Identifying Houston’s Priorities in an Omer Asik Trade

Omer Asik

Omer Asik will get his wish and be playing on a new team by the end of the week

Welcome to Omer Asik Trade Week.

We are down to the final few days of Asik’s Houston Rocket career and soon he’ll be joyfully playing on a new team that starts him. But while many reports are surfacing about teams that do and don’t have interest, I don’t know if enough has been made about what Houston’s priorities are in this trade.

Here are some notes and thoughts on where I think the Rockets are headed with this.

  • In much the same way that the Rockets on the court focus on three-pointers and points in the paint because they are the most efficient, highest-producing shots, the Rockets off the court focus on obtaining the most efficient contracts, and the highest values are max-deal superstars and rookie-scale contracts. In my opinion, from everything I’ve heard, they are not going to lose sight of the 2015 free agency date in which Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge will both be free agents, so I would be a bit shocked if they took back a Jeff Green or Thad Young given that both have player options for the 2015-16 season worth between $9 and $10 million each. Now the Rockets may see good value for some reason in the annual salary (though I don’t), but the price they would pay would be higher than just Asik — they would also be sacrificing future flexibility. If they acquire either player, I would expect them to be compensated in some other form as well (picks).

  • The ideal trade for the Rockets would be to:

    1. Take back no contracts beyond 2015.
    2. Acquire a big that fits Houston’s system and can give you quality backup center minutes.
    3. Net draft picks that can bring in rookie-scale contracts or (more likely) be used in a future trade.

    Paul Millsap would be plug-and-play here at the four and is signed to a nice contract that ends in 2015, but a deal involving Spencer Hawes may hit all three points for the Rockets. Over seven feet tall, Hawes can rebound (9.0 boards) and has range, though his incredible 44.6% three-point shooting this season is a bit misleading (he’s a career 34% from distance). He can adequately fill the backup center minutes behind Dwight Howard, something they have struggled to do. Hawes’ $6.6 million salary comes off the books this season, making him valuable as an expiring contract if a new, more-interesting deal were to surface between now and February. If Philly is involved in this trade and any Sixer ends up in Houston, I feel like it will be Hawes.

  • Don’t be surprised if the Rockets move Greg Smith and/or Donatas Motiejunas, especially if a big comes back.

  • I have no doubts that Boston would be very interested in Omer Asik. A lineup featuring Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Asik gives new coach Brad Stevens some fantastic defensive potential in the paltry Eastern Conference, but when I scan that lineup, there isn’t much that interests me outside of Rondo, rookie Kelly Olynyk and draft picks. And while Rondo would certainly be interesting to Houston, trading him would seem to put Boston on a full rebuild path, which might not include Asik, a player best suited to help teams “win now”. Green could help the Rockets, but again that contract is a heavy price to pay.

  • Boston isn’t the only team that I think would love to have Asik right now — in fact, I would rank them second behind the Charlotte Bobcats.

    It has been implied several times that the Bobcats are tired of the lottery game and are ready to start heading up. After going 21-61 last season, they’re already 10-14 this year, currently 6th (believe it or not) in the East. Bobcats coach Steve Clifford is a former Rockets assistant and a disciple of Jeff Van Gundy. Like Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls, his philosophy considers a defensive anchor to be a must. They owe their 2014 first round pick (protected 1-10 in 2014) to Chicago, so they have limited incentive to be “just mediocre” this year. They own Portland’s 2014 first rounder (protected 1-12) and Detroit’s 2014 first rounder (protected 1-8). They also have a young player in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist that the Rockets loved on draft day. MKG hasn’t been the ideal fit in Charlotte, is out until at least January with a broken hand, and may not be tailor-made for Houston’s system as far as shooting the ball. However, he’s only 20 years old and already seems to have good attack skills and defensive potential. Similar to the Thomas Robinson trade, the Rockets could see him as a good young player with upside and/or a valuable trade asset.

    There’s a lot of smoke here, which is why I rank Charlotte as my top pick for a likely Asik destination.

  • I always felt Cleveland was a very good possibility, but not because of Anderson Varejao. The Cavs were disappointing and needed to win. They have assets that would be attractive to young, rebuilding teams — namely Dion Waiters, #1 pick Anthony Bennett and a future first round pick from Sacramento. That would seem to make them an ideal third team in a three-team trade, but that was before Andrew Bynum started to round into form. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reports that the Cavs have no interest in trading for Asik.

  • I’m confident that Asik will go East, but two sleepers you have to throw out there in the West would be the surprising Phoenix Suns and the Utah Jazz. Utah is interesting since their new assistant general manager, Justin Zanik, is Asik’s former agent.

  • The December 19th date, the deadline for teams to acquire a player and still be able to combine them in a second trade before the February trade deadline, isn’t just important for Houston. Asik could get traded to a team that also hopes to flip him. Philly, which should be focused on the 2014 Draft, comes to mind here.

  • ClutchFans user linwantsout created a bit of an Internet firestorm this weekend when he recorded and posted on the board audio of Alan Hahn stating on 98.7FM in New York that after talking to some general managers, “there is a strong feeling that if the Rockets can find a taker, they will definitely move Jeremy Lin.” Blogs scraped the story and now there is speculation that Lin is on the block. It didn’t help the conspiracy theorists that Lin sat out Sunday’s game (with a legit injury, by the way) and coach Kelvin Sampson hinted he would sit out on Wednesday against the Bulls as well — the last game the Rockets will play before this self-imposed trade deadline.

    If the Rockets do move Asik for a player that expires in 2014 (such as Hawes), the Lin trade speculation will only increase since the Rockets could gain significant cap room one year early (this summer) by trading Jeremy for an expiring deal. That’s easier said than done since Lin is owed roughly $18 million more for a season and a half, though his cap number for any trade is ~$8.4M.

  • Trying to peg a Daryl Morey trade is like throwing darts blindfolded. He always seems to find a player, overseas prospect or pick that no one (or very few) considered to be possible. Having said that, my hunch (and purely opinion) is that Asik will end up in Charlotte or Boston, and if Philly is involved as a third team, it will be for Hawes to join Houston and for Sam Hinkie to net picks or young players.

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