As for trading Asik , I have stated that I don't want them to, I want to see it happen for at least a year .
1. having at least 1 defensive anchor on the court at all time : as noted, the Rockets this year played roughly the same without any other starter (actually, they played slightly better, Harden included.) however, when Asik left the floor they turned into a lottery team. the drop off of having no dominant center in the middle is simply too huge, this is true for almost everyone, Roy Hibbert also essentially takes Indiana from a lotto team to a great one when he's on the floor.
Centers are the hardest guys to keep on the floor 40 min, and almost no one does that do their main center in the regular season anymore (there were 0 center in the league's top 20 MP this season , and 1 in the top 20 MPG at 17.) . Asik, despite playing 82 games, was 4th on the team in terms of total minutes played . he was off the floor for almost 40% of the season, DESPITE STARTING EVERY SINGLE GAME. Dwight is heading into his late 20s, has some back issue, he's not going to play dramatically more minutes than Asik going forward. he just isn't, in the playoffs, in a do or die he might, but you have to first get there, and even then you have to get through 4 rounds to win the finals, you think it's a great idea to go 40+ all 4 round if you can avoid it?
We improve that 40% of the season by the margin of a super star if we keep Asik, how much do with improve that 65 ish % of the time that replacement PF we might get by ? odds are it won't be quite as much.
2. The option to go stupid big: There are going to be potential matchups where we could just put Howard + Asik and simply destroy them down low, those 2 aren't enough of a shooter or passer for that to work on a daily basis in most liklihood, but more and more now there are teams who play without a true 4 or even a true 5, taking advantage of that would be great. shots may not always fall from the outside, but smaller guys are never going to stop 2 huge guys down low. it's why the Heat, despite having almost twice the talent, came dangerously close to losing to the Pacers. They almost always have 5 guys with range out there, you think Hibbert really goes out to guard any of them?
3. The depth issue : this is somewhat connected to 1, but let's be clear here, the Rockets were the 8th seed team despite being probably the healthiest team in the entire league, you can not realistically expect that going forward. and once you start considering injury, it doesn't take a genius to see that we might survive awhile without Harden (the team was 2-2 without him this year.), we're never going to survive without Howard ...... UNLESS of course, Asik is there.
Center is the most irreplaceable position in basketball, everyone knows that, they're also the hardest to keep on the floor, everyone also knows that, if you add these 2 together, wouldn't that make backup C one of the most important position outside of the starters? and maybe even more than your 3rd/4th guys?
4.Most of the argument for a PF have been centered around their ability to space the floor, which is a purely offensive thing , my argument is, we had a revolving door for PF this year , scored the 2nd most points and were 6th in efficiency, you think scoring better really should be on our agenda? we'll score better next year, without a new PF, assuming mostly healthy team, that is almost without a doubt in my mind. But let's be real here, we can only improve so much offensively, our OrTG was 3 points less than the highest team. our DrTG was 7 from the best team, it doesn't take an economist to figure out which side to invest on gives you more bang for the buck. and in reality, a great defensive team with no offensive is almost always better than the other way around in the playoff anyway.
Josh Smith might give us a lot of help on D, but the odds of Smith + Howard is rather low, if it's Milsap, looking at his on off stats for the Jazz this year, doesn't really bring that, the Jazz were a really lousy defensive team for one who's really front court dominant. they had a even worse DrTG than the Rockets. a good part of that is because Jefferson is really not a defensive C, but Millsap clearly didn't fill up that hole . and he's generally on the shorter end of PFs anyway.
The Jazz weren't able to grab enough boards (again, they're a front court team!) and they fouled so much you wonder if they were starting Greg Smith + Hasheem Thabeet.
Milsap will likely make our offense slightly better, but I really doubt he does much defensively. Smith would be more ideal since he'd make our defense a lot better, but is rather unlikely to happen
So your trading in the chance to turn 40% of the game from horrible to great defense for the chance to slightly increase the offense 60% of the game? that sounds like a bad trade off to me.
5. development: the trade Asik rout is more likely to suppress the playing time of our remaining young guys, that should be obvious. I think in all honestly, giving where we were at this year, and integration of a new major piece, title hope next year should be slim at best, realistic goal is to try and make the WCF, so, there's at least some remaining development going on, certainly amongst the starter but also of the reserve. for all the talk of how depth matters less in the playoffs, the Spurs and Heat are both teams with huge depth, the Spurs especially, uses almost everyone in a series (well except T-Mac ) . yes your more likely to run starters longer in the playoffs, but 4 rounds is still a lot of games, if the Pacers had a real bench they may have already won, etc...
the keeping Asik route seems more likely to allow playing time for Dmo / TJones, if they can develop, it's a positive for the future either because we have great depth or because we have more flexibility. let's see, after next year, Asiks' trade value is still likely to be higher than Millsap anyway if you really need to, and in the present, if we're going to trade Asik and Sign Millsap, the window to do it is fairly limited, so I have some doubts that we'll be able to leverage it as well as some people assume.
At the end of the day though, all of these hinges on if Howard sign or not, and it's really Morey's decision, I'm sure he has taken all these into account (and far more., he's surely at least 50 steps ahead of our thinking ) so we'll see, I'm just laying out why it would at least make sense to keep Asik.