Omer Asik seemed destined to be traded by the Houston Rockets since the team acquired Dwight Howard. That hasn’t changed.
Terrence Jones started the season firmly attached to the bench. That, fortunately for Rockets fans, has changed.
Despite the team starting Asik next to newly added center, Dwight Howard, for the first six games of the season, it was clear the pairing wouldn’t work on offense, on defense, within the salary cap, between their personalities and in the free-throw column on the stat sheet. So, Asik is (most likely) being shown the door by general manager Daryl Morey.
A month ago, the Rockets needed a big man who could stretch the floor like Mike Woodson needs a Just For Men endorsement, and it seemed like the only people that weren’t calling for an Asik-Ryan Anderson swap were every Western Conference front office, Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans included. Until a 110-104 Rockets victory over the Toronto Raptors on November 11.
After averaging a tic under four minutes per game through the first five, Jones came off the bench against Toronto for 32 minutes, registering 7 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks. Two days later, he was inserted into the starting lineup and hasn’t looked back, averaging 12.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks, shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from deep on 2.3 attempts per game.
Those last two numbers mean the most for what Houston will be asking in return for Asik in their self-imposed December 15-19 trade window for the big Turk. In a small sample size (14 games), Jones has been a rare commodity: a big who can shoot the three well and match-up athletically with top NBA power forwards. Forget finding that combination of skills on the trade market—there are few players alive with that ability.
With Jones’ sudden rise and Omri Casspi filling in capably behind him as the bench’s small-ball power forward, Asik becomes a much more fun trade chip for Dork Elvis to whirl around in his table tennis-honed fingers. No longer needing a Ryan Anderson, Channing Frye type, Morey is free to pursue a versatile wing to help shore up the Rockets’ porous perimeter defense, or draft picks.
It’s always fun to play “Who Will Daryl Morey Fleece This Time?” and it’s really anybody’s game at this point. Perennial fleecees the Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards have already dipped their toes in the trade-losing bucket this season. Will they return for more? Or will another team step up and add a defensive stalwart to the their frontline for at least the next 18 months?
Right now, the Portland Trail Blazers seem to be the Internet’s favorite possible suitor, taking over the Pelicans after enough denials out of New Orleans and too-good-to-trade play from Anderson.
Regardless of where Asik goes, the Rockets have options. And they have more options thanks to Terrence Jones’ inspired play.
Featured image courtesy of Gary Denham