First, please follow @rahathuq on Twitter. As you know, my previous account (@redninetyfour) has been compromised, thus the lack of updates during this, the most important week of the NBA calendar. I’ll roll with @rahathuq indefinitely unless something is resolved with the real account. Please retweet to other Rockets fanatics.
Now, to the real topic: as I write this, the Rockets are awaiting word on whether the Chicago Bulls will match their offer for Omer Asik, a maneuver which, regardless of your opinion on Asik, has to at least be recognized as ingenius on the part of Daryl Morey. By structuring the contract in what is essentially a 5-5-15 format, Morey has created a poison pill which will be tough to swallow in the face of the league’s new luxury tax regulations. (The Rockets also hope to offer New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin a similar contract.) This is not the first time we’ve seen such “creative financing” from the Morey regime as the Samuel Dalembert contract which was just traded away (in addition to Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola’s deals) featured a partially guaranteed final year that provided immediate relief to an acquiring team. Whatever you may think of the Rockets, you have to agree – they keep things interesting on the books.
I like the Asik deal. A lot. It’s essentially a $14mill-$15mill expiring contract in Year 3 for one of the premiere defenders in basketball. Don’t be fooled by his pedestrian numbers. Asik’s value, according to observers, is in his ability to play solid positional defense, recovering quickly in PnR situations and defending the block. Think a 7 foot Chuck Hayes. At still just 25, I really, really like the idea of kicking off the rebuilding effort centered around a defensive anchor in the middle. It gives the team an internal foundation to start from.
As far as Lin, I’m not so bullish on that development. At essentially just $5million for the first years, you could do far worse than Lin. But the cynic in me suspects that a part of this involves the business opportunities Lin’s ethnicity would provide. In the past we’ve seen Les Alexander cling to the Yao cash cow when it was beyond repair and also sign on Steve Francis when he was past the point of any social utility. It’s not a stretch to suspect that’s happening again.
(In addition, regarding Lin: might today’s meeting be the first time advanced stats are used in the pitch itself? One can almost imagine Morey and co. explaining to the Harvard Economics grad how various on-court permutations with Houston would add to his scoring potential.)
If Dragic wants $10mill, why is that not palatable? If his real value is $8million, what better use is there for that $2million saved? Still, we’ll see, as it’s early. As discussed above, the Rockets are beyond ahead of their cap and probably have plans and scenarios drawn for every last dollar of flexibility. If they’ve made a sound financial determination that Lin at his cost helps the team more than Dragic at his asking price, I will accept that reasoning. What I will not accept is if the calculus involves partnerships in China. Of course, that is something we will never know.
Some have asked, why pursue Lin at all if the resident point guard–Kyle Lowry–might be the best of the entire lot. That’s because rolling with Lowry sans a replacement takes out Lowry’s trade value from the team’s asset pile. As it stands, a Kyle Lowry trade is probably the Rockets’ best bet to improve the roster. Without a free agent point guard signing, that can’t happen.