainge, likes to call it.
Ainge came out point blank and told The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn the Celtics weren't trying to clinch a playoff berth this season:
I envisioned competing for a championship [eventually], and I don’t think this team is quite there, but it doesn’t really matter. I’m looking at improvement and progress. That’s really what is important, and not what I envision. There’s never been a doubt to me that the players on our roster are good players and can play at some level in the NBA.
I don’t know, because there’s too many variables, it’s just not that simple. Making the playoffs is not a goal. I need to explain that a little bit. If there’s a bunch of teams that are just injured and playing and you finish five, six, or seven games under .500 and you made the playoffs just because of that, that might not be such a great thing. I’m only concerned about how our players are playing, and if it so happens we make the playoffs and we earn our way and our guys are getting better, then I’m thrilled.
Look, I'm not trying to take his words out of context. Ainge didn't cop to tanking. He would sooner admit to poisoning Boston's Gatorade coolers with powdered milk before saying that. But he did admit the Celtics aren't ready to compete for a championship. And if they cannot contend, the next best thing for them to do is lose. A lot.
The middle is the worst place to be in today's NBA. Ask the Atlanta Hawks. Or the Detroit Pistons, this side of Josh Smith. Boston has amassed nearly a decade's worth of first-rounders over the next five years. If the plan is to rebuild through the draft—spoiler: it is—they're better off increasing the value of their own selections.
Sitting atop the Atlantic Division at 12-14, the Celtics aren't maximizing their tanking rebuilding potential. All without Rajon Rondo, mind you. When he returns, assuming they don't trade him, they're going to be even better.
Add Asik to the fold, even if it costs their leading scorer, Jeff Green, and the Celtics will be trapped in some mangled version of win-now mode.
There will be no championships to be won or playoff series victories to fawn over. There will only be a middling Celtics team, perhaps playing slightly above their ceiling (thanks, Brad), caught between a rebuild and feeble attempt at winning now.
You're better than that, Boston. Your future can be too, so long as you leave Asik alone.
General manager Sam Hinkie, like Ainge, should know better than this.
Trade Evan Turner, Young and Spencer Hawes—I don't care. Whoever the Sixers would relinquish for Asik isn't the problem; Asik's fit with the team is.
Much of what Boston is facing applies to Philly. Asik's deal comes off the books after next year, so the Sixers won't be hamstrung financially beyond 2014-15. But like the Celtics, they're supposed to be tanking. And unlike the Celtics, they already have a center to build around—Nerlens Noel.
The Sixers were a painfully talented surprise for awhile. Remember that? It took Brett Brown's crew 11 games and some timely Michael Carter-Williams injuries to dip below .500. Since then, they've never looked back.
Asik won't suddenly transform them into contenders, but in a baseborn Eastern Conference, playing within a plebeian Atlantic Division, he could be the difference between 30 wins and 25.
Every loss counts in the draft lottery. If the Sixers want to pair Noel and Carter-Williams with a Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, they need to lose as much as possible. Not a little or even moderate amount. A lot.
After beginning the season on a tear, Philly is finally where it's supposed to be—near the bottom. The Sixers have the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference and third-worst record in the league. There's no need to make improvements at this point. Subtraction is something they should be more interested in.
But let's consider this for a second: What if Asik, at the expense of Young, Hawes, Turner and/or someone else, doesn't ruin Philly's tanking party? Are the Sixers free to let 'er rip?
Sorry, the answer is still no.
Philly isn't replete with future first-rounders the way Boston is. The Sixers will convey their first-round pick to the Miami Heat if they finish outside the lottery in one of the next two seasons, per RealGM.com. Their first-round pick in 2016 (lottery protected), 2017 (top-11 protected) or 2018 (top-eight protected) could make its way to the Orlando Magic.
CBS Sports' Ken Berger previously reported Houston's asking price for Asik was "delusional." If the price still includes a first-rounder, the Sixers are mortgaging a valuable part of their distant future on a position they already have filled (Noel) and on a player who isn't a star.
You're better than that, too, Philly.
Above all else, it's worth acknowledging Asik isn't a superstar.
Sure, he averaged a double-double for the Rockets. And sure, he's tall. But he's limited offensively and has yet to prove he's more than a complementary piece.
Neither the Sixers nor the Celtics would be receiving a building block here. They would be giving up valuable assets like Young, Green, Turner and picks for an underwhelming return, jeopardizing their draft-lottery odds in the process. Tell me how that's good for their futures.
Not to say both teams cannot join the party. Berger says one of them could become a facilitator of a potential three-team deal. That's just fine, provided Asik is headed somewhere else, because the Celtics and Sixers shouldn't want him. They don't need him.
They shouldn't open sesame for a player who isn't worth the trouble or residual damage he'll inflict upon their future.