As the season progresses, the February trade deadline is quietly sneaking up on the Houston Rockets.
Houston already fell short of striking a deal for disgruntled big man Omer Asik, when general manger Daryl Morey could not find a package he liked by his self-imposed December 19 deadline. So will this deadline be any different? Is the current roster the one that will represent Houston in the playoffs?
Let's discuss the possibilities.
To Trade or Not to Trade Omer Asik?
The first thing the Rockets should do is determine whether they want to keep Asik or not. Having Asik on the bench backing up Dwight Howard would give Houston 48 minutes of elite rim protection every single night. Especially during the games when Dwight gets in foul trouble, Asik would certainly come in handy and immensely improve the Rockets defense in the second unit.
This is all hypothetical, of course, assuming Asik suddenly gets healthy and changes his attitude toward coming off the bench. If he never comes around, then Asik becomes Morey's most valuable trade bait.
This time around, however, Morey may have to settle for something less than desired. Asik is a very valuable player in this league, but his poison pill contract and nagging injury bring his value way down. Regardless, the Rockets have some voids to be filled that an Asik deal can help them with.
If the Rockets want to make a deep playoff run and potentially contend for a championship, they are a move or two away. The current rotation is not deep enough to compete against the top teams out West. Injuries have not helped, but Houston's bench has not been consistent enough this year.
Houston plays a run-and-gun style of offense that attempts the most three-pointers per game in the entire NBA. The problem with that is when the shooters aren't making their shots, the team struggles to put points on the board. Some of the Rockets' best sharpshooters have been underperforming all season long.
James Harden is shooting a career-low 32.1 percent from behind the arc. Three-point specialist Francisco Garcia is only connecting on 34.2 percent of his attempts from deep. Point guards Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin are both shooting just over 33 percent. Houston needs all of these guys to start hitting their threes on a much more consistent basis before the playoffs begin.
Morey may want to consider picking up an additional shooter to add to the Rockets' arsenal. If Houston added another three-point specialist like Kyle Korver or Anthony Morrow, who can hit over 40 percent from deep, the rotation would be significantly stronger.
Defensive Big Man
If the Rockets do trade away Asik, then they are leaving a large vacancy in the backup center spot. The only other big men Houston has are Greg Smith and Donatas Motiejunas, who clearly do not come close to Asik's defensive ability. Smith has only played in 11 games this season because of injury, and D-Mo isn't known for his defense or rebounding.
An Asik trade would have to bring another legitimate big man back to Houston. If Dwight were to get in foul trouble or suffer an injury, the Rockets would be in big trouble without Asik coming off the bench.
Shooting Power Forward
Terrence Jones has done an excellent job starting at the 4 for the Rockets. His length and athleticism alongside Dwight have been helpful on both ends of the floor. He earned himself a well-deserved spot in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend.
However, Houston would benefit immensely from a stretch 4 who can shoot the three-pointer consistently. The Orlando Magic had a lot of success back in the day with Howard clogging up the middle and Ryan Anderson camping out behind the arc.
Jones is shooting just 28.6 percent from three. In the month of November, he shot a ridiculous 47.6 percent from deep, and the offense was ranked at the top in the league. Unfortunately, he came back down to earth and shot a miserable 19.4 percent in December and has struggled ever since.
If Houston could pick up another stretch 4 who can play some minutes with Dwight, then the Rockets offense would be nearly unstoppable some nights.
Unless we know for sure that Asik will come back healthy and with a positive attitude, the Rockets have no reason in keeping him. His value has gone way down, but Houston should still try to get back any value it can that would help the team.
Morey may not get his first-round pick, but he can still get an immediate impact player from the list above to add to Houston's weak bench, which is why Houston should pull the trigger on a deal before the February 20 deadline.