After starting the season on a scorching tear, the Portland Trail Blazers have slowed some, compiling a quite mortal 5-6 record in their last 11 games. They need a shot in the arm.
The team’s shooting assault has waned, which is largely due to how predictable the offense has become. After the Blazers took the league by storm, word got out that they are the most aggressive deep-shooting team in all of the NBA.
Perhaps the answer to a more balanced attack lies in a long-rumored Blazers trade target: Houston Rockets center Omer Asik.
The beleaguered big man from Turkey has recently returned from injury, but can he and his current team find a fitting role for him?
Probably not. Dwight Howard has continued to grab the lion’s share of minutes at the 5, averaging 34.2 minutes per game, and has been playing quite well for the Rockets. Asik is too good to use as a minutes-filler behind Dwight. He knows it, and so does his team.
Andrew Perna of RealGM.com's report that the Blazers are interested in Asik presents a dicey situation for the squad given the strong play of center and fan favorite Robin Lopez. Lopez has been an integral part of the team’s stellar starting lineup, doing a boatload of overlooked dirty work that has cleared the way for LaMarcus Aldridge to have the best season of his career.
As good as Lopez has been, however, Asik would be that much better.
One of the strongest big-man defenders in all of basketball, Asik could bring the Blazers that extra edge. He's already averaged a double-double in Houston, something Lopez is unlikely to ever achieve. The team could use both big men and extend its rotation that much deeper. It'd have what’s clearly the best committee of centers in the league.
Asik also has more lift offensively, and demands more deference from defenses than Lopez does. He'd give that much extra spacing over to Aldridge. As for Lillard? Asik's aggressive pick-and-roll defense would make up for more of the lapses that the second-year player still flashes. He's an elite team defender.
The question becomes: What does Portland have to offer the Rockets? According to Alan Hahn of MSGNetworks, Houston general manager Daryl Morey is said to be seeking two first-round draft picks in any deal for Asik. The Blazers are one of the few teams rumored to be willing to part with a first-rounder for the 2016 draft.
The feeling for Portland is that it has its core duo now in Damian Lillard and Aldridge. With Thomas Robinson and C.J. McCollum, the Blazers already have the studs they want to develop.
What this team needs is an extra boost. Asik would be thrilled to provide it. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported in November that the center has requested a trade, and a change of scenery would do wonders for his game.
In the wild Western Conference, the Blazers are kings one day and runners-up the next.
One has to believe that having Asik on board would give them the edge they need to remain in the conference’s top tier. His defensive presence would create a totem of consistency—something to lean on when the team’s all-important three-pointers simply aren’t falling.
Think Tyson Chandler on the 2011 NBA champion Dallas Mavericks—a team Grantland's Zach Lowe compared these Blazers to. Moreover, one of Dallas’ key assistants that season, Terry Stotts, is now head coach in Portland. Stotts would know exactly how to utilize Asik.
Whether this move gets done or not—whether Portland makes any splashy trade—will be telling of how the team’s brass envisions its squad.
Do the Blazers have the gall to risk possible flexibility by trading a pick and taking on Asik’s weighty salary? Do they dare mess with the rare stew of chemistry on their team, the mix that’s gotten them this far, this wildly beyond expectations?
Time will tell us how daring the Blazers’ front office is. For their fans yearning for a championship, some risk-taking would be preferred.