Sunday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings made one thing abundantly apparent for the Rockets: This team needs more quality depth if it hopes to be a legitimate contender. This isn’t overreaction. Really. It isn’t. I swear. Early injuries to this Rockets roster illustrate the need for consistently productive and healthy bench players. Perhaps more importantly, the current roster needs more players that the coaching staff feels invested enough in to work onto the floor on a consistent basis. The front office has the perfect chance to address these needs. The Omer Asik trade situation opens the door for the Houston Rockets to address these needs.
Early rumors indicate that the Rockets are interested in acquiring a perimeter defending bench player with a three-point shot. Most importantly, the Rockets are not rumored to be particularly pressing for a power forward (Due to the emergence of Terrence Jones). There is a battery of players that fit that mold. The Rockets are clearly not comfortable with Ronnie Brewer filling the role of perimeter defender, and, given how limited his offense is they can’t be faulted for that lack of faith. Brewer is sporting a 39% true shooting percentage. Granted, Brewer has only played 43 minutes so far this season, the coaching staff has shown to be reticent to go to Brewer.
The first, and consequently most difficult, task in trying to speculate on a trade is determining value. Value is assessed by a great many factors. Primarily you can figure value by distilling two key factors (made up of even more factors, yay!) into one: Production versus price. Since Asik’s minutes are half what they were last season, we’ll use last season’s per 36 numbers to ascertain his value. To offset using his per 36 while he averaged 30 minutes a game we’ll average the value of his contract, roughly 10 million dollars. On a per 36 basis Asik produced 12 points, 14 rebounds, and 1 block per game. He provided a Defensive Rating of 102 and an Offensive Rating of 101. Among centers, Asik ‘s closest peer in rebounding is his teammate, Dwight Howard. Asik did not crack the top 20 in blocks or blocks per game, cracked the top 15 in field goal percentage (54%), and a (roughly) league average PER of 14.89. Address context, next. PER is heavily reliant on offensive figures, so to provide context in our attempt to assign value, we have to give some weight towards the fact that Asik’s elite defensive stats buoyed his PER. Unfortunately Wages of Wins does not record readily accessible Wins Produced stats to provide a better stat. For posterity, let’s adjust Asik’s PER further for his defensive skillset since it is diminished in PER. A fair offset would be to take Marc Gasol’s (20 PER at a per 36 line of 17 points, 7 rebounds, 1 block per game) and reduce it by about 2 or so (Since Asik’s defensive production yields twice the rebounds with a 25% less usage rate) and we find a more accurate PER for Omer Asik at roughly 18 or so.
Now, let’s tackle the task of figuring out value for Asik. Using this unscientifically adjusted PER for Omer Asik we have an above-league average center at 10 million dollars a season. Our earlier comparator, Marc Gasol produces 5 more points and 7 less rebounds for 2 PER points and 5 million more a season. So, ideally, what we have to look for as a comparison for Asik is an above-average player on a deal that he arguably outperforms. If the Rockets are truly looking for a player that guards the wings and spaces the floor then there are a few players that fit the bill by themselves, but they’re not likely to be moved for Omer Asik. The list of players who, individually, fit the description for the Rockets are Tony Allen (18 PER adjust even higher for his defense, returning from injury, ~5 million a year remaining to 2016-2017), Iman Shumpert (PER of 10, adjust upward for defensive prowess, 2 million a year), Luol Deng (18 PER, 14 million expiring), and Rajon Rondo (18 PER, 12.5 million average owed through 2014-2015). Acquisition of any of the above players except Iman Shumpert and Tony Allen will result in, arguably, displacing a starter. Asik alone is not enough to warrant giving up a Luol Deng or a Rajon Rondo caliber player. Lastly, the Grizzlies won’t have much interest in acquiring another 7-foot player for their lock down defender. This, ultimately, leads the Rockets ability to land their ideal players down to a package of players that fit their needs and maximize their flexibility.
In a package of players the X-factor will always be draft picks. The Rockets can acquire multiple average to below average players in exchange for Asik and not lose out in net value. The hitch, however, comes from the fact that the Rockets roster carries their maximum allotted 15 players. Rumors have swirled that any deal with Philadelphia will invariably produce a third team to execute the deal. Now, the salient question at that point is; who the third team would be and why? The Raptors are holding a fire sale (Dream of Amir Johnson, do it), the Celtics have multiple players that are attractive to the Rockets (Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass), the Wizards have some attractive pieces (Scoff in disgust all you want but Trevor Ariza is a defensive wing that spaces the floor off the bench), and the Knicks may still be convinced they can compete (Which would help them offload Shumpert). The Rockets could inject themselves into the facilitator conversation between Toronto and New York (Rumors of New York’s attempt to acquire Kyle Lowry). Houston could be pleading its case to Boston to trade some of Philadelphia’s assets over to Boston and pry away players from both Philly and Boston to Houston for Asik. Washington showed interest in Omer Asik in the offseason before settling for Marcin Gortat and losing Nene to injury again.
Ultimately, the Houston Rockets have to move before the 19th of December if they wish to acquire assets to flip at the trade deadline. If a deal takes longer to coalesce expect the Rockets to be acquiring players with a long-term value to Daryl Morey. That’s not to say we won’t see another Thomas Robinson style deal (Where Morey acquires a young asset with long term value then flips that player for other purposes) but if the Rockets acquire a player like an Iman Shumpert don’t expect him to be flipped at the trade deadline. Ultimately, Asik’s value will dictate a pretty hearty yield for the Rockets. His value is below a superstar and above that of average but not by a great deal. If Houston acquires a player like Iman Shumpert, filler, and a pick then they have fleeced the New York Knicks. If they return a package of players like Jeff Green and Brandon Bass for Asik then the deal was a good one for the Rockets. Ultimately, however, if the Rockets flip Asik for a hot asset cropping up in trade talks today, don’t expect that player to be here in March.