When Omer Asik asked for a trade for the second time in a few months just two weeks into the season, Rockets fans waited with baited breath towards the trade deadline to see what the return in an Asik deal might be. Now, with the trade season kicked off as potential free agents are eligible to be dealt, the Rockets begin their reported four day window to make a deal, with an eye towards repackaging anyone they receive back in a deal at the trade deadline.
To this point, however, we have not known much about where Asik was heading or what the return in such a deal would be. Many reported that Morey preferred to send Asik to the Eastern Conference, others noted that the Pelicans and Bucks had dropped out of the running for him, and the Bobcats were reportedly propositioned by Morey in a deal that would've netted the Rockets two first rounders and a right to swap in the future. Today, Jonathan Feigen wrote a major piece in the Houston Chronicle that sheds a great deal of light on the trade discussions. Let's dig into it.
What do the Rockets want?
As you can probably imagine, Terrence Jones' emergence at the power forward spot has changed things. The Omer Asik trade process appeared to be a search for a power forward when it first started, but with Jones playing at a high level, the Rockets can afford to diversify what they seek in a deal. Instead, the Rockets are looking for "either a strong defensive wing who can catch-and-shoot, a power forward who can fill in as a backup center, or expiring contracts that come with first-round picks - or some combination of those assets."
Breaking down the potential return in an Asik deal
Curious about the players the Rockets are rumored to be going after in an Asik deal? Allen gives a detailed breakdown of all of them, and gives some ideas as to how a deal might look.
Ever since the Rockets acquired James Harden last October, they have been searching for a solid backup guard who can spell Harden and play good defense. The Rockets don't really have a strong wing defender outside of Ronnie Brewer, who is very limited otherwise, and thus it makes sense to see if they can get a bench wing to come in and slow down opposing shooting guards and help Harden out on the defensive side of the ball.
The power forward desire is self-explanatory as the Rockets' front court would get very thin in a hurry if they dealt Asik, but the draft picks are perhaps the most intriguing part of any Asik trade. The Rockets have all their draft picks for the future, as well as a number of surplus second rounders, and if they can land a premium draft pick for Asik or a pair of mid-late first rounders, they will put themselves in a position to make a big move down the road or add some youth to an already young and talented roster.
The Rockets reportedly asked the Bobcats for two first rounders for Asik, and while I can't imagine any team giving them a pair of lottery picks, I could see someone giving up one late lottery pick for him. If they moved Asik for expiring contracts and a pick, they would also just be a Jeremy Lin trade away from securing near-max cap space for the summer. This summer is of course the year that LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade could all becomes free agents, so having the flexibility to at least check out your options is a valuable asset.
What is the deal going to look like?
Feigen notes that the Rockets do not have a "deal in place" as was speculated across the league yesterday, but that Morey has a "deal he is willing to take" if nothing else comes to fruition on Thursday. Essentially, he is saying what has been reported elsewhere that the Rockets have a deal they are shopping around to see if they can do better.
That deal that Morey is seeking out will likely be "a pretty complicated, three-way deal" with "a lot of moving parts," Feigen's source notes. Instead of the rumored Thaddeus Young deal with Philadelphia, any trade made with Sam Hinkie and the 76ers would likely either see Young sent elsewhere, or Spencer Hawes sent to Houston.
Finally, Feigen dispels the notion that conference or money could hold an Asik deal up. He notes that Asik's contract, while expensive next year, has serious savings, and that Morey is not as concerned with trading Asik to the East as has been depicted in the media.
Both of these ideas jibe with the Rockets mentality. If the Rockets can get a better deal in the Western Conference, it makes sense to take that deal. Asik may make another team better in the short run, but if the Rockets think they can come out on top in the long run, they might as well make the trade. And on the money aspect of things, Asik is due $15 million next year, but is making just over $5 million this year. Any team that acquires him soon and has to pay the balloon payment next year also gets the savings of more than $2 million for the rest of the season.
What's the timeframe on a deal?
One last note on the article is that the Rockets don't believe Asik is patient enough to wait until the trade deadline, and that they have imposed a quasi-hard deadline of December 19th themselves. This deadline has a few advantages. By making an Asik deal early in the season, the team acquiring him can save money versus his cap hit for a greater period of time, the Rockets can remove a distraction from their roster and move forward with a new player, and any player they acquire can be repackaged with other players before the trade deadline.
In every sense of the phrase it's a win-win. Both sides want a divorce, and there's no reason to prolong the process. Omer Asik will be missed, but his time has come.