Houston's a pretty big city, but there was never enough room on the Rockets' rotation for both Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. The organization might have liked the rest of the league to believe otherwise, all in an attempt to increase leverage when the time to deal finally arrived.
That time is nigh.
CBS Sports' Ken Berger reports Asik may be on his way out, with the rebuilding 76ers at the front of the line to claim him: "The Rockets have renewed efforts to trade disgruntled center Omer Asik, with the Philadelphia 76ers emerging once again as a potential landing spot, league sources told CBSSports.com on Tuesday."
Asik has wanted out since Howard's arrival, but it's doubtful he has Philly at the top of his wish list.
The 7-footer is averaging 3.9 points and 6.5 rebounds, all in just over 17 minutes per game. After earning 30 minutes a contest last season, it's no surprise Asik is feeling a tad unsettled.
The difficulty in moving the 27-year-old is that he's owed nearly $15 million next season, the last year of his contract. That's a steep price to pay for a defensive specialist who can't score from beyond the paint.
Nevertheless, knowing that defense wins championships, someone is bound to find Asik's price acceptable. He could be a building block for a team like the Sixers or a missing piece for a contender in need of rim protection. In short, a market exists.
But whom does that market include?
CBS Sports' Ken Berger notes that Philadelphia "can absorb Asik's $8.4 million salary without sending back any players" and that the "floor-spacing Spencer Hawes interests the Rockets." It's hard to find a better fit than that, at least as far as the Rockets are concerned.
Houston could either pursue draft picks or secure a big man who makes for a much better fit alongside the paint-glued Dwight Howard. Either scenario would be an improvement over holding on to an unhappy Asik and playing him under 20 minutes a night.
From Philly's standpoint, Asik could serve as a bridge to the Nerlens Noel era as the injured rookie finally gets his feet wet next season. If the organization could re-sign Asik at a more affordable rate, he could conceivably play alongside Noel down the road—especially if Noel or Asik develops a remotely respectable mid-range game.
This wouldn't be the sexiest of destinations for Asik, but it would certainly entail more playing time.
Their success is all the more surprising given that the Hawks are giving up 101 points per game (and only scoring 101.3). Asik would give Atlanta a short-term replacement for Horford and a rim-protecting presence to shore up that defense.
Even better, Horford's more than capable of occasionally sliding over to power forward, allowing Asik some additional minutes next season. This is the kind of deal that makes a lot of sense from a short-term and long-term perspective.
At the moment, the Hawks' interior defense is comprised of the undersized Paul Millsap and relatively untested Gustavo Ayon. Few teams have a greater need for someone of Asik's pedigree.
Anthony Davis' quickly developing mid-range game has made Ryan Anderson somewhat expendable when it comes to the New Orleans Hornets' floor spacing. Meanwhile, there's little doubt the Houston Rockets would love to get their hands on Anderson for that very reason, reuniting Dwight Howard with the power forward who helped make him so successful with the Orlando Magic.
In short, this would be a win-win for both sides.
New Orleans is giving up over 101 points per game, so Asik would also help fill a need. The combination of Asik and Davis would rank among the NBA's very best interior tandems on the defensive end. Asik's presence would also take some of the defensive pressure off Davis, allowing him to look for shot-blocking opportunities from the weak side.
It's easy to forget about Anderson, in part because he's been injured since early January and in part because so much of New Orleans' trade focus has been on the possibility of moving Eric Gordon and/or Tyreke Evans.
Don't be surprised if it's a busy trade deadline for the Pelicans.
Despite reports that the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks haven't been in touch lately, USA Today's Sam Amick originally described the Bucks as "a longshot option for Asik," noting Houston's potential interest in the "disgruntled" Ersan Ilyasova.
Ilyasova would help the Rockets spread the floor without sacrificing too much rebounding ability at the 4-spot. The bigger question is how Asik would coexist with Bucks center Larry Sanders, who's owed $44 million over the next four seasons.
Sanders will miss significant time this season as he recovers from a broken eye socket, but it's not as if Milwaukee is looking to contend in his absence. In other words, there's no need for Asik as a short-term rental. Any decision to bring him in would be premised on him contributing next season, meaning he'd either have to play next to Sanders or be satisfied sharing time with him.
Neither proposition is a sure thing, which may be why talks haven't picked up major traction.
Kenneth Faried and new head coach Brian Shaw apparently aren't meshing as well as the organization hoped, leading The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman to conclude that the 24-year-old might be on the move: "Kenneth Faried is barely buying in. You can read between the lines in his quotes. You can see it in some of his decisions. Faried is either a key part of the future or a key part of a future trade."
Faried might not be a perfect fit alongside Dwight Howard, but you have to like the energy he'd bring to Houston's up-tempo attack. Meanwhile, Denver could use another certifiable center with JaVale McGee injured for the foreseeable future.
Denver would have to build a package around Faried to make salaries fit, likely including Timofey Mozgov and/or Darrell Arthur to further bolster Houston's frontline.
Given the potential suitors for Faried's services, a deal like this may be unlikely to materialize. But until the Nuggets and Faried agree to a long-term future with one another, anything is possible.