Omer Asik is sad, very sad. It’s only a matter of time before he’s shipped out and happy elsewhere—but the Houston Rockets are wise to wait this one out.
The former Chicago Bulls center left for Houston in 2012, where he found a bigger paycheck and a starting role. Now, he’s been relegated to much less than that, in the wake of Dwight Howard’s arrival to town.
The team denied Asik’s original trade request over the summer, made when they signed Howard to a max contract. They were compelled by the possibility of playing the two together and they believed they had a wealth of natural centers greater than any in the NBA.
The experiment to play the two big men together has, however, demonstrably failed. “It’s not what we want…that lineup has to create a big edge in rebounding and it hasn’t,” GM Daryl Morey said in a recent interview with ESPN. Asik has been the one to see his minutes go down in this circumstance. He simply can’t match Howard’s skills on either end of the floor, and there are very few minutes left over from Dwight’s playing time. “I understand it’s tough for him,” Howard has said.
At first, this meant Asik was playing 18 minutes, then five minutes. Now, as the Turk’s dissatisfaction grows and he’s made new requests for a trade, he’s down to an astounding zero minutes per game. He hasn’t seen floor time since the team’s 11/13 loss at Philadelphia.
But the NBA trade market is a very mixed bag at this early juncture of the season. Players’ values are unclear, and teams are not yet desperate enough to make the kind of Godfather offer that Morey is likely waiting for. Remember, this is the man who flossed the Oklahoma City Thunder for James Harden, seemingly pulling a superstar out of thin air.
The team’s recent rejection of Asik’s plea for a transfer is in its best interest. Better offers are coming later, not only because teams will become more dire, but also because Asik can still regain enough rotation minutes to display his value. If Howard is injured for any amount of time, which is a likely scenario, as he hasn’t played all 82 games since the 2009-10 season, Asik can get his starters’ minutes and put in the kind of workhorse performance that will pique the field considerably.
Such a showing is necessary for the Rockets to get the most out of any trade, as Asik is averaging just 5.0 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season, well below his averages of 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds from last year. Potential suitors will need on-court proof that Asik’s abilities haven’t lessened in order to give up enough to truly improve the Rockets’ roster.
The Rockets will need the help that would come in any package for Asik. Their perimeter defense has been shoddy, and they’ve been turning the ball over 20.2 times per game.
But roster-improving maneuvers are rarely, if ever, made at this point of the season. It’s too soon to know just what’s needed, or available. Houston’s problems could be of a completely different breed come January, when all kinds of offers are sure to be flying at frenetic pace in anticipation of the February 20th trading deadline.
Such perspective is exactly why Morey is standing pat with his roster for the moment, and exactly why further mockery is being made of the New York Knicks for shopping Iman Shumpert, their only real market asset, so aggressively before it’s even December.
With Morey behind the wheel, Rockets fans can sleep easy with the knowledge that no trigger will be pulled prematurely. Whatever their team’s problems, they’ll be addressed and not exacerbated in the outcome of their Omer Asik dilemma.