Marc Stein reported today that the Houston Rockets have been telling other teams that they intend to trade center Omer Asik by December 19. The significance of that date is that 1) December 15 is the first day that players signed to new deals last offseason can be plugged into trades and 2) December 19 is the last day that any player acquired in a trade can be traded again before this season’s February trade deadline.
I have several thoughts. First, ever since it became clear that Asik would need to be dealt, I’ve been saying that a deal would need to be made this season because of the way Asik’s contract is structured. Without rehashing the details, Asik on a one year rental is a very expensive proposition (in real dollars, not cap dollars.) That being said, my current prediction, especially after this news, is that Asik won’t be dealt at all. This leak smacks of clear posturing by the Rockets in an effort to drive up bids. As we’ve come to learn, Daryl Morey doesn’t work on artificial timelines and he almost never settles for less than what he perceives to be full value. We’ve seen him hold onto players like Luis Scola and Kevin Martin until they had no value whatsoever (or in the case of Martin, only as an expiring contract.) I don’t know if he’s suddenly going to change his modus operandi with Asik; he’s not one to show desperation.
On the other hand, Houston is in the unfamiliar territory of actually being in the midst of a season that matters. In the past, it was just about securing the best value for the future of the franchise. Now, while that value is a consideration, one can reasonably believe Morey would like to fill some current holes in the process as his team makes a postseason push.
Lastly of note is the odd issue of Asik’s value which, while already lower than it should be to begin with, probably has diminished even further since the start of this season. This is for no other reason than the verified and irrefutable fact that the vast majority of NBA general managers are complete idiots. Just as players somehow need to be “showcased” for trades, that a player whose playing time has diminished this season due to external circumstances (and not due to any inabilities of the player himself) would cause the collective groupthink to view that player in lesser esteem is….bizarre. It’s almost like, “hey, that Asik fella sure was good last year but he doesn’t seem to be showing up on my DVR for these Rockets games any more. What happened to him? His leg must have fallen off or something.” It sounds absurd, but seriously, I really think the above is an accurate reflection of the thought process that goes on.
As for what happens, we’ll see. I’m becoming less confident that a deal will be struck and I’m wary of just giving up a player that good for pennies on the dollar. Though, as a reader said recently, whatever Morey decides to do, it won’t make sense until it makes sense.