Foremost on general manager Daryl Morey’s docket: whether or not to unload one or both of Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, who, thanks to a pair of “poison pill” contracts inked ahead of the 2012-13 season, are slated to rake in a combined $30 million next year.
So far at least, Morey has managed to toe the line between motormouth and mum, telling Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, “I don’t expect something bigger like that to happen. I could see where you would look to that if something bigger were to happen, but I don’t anticipate that.”
Morey wasn’t beyond a subtle hedge, however.
"We’re always aggressive. We’ll always explore aggressive scenarios. But I feel confident if those don’t emerge, we’re not far off. We need to get (the record) into the high 50s if we’re going to be as good as we want to be. We need to improve our defense primarily," he said.
In terms of roster depth, both Lin and Asik present unique problems: While Dwight Howard renders Asik something of a positional afterthought, Lin has watched as Patrick Beverley and now rookie Troy Daniels slowly uproot his playing time.
Traditionally, players of Lin and Asik’s caliber entering the final year of their respective contracts would make for a valuable trade asset. Just, you know, not when they’re making $15 million.
So while back-loading both of their deals successfully dissuaded the two’s original teams—the New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls, respectively—from matching Morey’s offer sheets, the fiscal implications eventually came home to roost.
Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway expounded on precisely this idea in a piece penned back in January:
A season-and-a-half later, Morey is finding out that sometimes markets are inefficient for a reason. In terms of average value, it's hard to quibble much with either Asik's or Lin's contract. Asik is one of the best half-dozen rim protectors in basketball, someone who single-handedly held together the Rockets' defense last season and would probably be a six-figure player on the open market. Lin is certainly overpaid as a third guard, but not in an egregious or crippling way—especially considering his off-the-court popularity.
The caveats Conway poses are crucial. On the right team, Asik would be the perfect rim-protecting starting center, itself a peerlessly valuable commodity (just ask Tyson Chandler and the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks).
Lin, on the other hand, while a somewhat shakier basketball prospect, offers the kind of global market appeal most professional sports franchises can only dream of wielding.
In the end, Morey’s comments are less an airtight bellwether than the mere run-of-the-mill musings of a man who understands no options are ever truly off the table.
Even if Houston doesn’t pull the trigger on a Lin or Asik deal this summer, expect Morey to be hot on the horn near next year’s trade deadline, when it’ll be much more apparent which teams are most in need of what the Rockets are selling.