We're about a month into the NBA season and a month into the Dwight Howard experiment in Houston. His frontcourt mate, Omer Asik, isn't happy and wants out, but who can blame him? Asik started all 82 games for the Rockets last season at center and led the NBA in total rebounds with 956.
Asik was also huge in the short playoff run the Rockets had averaging 12 points and 11 rebounds in 6 games versus the Thunder, and foiling the Scott Brooks' "Hack-A-Asik" plan in game five, sank 13 of 18 free throws, grabbed 11 rebounds, and scored 21 points in the Rockets win.
Still, Rockets GM Daryl Morey wanted something more out of the center position and went after superstar Dwight Howard in the off-season to form a one-two punch with the superstar already in Houston, James Harden. So what was to become of Asik?
Instead of trading the center, the Rockets' brain power decided a position change to the power forward spot would be best for Asik, Howard, and the Rockets' chances at a title by forming "twin towers" on the front line in H-Town.
Problem is, Asik needs to work around the rim, and so does Howard, thus creating a plethora of issues for the Rockets on both ends of the floor.
Asik has only grabbed double digit rebounds twice this season, in the first two games (wins over the Bobcats and Mavericks) and hasn't done so since. Also this season, Asik hasn't attempted more than five shots and hasn't scored more than 8 points a game. Asik's minutes started to take a hit too, when it was discovered that he and Dwight simply don't fit together on the floor. He has gone from averaging 30 minutes a game in 82 starts last season, to averaging 18.5 minutes a game this season along with two DNP's.
It's clear that Asik isn't happy playing second fiddle to Dwight and so we have arrived at the point where we begin to speculate: Where will Omer Asik be traded?
After spending hours toying with ESPN's Trade Machine, I have a few suggestions:
THE TRADE THAT MAKES TOO MUCH DAMN SENSE:
Rockets get: Ryan Anderson
Pelicans get: Omer Asik, a first round pick from Houston
I can't begin to count how many basketball analysts, writers, and bloggers have suggested this trade. To name just one, Bill Simmons talked about it in his NBA previews with Jalen Rose. This trade makes so much sense on so many different levels.
First off, if the Rockets' were able to to flip Asik for one of the better stretch power forwards in the league they would be virtually unguardable. It would be the Orlando Magic in 2009, except better. Dwight surrounded by a bunch of three point shooters, except instead of Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, J. J. Redick, and Rashard Lewis you get James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Ryan Anderson.
The trade would allow Dwight to have all the room he needs around the basket and in case you haven't seen, there aren't a whole lot of centers who can guard Dwight one on one at the rim. Someone would have to help, Dwight passes out, and more often than not, someone on the perimeter is going to have a wide open shot. And Ryan Anderson? He earned the contract that New Orleans gave him by playing with Dwight Howard.
Now, for New Orleans, the trade is just this: a huge upgrade at the center position. The Pelicans basically gave away Robin Lopez over the summer and have had a void at the center position ever since. As much as some might want to believe, Anthony Davis is not a center, he is a power forward. The guy is barely 200 pounds soaking wet; he's not guarding Gasol, Hibbert, Howard, or any other legit center in the post.
That's where Asik comes in, who is a huge upgrade over the Pelicans current starting center, Jason Smith. Asik would get starters minutes in New Orleans, making him happy, and would allow Anthony Davis to play all of his minutes at the four, where he belongs and where he can continue to swat shots into the stands.
Asik and Davis on the front line would be ridiculously awesome defensively. Someone tell me how opposing teams will get off shots inside against the Pelicans?
Some say the Pelicans would be hesitant to make this happen because of how much they love Anderson and how well he fits into their system and spaces the floor. I threw in the first round pick to sweeten the deal for the Pelicans but my guess is that this trade may not happen unless a third team emerges to facilitate both sides.
Houston, New Orleans, let's make this happen.
THE TRADE THAT WON'T HAPPEN BUT ADDRESSES NEEDS ON FOUR DIFFERENT TEAMS
Rockets get: Carlos Boozer
Hawks get: Omer Asik, Donte Motiejunas, a first round pick from Chicago, a first round pick from Houston
Bulls get: Al Horford, Tayshaun Prince
Grizzlies get: Lou Williams, Marquis Teague, Greg Smith
This trade involves far too many big names to actually happen, but allow me to explain. Carlos Boozer is still a top veteran power forward in this league and can help the Rockets in a number ways. Although he is better than solid around the basket, he gets a lot of his work done in the mid-range game, so he won't crowd Dwight around the rim. He'd also become the most experienced player on a young Rockets team, approaching his 12th season in the league. Also, that whole yelling on the court after an and-1 or a big play could be something the Rockets could use too, this team needs to be a little tougher; enter Carlos Boozer.
For the Atlanta Hawks, it's time to blow it up and rebuild. My guess is that Al Horford doesn't want to go through a rebuilding project so let's get what we can for him. So for Al Horford and Lou Williams the Hawks can get Omer Asik (a top ten center in the NBA and one of the best at rebounding and protecting the rim), Donte Motiejunas (a young power forward, perhaps a trade piece in the rebuilding process), and two first round picks that can be either used in the draft or to trade for another piece. Sorry Hawks fans, but it's time.
The Bulls get Horford who shared the paint with Joakim Noah at Florida and helped lead the Gators to two national titles during their time together. Although Horford has mostly played center in his NBA career, he has spent some time at power forward as well, a position he played in college. Horford would certainly be an upgrade over Boozer at the four and it would allow the two former Gators to rejoin forces in Chi-Town. What might be the key to this trade is the the unprotected 2016 pick the Bulls have from the Charlotte Bobcats. Instead of giving up one of their own first rounders, the Bulls may have to send that pick to Atlanta to help form what would look like one of the best front courts in the NBA on paper. To sweeten the deal for the Bulls, they also get Tayshaun Prince to help improve their bench.
The Grizzlies need shooting, they have needed shooting for a while and they really failed to address it this off-season as they lost Tony Wroten and added only Mike Miller. To help facilitate this trade the Grizzlies send away Tayshaun Prince who has been a shell of his former self for a few years now and is no longer worthy of starting. For Prince and helping facilitate this mega trade, the Grizzlies get a heat check guy from outside in Lou Williams. They also add the services of prospects Marquis Teague and Greg Smith, helping this team get just a tad bit younger.
THE RIDICULOUS TRADE THAT WON'T HAPPEN EVER, BUT STILL . . .
Rockets get: Chris Bosh, Thabo Sefolosha
Heat get: Thaddeus Young, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik
Thunder get: Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Udonis Haslem
76ers get: Kendrick Perkins, Donte Motiejunas, Isaiah Canaan, first round picks from Miami, Houston, and Oklahoma City
The more I played around with the trade machine, the further I fell into a rabbit hole. My original objective was simple: get Asik on to the Thunder. Then I threw in the Heat and the 76ers and everything went to hell, except, this trade makes sense... sort of. Hear me out for a second.
Houston adds Chris Bosh who can transition back to his original position of power forward and drain 15-18 foot jump shots all day long. Bosh can start next to Howard and can fill in at center when needed as well. The Rockets also get one of the better perimeter defenders in the game in Thabo Sefolosha, a huge need for them right now.
The Heat get one of the better rim protectors in the league with Asik, a young power/small forward in Thad Young (who is paid much less than Chris Bosh and they get him for the next three years), and they add another shooter and scorer in Jeremy Lin. Thad Young is averaging 14 and 6 now on a team headed straight for the lottery, I can't imagine how he would do on a team with LeBron and Dwayne Wade.
For the Thunder, the biggest reason why they do this trade is because they swap out Kendrick Perkins and his contract for a year of Spencer Hawes. Hawes is a huge upgrade from Perkins on the offensive end and his contract expires at the end of the year allowing OKC some wiggle room in free agency. OKC also gets Evan Turner, who would be huge off the bench for them as a sixth man, or could even start in place of Thabo Sefolosha at the two guard spot. To replace the toughness Perkins brought to the table, the Thunder also land veteran big man Udonis Haslem.
And now let's pour some out for the 76ers. You knew this was coming, before the deadline Sam Hinkie will blow this thing up and trade the expiring contracts of Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner; maybe Thad Young too. What better way to rebuild a team than by swapping out expiring's for first round picks? The 76ers also land prospects in Isaiah Canaan and Donte Motiejunas. Perhaps Brett Brown can get SOMETHING out of Kendrick Perkins and raise his trade value for the off-season.
THE TRADE TO BRING US BACK DOWN TO EARTH
Rockets get: Robin Lopez, Allen Crabbe, a first round pick from Portland
Trail Blazers get: Omer Asik
In this trade, the Rockets may be asking for a lot, but it's because the Blazers don't have that stretch four that the Rockets need. Instead, they send the Rockets another shooter in Crabbe, a reserve center in Lopez, and a pick that Morey can flip into something more.
The Trail Blazers have been rolling so far and look to be in good shape to get into the playoffs in the ball park of a 6th or 7th seed, but let's not forget that the Blazers have been playing on one of the league's easiest schedules thus far.
With the addition of Asik, I think it can bump the Blazers up to possibly a 4th or a 5th seed in the western conference. Asik's game is similar to that of their current starting center (Lopez) but better. Asik is the better defender, scorer, and a much better rebounder.
Apparently, there have already been talks of a deal between the two teams.
MORE TRADES TO CONSIDER
- A deal between the Rockets and the Celtics would make sense to a degree. The Rockets could really use a an undersized stretch four like Jeff Green, but I'm not so sure the Celtics need another big man with Kelly Olynyk, Kris Humphries, Vitor Faverani, Jared Sullinger, and Brandon Bass on the team. Houston would definitely have to throw in a pick or two to make this happen and perhaps a third team would have to get involved to take a guy like Brandon Bass off of the Celtics hands.
- Shawn Marion could really help the Rockets out. The Rockets are struggling on defense right now all together and bringing in a guy like Marion who can defend multiple positions would really help. Marion would certainly help in the playoffs too when facing the likes of Kevin Durant and other superstars on the wings. I'm not sure Mark Cuban and the Mavericks would be so quick to part with the Matrix however, he does just as much for the Mavericks as he would do for the Rockets. The Mavericks could use a guy like Asik at center though, to bring some consistency and more defense to the rotation at that position that includes Samuel Dalembert and DeJuan Blair.