All That Power – Houston climbed to 5th in Marc Stein’s ESPN Power Rankings, one spot higher than (gasp) San Antonio. The committee of one writes:
The sense I get, as noted in this Stein Line Live post, is that neither Houston nor Portland is very interested in exploring an Omer Asik trade at the moment. But the Rockets visit the Blazers on Thursday … so brace yourself for a fresh round of Asik-for-Robin Lopez speculation regardless.
At the time of this writing, Houston is 5th in the Hollinger Rankings as well, so the consistency gods are smiling on ESPN. But wait! Here comes NBA.com and John Schuhmann to take our beautiful power ranking uniformity and blow it all to hell. He ranks Houston 6th:
Pace: 99.0 (4), OffRtg: 107.8 (3), DefRtg: 100.0 (8), NetRtg: +7.8 (4)
James Harden was a victim of some brutal blow-bys earlier in the week (see here and here, for example), but has since vowed to actually try on defense. And the Rockets’ D was so good in wins against the Warriors and Magic over the weekend that it didn’t matter that their bench shot 2-for-21 from 3-point range. Of course, that kind of shooting might provide more motivation to get something for Omer Asik.
I’m really hoping for a power ranking hat-trick (the same ranking from Stein, Hollinger’s computer and Schuhmann) before the end of the year.
On The Block – Kevin Pelton (ESPN Insider) ranks the top 11 trade candidates in the NBA. Not surprisingly, Omer Asik is one of them. He writes:
At this point, it’s a question of when and not if Asik will be dealt. Our Marc Stein reported Friday that the Rockets are in a hurry to make a trade by Dec. 19 so they can repackage players they acquire before the deadline. I broke down players Houston could get for Asik last month. Since then, Terrence Jones‘ solid play as a starter (his net rating of plus-11.0 points per 100 possessions on the floor is second to Omri Casspi on the team) has made it more reasonable that the Rockets might target a quality wing defender rather than a stretch 4. Ideally, the player Houston ultimately acquires would be able to fill both roles.
Interestingly, the only player who may fit that wing defender/stretch 4 mold among the 11 players Pelton mentions is Luol Deng, who I’m guessing the Bulls aren’t going to trade away just to get back their old backup center. Asik is mentioned as a potential target for the Hawks as they seek to get rid of Paul Millsap, but if Terrence Jones continues to play they way he has been, you have to wonder how much the Rockets will be looking for a stretch 4 who doesn’t help with their defense on the wings.
JUSTICE!!! – Via The Point Forward, Marresse Speights has been issued a warning by the league for flopping against Dwight Howard last week on this play:
‘Bout time. About ten more of these warnings and we can get back to watching Dwight Howard playing basketball instead of trying desperately to make sure his massive shoulders don’t touch another human.
Contributor Needed – I’m still taking applications for someone to replace me as news editor, which mostly involves writing the Daily. I’ll be writing less starting around Christmas. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested.