The Houston Rockets have made strides, but they’re looking to take another step. They aren’t NBA championship contenders just yet.
General manager Daryl Morey will no doubt be exploring a number of options this summer, and one of those options is trading Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.
Clearing cap space may be the team’s primary objective, but that would seriously limit the potential destinations for Lin and Asik. The only teams that could absorb their contracts without exchanging similarly priced deals are teams that are well under the salary cap.
At least $16 million under the cap, to be exact.
Though the two players are owed just under $15 million apiece next season, their actual cap hits are close to $8.4 million apiece due to an unusual contractual provision.
That certainly makes it a bit easier to trade Lin and Asik as a package, though there’s nothing requiring the franchise to do so. It may have an easier time parting ways with them in separate deals.
Nevertheless, if Morey wants to deal them both in one fell swoop, there are several ways to get it done.
5. Orlando Magic
Even if the Orlando Magic decide to exercise their team option on point guard Jameer Nelson, having someone like Lin around wouldn’t do any harm. It would give the club some depth at a key position and potentially an upgrade to the starting lineup (though Lin has the sixth-man thing down pretty well by now).
Asik would give head coach Jacque Vaughn some options and perhaps take some of the pressure off 23-year-old Nikola Vucevic.
The best thing about this deal from Houston’s standpoint is that Orlando has the cap space it would need to acquire Lin and Asik without dealing reciprocal salary in return. That means Houston would be able to shed the salary sooner rather than later.
The Magic would likely be averse to acquiring players on long-term deals, but that’s not the case with Lin and Asik. Orlando would essentially be renting them to make a run at the postseason in the short term while the rest of the young roster has some additional time to develop.
In general, Orlando’s looking to build through the draft and internal development. Under general manager Rob Hennigan, this isn’t a club that wants to wheel-and-deal its way to contention. Nevertheless, a smaller move like this one could supply some missing ingredients.
It’s entirely speculative, sure. But don’t be surprised if a team like Orlando (or even the Philadelphia 76ers) pursues some veteran help while the youngsters continue growing.
4. Utah Jazz
- Utah Jazz need a couple of things. They need veterans to help mentor youngsters like Trey Burke and Enes Kanter. And they need a defensive identity.
Lin and Asik would go a ways toward meeting those needs.
The even bigger consideration is that—like the Lakers—Utah can absorb these contracts without matching salaries since the club is well under the salary cap. You might assume the Jazz would prefer to save that money and make a run at a superstar, but most stars aren’t clamoring to play in Utah.
Getting a hold of two solid rotation players without having to give up much in exchange is a good deal for the Jazz.
After finishing the season with a 25-57 record, the added depth and leadership would put the club in far better position to make a push for the postseason. New head coach Quin Snyder is well-known for his ability to develop young talent, but that’s no reason to leave him with nothing but young talent.
Though the Rockets would be looking primarily for cap relief in such a deal, they might be able to pry a pick or young prospect from the Jazz. Someone like Jeremy Evans might be a welcome addition to Houston’s second unit.
3. Boston Celtics
That didn’t materialize before the All-Star break.
As Stein noted at the time, “One main stumbling block, sources said, is Boston’s desire to acquire blossoming Houston swingman Chandler Parsons in a potential Rondo deal. Sources say the Rockets have informed the Celtics that they are not prepared to surrender Parsons as part of a Rondo package.”
It’s unclear whether either side is now more likely to relent on Parsons’ inclusion. The Celtics want a young piece to build around, and Parsons certainly fits that description. Meanwhile, the Rockets aren’t keen on losing one of their best perimeter shooters—a key to spacing the floor around Dwight Howard and creating driving lanes for James Harden.
So, it’s certainly possible that neither side will budge.
Nevertheless, there’s a lot to like about this deal. The Celtics could use a center like Asik, especially while Kelly Olynyk continues his development. In Lin, they’d have a temporary replacement for Rondo—perhaps a long-term replacement in the event Boston opted to re-sign the point guard.
In Rondo, Houston would have a much-needed distributor—one of the best in the business, in fact. That would take some of the ball-handling responsibilities off Harden’s shoulders, freeing him to do a little more of his damage off the ball.
It would also give the Rockets an elite playmaker who could help set up Dwight Howard’s offense.
2. New York Knicks
It’s no secret that the Houston Rockets are interested in somehow acquiring Carmelo Anthony. If they can clear enough cap space in advance, they could potentially just sign him outright.
But Anthony could also switch teams via a sign-and-trade.
In this particular instance, the hangup may well be whether theKnicks demand Chandler Parsons in that kind of deal. It seems like almost a given that they would, but remember: New York won’t have a lot of leverage in the event Anthony already wants out. They might have to settle for whatever they can get.
Houston could certainly sweeten the deal with draft picks, and that would intrigue a team that’s almost certainly looking to get younger.
New York would also welcome Lin back with open arms. The team needs an upgrade at starting point guard, and it needs a fan favorite. Lin serves both functions.
Asik would be slightly redundant with Tyson Chandler at the moment, but both would become free agents at the end of 2014-15. The Knicks would eventually have the cap flexibility they want, and in the meantime, they’d have a little extra depth in the middle.
That never hurt anyone.
1. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers could absorb Lin and Asik without matching salaries, as they’ll be well under the cap. That means that could acquire them in exchange for draft picks or in any number of sign-and-trade arrangements—though the Rockets would probably prefer just to receive a pick or two to maintain their own cap flexibility.
Los Angeles needn’t actually deal a player to the Rockets, because it’s so far under the cap. It could simply send a pick or two to Houston along with a very hefty trade exception. They’d only need to work out a sign-and-trade if the Rockets really wanted a player (e.g. Kent Bazemore) in return.
From L.A.’s standpoint, there’s a lot to like about getting two players as essentially one-year rentals.
The club is really looking to save its cap space for the summer of 2015. By then, Lin and Asik will be free agents. The organization could simply let them go as it pursues more premier talent, or it could re-sign one or both to more cap-friendly deals.
In the meantime, the Lakers would get some needed talent.
- Pau Gasol goes elsewhere, a center like Asik becomes vital. He’s also an exceptional defender and would go a ways in restoring the club’s defensive identity after the debacle that was last season. Recall that Asik averaged a double-double a season ago. He’s steady and reliable—not the sexiest name in the NBA, but a workhorse who gets the job done.
Meanwhile, Lin would provide some needed insurance with Steve Nash’s vulnerability to injury. He has enough experience to lead the team in a pinch, and he’s used to sharing the backcourt with a dynamic scorer. Lin wouldn’t have any problem deferring to Kobe Bryant, and the two may have solid chemistry with one another from day one.
If nothing else, the Lakers could use another fan favorite. Lin would certainly be that.