You know why we’re here. We know why we’re here. Omer Asik is (probably) getting traded very, very soon, and once it happens the deal’s aftershock will reverberate around the entire NBA. It may be the season’s most important trade, and it could happen any minute. Here are five questions tackled by five writers on our staff. THAT’S HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS. Great. Now on with it.
1.) What primary need should the Rockets address if they deal Asik?
John Wilmes: Perimeter and/or point guard defense. I’m pretty scared of what Tony Parker or Chris Paul might do to this team in a seven-game series. The Rockets would benefit hugely from an experienced system guy, outside of the paint, who knows how to snuff out the half-court machinations of other system guys.
Robert Dover: Replacement backup Centre. Forty eight minutes of rim protection is still a noble goal the Rockets should strive to achieve, and for that they need an upgrade over Greg Smith to mop up the minutes Howard isn’t on the court for. Since it is highly unlikely that any centre they get in return will be as good as Asik, Morey should be able to get a secondary asset in the deal as well – some additional wing depth might be nice.
Eric Nielsen: The Rockets need defense at every position and veterans with experience, toughness and a decent field goal percentage. If Morey is fishing for draft picks, I’m hoping he has a plan to use them at the trade deadline. We need to get better before the playoffs.
Michael Pina: If they don’t believe Greg Smith can be the backup center, then one of those guys is needed. If Smith’s cool, then Houston needs a long wing defender who can rebound, dribble, pass, and shoot. Is that asking too much?
Paul McGuire: A backup center to replace Asik and then a backup wing. Greg Smith lacks the defensive impact to function as a true backup center for Dwight Howard, and the Rockets need wing depth to help Harden and Parsons, especially since Harden has just been diagnosed with a high ankle sprain. Amusingly enough, power forward may be one of the last things that the Rockets are looking for right now in an Asik deal.
2.) Which single team looks like the most likely trade partner? Bonus Question: Which two teams are most likely to do a three-way trade with Houston?
Wilmes: According to the latest rumblings, it’s the Boston Celtics. Looks like Danny Ainge is willing to swallow Asik’s poison pill—and probably wanting to break up the continuity of Brad Stevens’ surprisingly effective band of ragamuffins, and get to the tanking already—in order to shed Jeff Green’s contract, which extends a year longer into 2015-16. This is when the Celtics could be looking to take on new salary.
Dover: Philadelphia, because of the Morey/Hinkie connection. We’ve seen reports from both Feigen and Amick that the Rockets Front Office already has a deal in place. To have something solid agreed so far in advance of when the deal is to be done implies that the GMs involved must have a good working relationship, especially given how last-minute a lot of NBA trades seem to be. If I had to guess who the third team in the deal is, I would go for Atlanta.
Nielsen: The Sixers seem to be the team that everyone is alluding to the most. If Morey does have a deal done and is just waiting on a better one, chances are it’s with the Sixers. Cleveland and Philly look like partners in a three-team deal—Asik will stay in the East, regardless, because he’s good and will want to make the Rockets pay.
Pina: Given their recent history together (different ownership and primary decision-makers aside), I’ll go out on a limb and say the Sacramento Kings. Their inability to deal a first-round pick until 2019 is worrisome, but if every other offer stinks, and Asik can be dealt for something like Ben McLemore and Jason Thompson, Daryl Morey will consider doing it for the sake of packaging McLemore and Houston’s own first rounder in another deal down the line.
McGuire: Boston. The Celtics so far this season have not looked like a team ready to just throw in the tank, and could go far in the Titanic, er, Atlantic Division. They are a rare combination of a team that has no real center and yet willing to make a playoff push, and have a load of players that Houston could want from Courtney Lee to Brandon Bass to maybe even Jeff Green.
3.) Which obtainable player would you most want back?
Wilmes: Ever since the Harden trade, “realistically obtainable” has taken on a comic tone in any of Daryl Morey’s doings. I’m stretching here, as there’s not been a peep about this possibility, but ever since I saw Tom Haberstroh put the suddenly crumbling Memphis Grizzlies at a less than 2% chance of making the terrifying Western Conference Playoffs, I’ve concocted dreams of Tony Allen making his way to Houston in some sort of complex multi-team deal.
Dover: My ideal target is Spencer Hawes. At 7’1″, he has the size to be an imposing backup centre. In addition, he would provide an additional wrinkle to the Rockets’ attack by being able to space the floor much better than either Howard or Asik can at the moment. He can be inconsistent at times, but when he is on his game he can be an excellent player. Just look at his numbers this season so far: 14.8 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.6 blocks per game and 43% from beyond the arc! He would be perfect backing up Howard.
Nielsen: It would be amazing if we could pick up Paul Millsap. Considering Asik has given next to nothing this year, that would be a tremendous upgrade. It’s a long shot for the Hawks to make that deal.
Pina: The best case scenario is Paul Millsap. But aside from that, another option: Not sure if he’s obtainable, but going from earlier rumors that Houston has conducted talk with the Charlotte Bobcats, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist would be a nice get. He can’t shoot (yet), but before he broke his hand there were few wing defenders in the league who shared his pertinent tenacity.
McGuire: While the odds of Asik going to Dallas are miniscule at best, Shawn Marion. Even at his age, Marion is still a defensive force, and perimeter defense remains Houston’s biggest concern this season. He can also be a secondary big, provide veteran leadership, and would not impact Houston’s cap over the long term.
4.) What are the odds Asik isn’t traded this week?
Wilmes: Not being an insider, my guess here is as good as anyone’s—but I’m at least 87% sure that the disgruntled asset who’s been upgraded upon and is sitting out with a potentially invented injury will be dealt by his especially active GM by week’s end. There’s just too much damage done between team and player, and too much momentum around the league, for this not to happen.
Dover: Very low – I would say 10%. The Rockets can either make a deal now or wait until the trade deadline. But the longer they wait, the smaller the pool of potential partners gets. Realistically, only teams that wish to improve their team are going to want Asik, and the longer the season goes on the more likely teams are to make a decision about whether to go for the playoffs or tank for the lottery. If you factor in Morey’s desire to trade Asik to the Eastern Conference, suddenly you realise that there aren’t many teams that fit the bill to deal with any more! Given that there is supposed to be a trade framework in place already, the only way a deal is not done this week is if someone gets cold feet and backs out. But I would have thought that given how much dealing the Rockets have been doing, there should be at least one palatable offer out there to take.
Nielsen: 45% – After Morey let the world know he would move Asik, his credibility could take a hit with other GMs if he doesn’t trade him. If the Rockets believe that Asik will play hard (a big if), he could stay. Or, if the pieces aren’t good enough in return, Morey waits until the trade deadline.
Pina: 20%. Anything’s possible, but I’m not sure why he wouldn’t be dealt, especially if it limits other deals down the road.
McGuire: 40%. It was 70% until one notices the utter lack of information on Asik returning anytime soon from his injury. One thing I will note is that this supposed deadline exists so that Morey could then re-trade the new pieces at the trade deadline – but none of the proposed trades I have seen really takes this into account, which calls doubts about how true this deadline actually is.
5.) What deal do you expect to happen (if it does happen)?
Wilmes: Again, simply based off of the strength of the latest rumblings, I expect a (three team?) deal involving the Celtics. The Rockets will get some useable pieces, but maybe not the one it needs; Jeff Green and Brandon Bass are something less and different, respectively, than perimeter defensive stalwarts. It seems Morey did not want to deal Asik within the conference—a wise move, as his placement with any number of direct competitors could result in Houston’s undoing.
Dover: Here’s my best guess: The Rockets get Hawes plus some wing depth in Carroll (who has already been a Rocket for a while – I think Morey likes him). The 76ers get worse by trading away Hawes (which is in their interest), plus they get a nice young guard in Jenkins who may flourish for them down the road. Ancic and Mack are filler to make the salaries match. The Hawks get Asik, and also Brewer (since otherwise the Rockets would just have to cut him). With the imposing front line of Horford, Asik and Millsap, the Hawks would be strong favourites to be the 3rd seed in the East.
Nielsen: Knowing Morey and his penchant for picking up pieces, he’ll get a marginal player or two and some draft picks as a set up for a bigger deal coming at the trade deadline.
Pina: I wrote on CelticsHub earlier this week that trading Asik to Boston for Brandon Bass, Vitor Faverani, and the Los Angeles Clippers’ 2015 first-round pick sort of makes sense for everyone involved. I don’t necessarily think that’s what will happen, but both sides would be happy enough doing it.
McGuire: Three-way deal between Boston, Philadelphia, and Houston. Houston gets Thaddeus Young and Celtics center Vitor Faverani, Boston gets Asik, and Philadelphia gets expiring contracts (Kris Humphries, etc.), and picks. It will not be a total victory for Daryl Morey, but it will get this giant mess over with and the return is acceptable.