The Rockets Daily – June 26, 2014

Step One Complete – Via ESPN’s Brian Windhorst:

The Houston Rockets have agreed to trade defensive specialist center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans in a deal aimed at clearing salary-cap space to chase LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in free agency, sources told

In exchange for Asik, the Rockets will receive the Pelicans’ 2015 first-round draft pick. The Rockets also will include $1.5 million in cash as part of the deal.

The draft pick included in the deal has protections. It will go to the Rockets if it falls between picks 4-19, sources said. 

This trade is good for the Rockets on so many levels, but first and foremost it is a show of good faith that they can clear enough cap room for one of the big-money free agents that might consider Houston this summer.  And according to USA Today’s Sam Amick, the Rockets very likely already have a Jeremy Lin deal lined up should they need more cap space to pursue LeBron, Melo and company.  But by all accounts the Rockets will keep Lin (and save any trade-sweetening assets) if they are unable to land any of the big fish.

For more good news we turn to Kevin Pelton, who weighed in with his trade grade (ESPN Insider):

Houston Rockets : A-

The December 20 “deadline” for the Rockets to move Omer Asik is now six months past, and with the benefit of hindsight, Houston GM Daryl Morey did the right thing by waiting. It’s now clear that having the cap space this summer to aggressively pursue free agents like Carmelo Anthony and even LeBron James is better for the Rockets than any of the players they could have acquired for Asik last season.

Because the Pelicans will contend for a playoff spot, this isn’t quite as valuable as the pick Houston got for Lowry — one of the key pieces in the James Harden trade — but it’s likely to be better than any Rockets selection for some time to come. There’s an outside chance dangling a possible lottery pick could get Houston back in the mix for the other superstar on the trade market, Kevin Love.

That Lowry/Toronto pick, which the Oklahoma City Thunder eventually used on Steven Adams at number 12, was top-3 protected for the first year, top-2 protected in the second year and top-1 protected for years three and four, before it became completely unprotected in the fifth year.  But what really made that pick valuable was that it also had a lottery-floor, meaning that if Toronto made the playoffs the pick was rolled over to the next year for five years.  I haven’t seen anything yet that has indicated what will happen in the future should the Pelican’s pick fall outside of the 4-19 range, but I’m sure those details will leak out as the actual trade date, sometime after July 10th, approaches.

And can you imagine if the Rockets had caved last winter and traded Asik at the deadline for any of the Thaddeus Young/Ryan Anderson class?  Bye-bye cap space and bye-bye Big-3.  Not to mention, the Portland Trail Blazers might have swept the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs if Asik hadn’t been around to help out on LaMarcus Aldridge.

But that’s been the true genius of G.M. Daryl Morey.  He hasn’t been perfect (*cough* first rounder for Terrence Williams *cough* Marcus Morris over Kawhi Leonard *cough*), but he knows how to play the market.  CSN’s Adam Wexler summed it up perfectly with a tweet:

THAT, my friends, is getting maximum value out of an asset.

But I agree with Pelton that New Orleans should be a contender for the playoffs next season.  It’s a shame that Morey couldn’t strike a deal with a team that didn’t include Anthony Davis.  The Pelicans superstar-in-waiting should continue to improve exponentially, while the team itself will look to bounce back from a rough year.  Point guard Jrue Holiday and sharpshooter Ryan Anderson played in only 56 games combined last season.  With the expected improvements from Davis, the addition of Asik and a healthy lineup, the Pelicans could very well push into the 50 win range.

So the Rockets have made two of the biggest moves to start the summer with the Parsons decision and now this.  They will probably get a meeting with LeBron, but I’m not sure how interested he really is in Houston.  Melo will definitely give them a serious look.  And I’d still like to see what they do on the Kevin Love front.  Clearing Asik’s salary and gaining a real asset in the process brings all those scenarios and more inches closer to becoming reality.

Whatever his goals are, you can feel Daryl Morey sorting his chips.  And after three summers of this, you just know that he’s about to push them into the middle of the table again.

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