Omer Asik of the Houston Rockets requested a trade when the team signed Dwight Howard, but the Rockets said, “no thanks.”
Now, Asik isn’t seeing regular minutes. That’s a lot of pine time for a player who not only averaged a double-double one season ago, but is scheduled to make over $16 million this season and next. (Actually, he has a weighted deal that pays $15 million next season, but only counts as a little over $8 million on the cap.)
Asik isn’t the only name that’s starting to see signs of a move on the horizon. Let’s examine some players who might need the number for a good moving company in the next few weeks/months.
OMER ASIK, Houston Rockets
The experiment of Asik and Howard starting together went about as well a guy telling his wife he lost his wedding ring at a strip club. Head coach Kevin McHale realized as much and plugged Terrence Jones into the starting unit.
There were reports that Asik once again asked for a trade and that same night, he missed his first regular season game in almost three years. (He had the longest active streak of regular-season games played.)
The Rockets aren’t good enough to just stash Asik on the bench as an insurance policy for Howard. A legitimate double-double guy who is a good defender is a hot commodity and a moveable one for a team that needs a massive upgrade at the power-forward spot.
The name you’ll hear most often for Asik is Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans. That’s because it makes perfect sense. Anderson is the best-shooting big man in the NBA with a career 3-point percentage of 38.4.
The Rockets could use a “stretch-4,” which is a new trendy phrase I despise for big forwards who can shoot. Kevin Love is one. So, too is Dirk Nowitzki, however neither will be available in a trade for the foreseeable future.
The salaries match up for an Asik/Anderson deal. It would help the Pelicans, who can offer great protection for Anthony Davis. Asik is an upgrade over Jason Smith, so this deal would make a lot of sense for both sides.
Thaddeus Young of the Philadelphia 76ers could make sense, too. He’s improved his 3-point shooting, but why would the Sixers, whose GM Sam Hinkie worked for the Rockets, take on salary when they’ve sold everything but the Liberty Bell and Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteak recipes to shed money?EVAN TURNER, Philadelphia 76ers
Why on Earth would a team want to trade a 25-year-old who is finally coming into his own? Turner is averaging 23.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 3.3 apg. Those are All-Star numbers, but that’s not what this is about.
Hinkie does not appear to want Turner at all. The Sixers didn’t sign Turner to an extension by the Oct. 31 deadline, but they have until June 30, 2014 to make a qualifying offer of $8.7 million. That would make Turner a restricted free agent and give the Sixers the right to match any offer.
That certainly exists as a possibility. Anything is possible with Turner, but the undercurrent of animosity exists. Turner told Jason Wolf of “USA Today” before the season, “Hinkie is not my GM. He doesn’t owe me anything … We’re going in different directions and everything like that.”
Couple that with the Sixers not even discussing an extension prior to the Halloween deadline and this is not exactly a peaceful coexistence.
But, the Sixers probably didn’t think they’d lead the Atlantic Division as of Nov. 15 and Turner would be the main reason. He is a legitimate All-Star candidate very, very early in the campaign, so that brings up two schools of thought: do the Sixers ride with Turner and try to go for something, or do they go with the initial plan of stinking so bad, they’d assure them a top- three pick?
If Turner moves (my guess is he does), a swingman with good overall skills has a market. Since before the season, I’ve believed Turner would fit beautifully as the playmaker extraordinaire off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder ala James Harden and Kevin Martin. Could the Sixers pry Steven Adams (nope), or Perry Jones (yep) plus a pick for Turner? Probably, if the Thunder really don’t get any bench production.
Spencer Hawes is off to a great start, too, and OKC has gotten nada from the pivot. Throwing him in would screw this deal up because Oklahoma City doesn’t have a lot of dead salary to throw at Philly and no one, not one team in the league, let alone the physical universe we occupy would take Kendrick Perkins. He has $9.65 million on the books next season.
DANNY GRANGER, Indiana Pacers
Granger was supposed to practice with the team after a calf injury, but he was sat out.
“He’s coming off major knee surgery and then he’s dealing with a calf strain,” said head coach Frank Vogel. “That’s not something you want to push and have linger. We understand that it’s going to be a process until he’s pain free. In the meantime, we’re doing OK.”
They are the best defensive team in the league and where Granger fits in is something of a mystery. He wants to start, but Lance Stephenson has been incredible in the starting lineup. There’s no way Vogel would sit him, so does Granger accept a bench role? He’d be a fool not to considering his market as an impactful scorer is behind him and the Pacers are on course for a deep run in the postseason.
Granger is on the books for $14 million this season and will be a free-agent. That’s a huge chip for someone, especially a team looking to open up space next season.
As for what Indiana could want in return, that’s an interesting question. How much do you want to tinker with a roster that is dominating the NBA? George Hill has never struck me as a championship point guard, so that area could use an upgrade. Plus, if Hill became a combo guard off the bench, with Luis Scola and C.J. Watson, you’ve got a really good reserve core.
So what point guards could be available? The most obvious is Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics, but there’s no way Granger’s expiring deal is enough to pry him from Beantown. Would Granger, Hill and a first-rounder get it done? It might, but that costs you some of the depth that has helped Indiana.
It also would make the Pacers starting five un-freaking-real. Rondo, assuming he comes back alright from his ACL tear, would fit in beautifully with George, Stephenson, Roy Hibbert and David West. Rondo’s a great defender and a great distributor, so he probably wouldn’t rock the boat of a stout group of veterans.
Rondo/George/Stephenson/Hibbert/West with Scola, Watson and some other contributor – Orlando Johnson and Ian Mahinmi – could be enough to topple the Miami Heat.
So too, could the present incarnation without Rondo and Granger scoring 12 points a night off the bench.
There will be other expiring contracts possibly on the move, or even players without expiring deals. Anderson Varejao, Iman Shumpert, Kenneth Faried are just a few, but none with the impact of these players. These three are the most realistic to be traded and the biggest difference-makers.
Jim Brighters is NBA Editor for The Sports Network.