Setting Omer Asik's Realistic Trade Value

John WilmesContributor IDecember 31, 2013

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 18:   Omer Asik #3 of the Houston Rockets waits near the bench before the game against the Chicago Bulls at Toyota Center on December 18, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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In Omer Asik, the Houston Rockets have let one of the better trading chips across the league turn into a roster albatross.

GM Daryl Morey’s bargaining games with the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers didn’t work. His expectation of first-round draft picks seems to have sunk any deals that were in place. So, what now?

Whatever does happen, you can be sure that there will be a diminished return on any Asik trade. There’s simply too much skepticism about the center, especially now that he’s missed 16 games with a somewhat mysterious injury.

Coach Kevin McHale’s explanation of the ailments doesn’t help:

"He had some swelling again in his knee. It seems like he amps it up to a certain level and it swells up again. They’re still trying to figure out what’s causing that swelling when he gets up to a certain level of activity. They MRI, they sent it out again for certain people to look at again. His symptoms are not going the way the doctors think they should be. He seems like he’s another guy that gets 95 yards down the field, you think he’s going to be fine, and all of a sudden, he falls back."

This is not exactly a vote of confidence in Asik’s future health. And the elliptical, dubious nature of McHale’s words also acts as support for those speculating that the thigh contusion keeping Asik off the floor is, in fact, mere invention.

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 29:  Brook Lopez #11 of the Brooklyn Nets works the ball against Omer Asik #3 of the Houston Rockets during the game at Toyota Center on November 29, 2013 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
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Asik’s unhappiness has been well-broadcasted since the moment Dwight Howard signed with the team, which was also when his court skills became marginal to their mission. Morey might not be able to move Asik to his satisfaction, but the Rockets have decided on what they need as a team, and it doesn’t include a disgruntled backup center.

When we also take into consideration that Asik has a “poison-pill” salary—originally put in place to prevent the Chicago Bulls from matching an offer sheet, but now clearly backfiring—of $15 million next year, the real value of the center seems to have shrunk considerably from what previous rumors indicated.

Former talk that Asik could be swapped to the Atlanta Hawks or New Orleans Pelicans for Paul Millsap or Ryan Anderson now seems moot. The offer from Boston, including Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee, now seems much more realistic.

For the sake of continuity and chemistry—and perimeter defense—Morey should consider himself lucky to pull a much lesser gain out of this quagmire. His hot streak couldn't go on forever—rival GM's are now weary of Morey, playing stiffer negotiating defense in the fear of being his next patsy.

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 29: General Manager Daryl Morey of the Houston Rockets speaks to the media as James Harden is introduced to the media on October 29, 2012 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that,
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The best course for Houston now is to get their man healthy (in the event that he is, in actuality, injured) and on the floor for a stretch of re-proving his worth to a team.

Once he does that and the league rolls up toward the trading deadline, when all sorts of sink-or-swim scenarios put fires under GMs' butts, Morey can finally have the real form of that leverage he tried to synthesize in December.

Indications from that last Asik trade kerfuffle do tell us that the Rockets are set against dealing Asik to any Western Conference rivals, however. While this is a wise stance—Asik could send a team like the Oklahoma City Thunder over the edge as a title contender and Rockets-killer—it also limits their field of operation.

But as long as teams frantic for an extra boost as the playoffs approach can see Asik play his hustling style—he is, when healthy and happy, a top-10 defense-and-rebounds man—you can be sure that Houston still holds enough leverage to get back some pieces more appropriate to their playoff goals this season.

Let’s just hope Morey doesn’t get too far ahead of himself and expect too much bullion on the dollar to get the right deal done.