The Day of Reckoning December 19th is less than a week away, which means Daryl Morey has roughly 5 days to orchestrate a trade for Omer Asik. There's no mystery what Omer Asik can bring to a team, he's a large 7 footer who will anchor your defense, grab double digit rebounds, set some of the best screens in the league, and finish around the rim. To put it more simply: He's valuable.
Sadly for the Rockets (and Daryl's dream of having two top 5 defensive centers) he wants to start and his cap hit is 8.3 million a year. The Rockets cannot afford to pay a guy about 20 million over 2 years to fake injuries and moan on the bench. I firmly believe that if Omer was okay with coming off the bench we wouldn't be trying to move him, but the situation is what it is.
In his recent Omer Asik article, Zach Lowe describes Morey as holding an auction for who gets the elite defensive and rebounding center. With that said, I'm going to speculate on what offers could be out there for Omer Asik and what they would mean for the Rockets. Note: These are not in any particular order.
Millsap makes a lot of sense as a potential target in an Omer Asik deal. First of all, he's a reliable power forward, which the Rockets' haven't had since Luis Scola. Millsap would fill that void for the Rockets while allowing Terrence Jones to be a spark plug off the bench and making him a movable asset at the same time. On the court Millsap excels as the roll-man, shooting 58.3% (28-48) and averaging 1.22 Points Per Play (7th in the league).
Additionally, Millsap is a good enough 3 point shooter. He shoots 33% from the corners and 59% from wing 3 pointers. Overall, he shoots 50% on 3s which aren't from the top of the key (an area which he struggles in).
On the defensive side of the ball, he is very good in against post ups and the pick and roll. He ranks 35th in the league against the post up, holding his opponents to 40% shooting and .77 PPP. Against the pick and roll he ranks 17th in the league holding the opposing big man to just 48% shooting and 1.03 PPP.
Of course, there's the issue of money. His contract is perfect for the Rockets' long term plans. He is owed 19.5 million over the next two years and becomes a free agent in 2015. Hypothetically, the Rockets could trade for Millsap and in 2015 when he and Lin come off the books, they can sign a third star to pair with Howard and Harden. Then they can follow that up by signing Parsons above the salary cap. BANG.
From the Hawks perspective, trading for Asik would give them a dimension they lack. He would give them elite rebounding and defense while moving Horford back to his natural position. It's a win-win trade: The Rockets would solidify their starting lineup and improve their bench while the Hawks make their move to join the Pacers and Heat as the East's Elite.
Millsap does come with some issues, however. First of all, he shoots way too many mid-range shots. About 33% of his shots come from beyond 8 feet but in front of the three point arc where he only shoots 36.5%. That's awful. On spot-ups, Millsap ranks 138th in the league shooting 39% and averaging .9 PPP. Millsap also isn't an effective isolation player, averaging .7PPP, shooting 38%, and turning the ball over on 18.5% of his isolations. If Millsap were to cut down on isolations and mid-range shots, he could be one of the more efficient power forwards in the game. Still, despite these weaknesses, they are definitely able to be fixed with coaching, practice, and being inserted into an offensive system which tries to minimize inefficient shots.
I watch (and enjoy) way too much 76ers basketball than I care to admit. It's kind of a problem. They're the Hipster-Rockets and it's awesome. However, it's no secret that the 76ers suck and that they're trying to tank away this season. Thaddeus has been one of their most consistent players, fitting in perfectly in their up-tempo system, and thus allowing the 76ers to win more games. Getting rid of him for Asik could make them worse right now while opening up future cap space for the future.
Offensively, Thaddeus is great in the pick and roll, ranking 5th in the league by averaging 1.25 PPP and shooting 58.3%. Just like Millsap, he would make an effective partner to both Harden and Lin in the pick and roll. Young also excels in getting shots near the rim, accumulating 183 (61.5% of his shots) of them so far this season where he shoots 57.5%. He is also great off the ball, finding the open holes in the defense around the rim for easy baskets. On top of all that, his variety of close floaters, layups, and crafty push shots make him into an effective scorer around the basket.
Defensively, he is very good against spot-up shooters, holding them to 30% shooting and .73 PPP. Lastly, and this is a small part of his game which I love, is his ability to put the ball on the court right after collecting it. This makes him an effective break starter after a defensive rebounder, slasher off the pick and roll, and finisher off offensive rebounds. Thaddeus would be a very good fit on this Rockets team. Think of Terrence Jones, but just better.
Report: Rockets may be looking to move Lin
Alan Hahn of ESPN Radio and MSG believes that the Rockets are continuing to shop Jeremy Lin.
Thad doesn't come without his problems, either. Synergy points out that he struggles in defending the post as well as the pick and roll. He allows his opponents to shoot above 50% in both, something a starting power forward should never allow. SportVU player tracking data on NBA.com also shows that opposing players shoot 54.5% at the rim against Thaddeus. Thad is a young player, so there is plenty of room for improvement, also playing next to Dwight Howard instead of Spencer Hawes should allow for his defense to improve. The other issue trading for Thad is that he is due about $32 million over the next 3 years including a near $10 million hit in the 2015-2016 season.
Trading for Young would presumably lock up the Rockets' roster until the 2016 free agency and would make it difficult for them to make an impact in 2015 free agency. If the Rockets were to trade for Thaddeus, I think they would be trying to move him this time next year or figuring out a way to get him to use his Early Termination Option for his 2015-2016 season.
If you haven't heard of or don't know anything about Amir Johnson, it's okay. Here's the basics: he's a 6"9 PF (we love those here in Houston), plays for the Raptors, and is 26 years old. Trading for him would be a very "Morey" move because he's consistently overlooked despite having a few elite skills.
Firstly, he is amazing around the rim, shooting 68% at the rim on 119 shots. It gets better though because almost all of his shots he creates for himself off the ball. He uses his athleticism, soft touch around the rim, and odd hooks to be one of the most efficient players around the rim. Secondly, he minimizes the amount of midrange shots he takes. Only 17.35% of his shots come from 8 feet to the arc. Just look at this, tell me it doesn't scream MOREYBALL.
He's also been great in his limited transition opportunities this season. He shoots 83.3% in transition, so putting him in an up tempo offense would definitely play to his strength. Last but not least, my favorite 2 parts of Amir's game are that he is a exceptional rebounder and and solid defender. Out of all players whose opponents shoot over 5 shots at the rim per game against them, he ranks 21st in the league holding them to 46.2% shooting. These numbers are very similar to players like Dwight Howard, Omer Asik, Andrew Bogut, and Josh Smith, elite company if I've ever seen it. Rebounding-wise, he is 3rd in the league in contested rebounding percentage (min 10 rebound chances per game). Amir Johnson might not be the "sexy" acquisition we all want, but there's no denying that he plays to his strengths and would make for a good addition to the Rockets.
The Power Forwards They're Not Going To Trade For:
Ryan Anderson and Ersan Ilyasova:
It has been reported that both the Bucks and Pelicans have no interest in trading their stretch power forwards for Omer Asik. Although they would be good fits for the team, I think this is good for the Rockets because Terrence Jones has shown that the Rockets don't need a true stretch 4 to have an effective offense. Asik also doesn't make much sense for either team due to the Bucks tank-job (Well at least I think their plan was to tank this season) and the Anthony Davis-Omer Asik pairing that seems like it would go over about as well offensively as the Howard-Asik duo did.
The Teams With Picks:
Zach Lowe mentioned in the article I linked to earlier in this post that the Rockets asked for 2 1st rounders and the rights to swap another 1st rounder in the draft from the Bobcats. If I'm the Bobcats I'm going to obviously say no to the Rockets, but the fact that there are ongoing talks is a good sign. Any lottery pick in the 2014 draft will be very valuable and future firsts are very good trade pieces. If the Bobcats and Rockets could agree to a deal which sends 2 picks to the Rockets with cap-filler, Daryl could turn right around and send those picks to another team for an impact player.
Phoenix owns 4 first round picks in the 2014 draft as well as two 2015 first rounders. It recently came out that they are willing to move some of their picks for a "big name player". Omer Asik's name might only be 8 letters, but he's pretty big and could make the Suns a playoff team this season. Expect Morey to try to acquire 2 or 3 of those picks and Channing Frye for Asik.
It should be noted however that the Minnesota and Washington picks that Phoenix own are top 12 and 13 protected. If Morey were to acquire these picks, it could be a few years before he is able to use them, so it would make sense for him to try to ship them right after they're acquired. The Suns also own both their first rounders for 2014 and 2015, the Lakers' 2015 first rounder, and the Pacers' 2014 first. I would be very excited if Morey could move Asik for 2-3 of the firsts (not including Indiana's). Expect there to be lots of conversation between the Rockets and Suns over the next few days.
Spencer Hawes/Evan Turner:
Who aren't the 76ers trying to trade? Jeez, their whole team is movable. Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner have been playing outstanding basketball this season and Hinkie is trying to move them while their value is at its highest. Although I feel that this would not be receiving equal value for Asik, it would definitely strengthen the Rockets roster for this year and gives them an expiring asset in Hawes. Turner would be gone after this season because he's a restricted free agent and will probably get paid more than the Rockets' can afford. If Morey gets desperate, expect this call to be made to his old partner in crime.
Courtney Lee/Jordan Crawford/Brandon Bass:
What would this post be without bringing back a Rockets fan favorite? Acquiring Courtney Lee would give the Rockets a needed "3 and D" guy off the bench who can be trusted to guard opposing shooting guards and small forwards for 15-25 minutes a game while not being a negative on offense. Jordan Crawford has apparently re-invented himself under Brad Stevens, and if the Celtics are looking to trade him while his value is high, pairing him with Lee would be a sneaky-good move for Ainge to make.
The other player the Celtics can pair with Lee is Brandon Bass. He's not a good fit for the Rockets, but there's no denying that he is a talented player who could be the 8th or 9th best guy on a contender. It would take some changes to his game, but he could be a decent bench piece for this team. Oh, and Courtney Lee would be a Rocket. Courtney Lee.
The Greatest Trade Proposal Ever:
AK2TheMax proposed this and because I instantly laughed out loud while noticing how much sense this makes, I asked him to write it up. Here's what he has to say:
Rockets trade Omer Asik and a pick (Morey and Hinkie can haggle over which one) to the Philadelphia 76ers for a three-year lease on the Sixers' Eastern Conference spot and schedule. Since the 76ers are under the cap by more than Asik's contract amount, they technically don't have to send anything back to Houston. The Rockets can literally get any Sixers player back in the trade and it would still work. However, were they to just send Asik away, they would incredibly fall about $3 million under the cap, which gives them space to absorb a larger contract next summer or at the deadline this year.
Philly does the trade because it sends them to the West where they're less likely to stumble upon accidental wins. It also gives them a legitimate center that they would likely try to trade away for another first round pick. Or, they could try to hold onto him until they are good enough to compete in the East.
The Rockets would immediately be placed into the Atlantic Division and play the same schedule that Philly has left. The Rockets would likely cruise into the third spot in the East or maybe even the second (they sit 1.5 back of Miami right now). Furthermore, once their seeding is situated they could rest the starters late in the season and make a fresh run in the playoffs with their first round opponent likely to be punchless.
It would make total sense if it didn't make no sense. You sense what I'm saying?
NBA teams can't ignore what Omer can bring to their squad, and it's just up to them to give up the needed value to acquire him. The groups of players/picks above are all realistic options for an Asik trade, but if I were to predict which one is going to happen, I would lean towards Thaddeus Young because of Hinkie and Morey's previous relationship. With that said, I would prefer Amir Johnson, Paul Millsap, or an assortment of picks for Asik instead. It's hard to go wrong with trading a player who doesn't even suit up for your team, so anything the Rockets get would help improve their team. For now, let's just wait and see what magic Morey can pull off in the next few days.