Culture of Hoops

7 Reasons why the Houston Rockets should not trade Omer Asik

Image courtesy of thepanamerican/Flickr.

Image courtesy of thepanamerican/Flickr.

When the Houston Rockets successfully signed Dwight Howard this offseason, many fans were afraid that there may eventually be trouble in paradise between the two parties due to Dwight’s less-than-stellar reputation for avoiding drama in the past.

While it only took a few weeks into the season for a big man in Houston to become disgruntled with his situation, it was ultimately Omer Asik vocalizing the complaints, not Dwight.

After a solid first season for the Rockets, it looked as though Asik was set to break into the upper-echelon of big men in the NBA as well as cement his place as a fan favorite in Houston. However, when the Rockets were lucky enough to win the Dwight Howard sweepstakes this offseason, it seemed as though Asik became expendable. To the Rockets’ credit (or to their detriment, depending on your view of Asik’s value), the team attempted to create a “Dwightnamic Duo” in the post to begin the season, and started both Howard and Asik.

It didn’t work.

While the team’s 5-3 record during the eight games in which both centers started wasn’t bad, it was easy to tell that both the offensive and defensive systems were flawed when Howard and Asik were on the court together for extended periods of time. To begin with, both players need to be extremely close to the basket to have an impact on offense, as neither has the ability to put the ball on the floor and create consistently. When both players are forced to share the court, one of them will more often than not find himself well outside of his comfort zone on offense.

The defensive spacing posed similar problems. While both Howard and Asik are excellent rim defenders and defensive rebounders, when they play together one of the two is forced to play farther away from the rim, and to begin the season it was usually Asik forced out. As a result, Asik put up a measly four blocks in his first eight games and found himself being beaten off the dribble whenever he was pulled too far away from the basket.

It is necessary to both applaud the Rockets for trying to make the tandem work while simultaneously question their handling of Asik since his benching in mid-November. Once it became obvious that Asik would not be able to see the minutes he believes he deserves, there were immediate murmurings that Asik was on the trading block. Since then, those same murmurings have gone from serious to non-existent more times than Rockets fans can count, and it now seems Asik is set to remain in Houston following Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s comments that he expects the center to stay in Houston for the remainder of his contract (despite Asik only playing in nine of the team’s last 28 games).

So why is it best for the Rockets to hold onto Asik?

7. Because he is a legit seven-footer in a league where the center position has been shrinking for years. The amount of seven-footers in the NBA who can rebound and protect the rim as well as Asik proved last year is very small, and most of the players who comprise that list have already commanded/will command long-term deals with their current teams.

While it seems as though the combination of Howard, Terrence Jones, Greg Smith, and Donatas Motiejunas can hold the team down in the regular season, playoff basketball is a completely different animal. Having a big man of Asik’s caliber on the bench when/if Dwight finds himself fatigued or in foul trouble will be crucial for a Rockets playoff run, even if it is only for …

6. His six fouls. Asik has proven in the past that he isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe on the defensive end (although his soft, twirling layups in traffic on the offensive side of the ball betray that toughness a bit), and in an intense playoff series those fouls could have a huge impact. While Smith has proven to be a valuable and rapidly-improving option off the bench, if he is the Rockets’ backup center during the playoffs then Howard will almost certainly have to be play more timid defense in order to avoid foul trouble. That timidity won’t be necessary with a reliable a reliable big man like Asik coming off the bench. And you know he is reliable because …

5. He was one of only five centers to play all 82 games last season, along with DeAndre Jordan, Robin Lopez, Spencer Hawes, and Andray Blatche. Even more impressively, Asik played all 66 games in the lockout-shortened season before that, as well as all 82 games in his rookie season.

While Asik is currently injured, it is uncertain whether or not the injury is as serious as assumed or if the swirling trade rumors are lengthening Asik’s absence. Regardless, Asik has shown in his first three seasons that he can play tough, as well as play every night, and this midseason break he has right now ensures that he should be fresh for the playoffs. After all …

4. It is only his fourth season in the NBA, and he is just 27 years of age. Trading a productive, steadily improving big man at the age of 27 (when his value is at its lowest) rarely happens, and it shouldn’t in this case either. For all the speculation surrounding the poison pill in Asik’s contract that made it possible for the Rockets to steal him away from the Bulls, it was …

3. Just a three-year contract, with a single year remaining after this one. While it would have been ideal to move Asik this season in order to free up salary cap space to commit towards a long-term deal for blossoming super model/baller Chandler Parsons, that money could still be freed up by trading Asik during the offseason after he has had a chance to increase his trade value from the basement it currently resides in. Because the Rockets sure didn’t get the …

2. Two first-round picks they were reportedly asking for in return for Asik when they initially placed him on the block. While that may have been (read: was definitely) a bit too much to ask for as we approach one of the most loaded drafts of the last decade, the point remains that Morey had a price set in mind for Asik and he didn’t receive any offers that matched that. Despite all the rumors surrounding Rondo, Jeff Green, Deron Williams, Ryan Anderson or Paul Millsap coming to Houston, they were all rumors and nothing ever came close to firming up. As a result, I began to believe that Rockets didn’t get…

1. One single serious offer that Daryl Morey believed would make this team better this season or in the future. It was already expected that there would be some growing pains and chemistry issues for the Rockets in Howard’s first season (and James Harden’s second) with the team, and the Asik saga is part of those issues. Daryl Morey has proven in the past to me a more-than-competent general manager, and he would have been foolish to sell low on Asik at this point. There is still half a season and the playoffs for Asik to find his comfort zone with this team and/or increase his trade value. Pawning him off for spare parts or non-impact picks and players would have been a mistake.

It may seem as though holding on to Asik through the trade deadline might be a mistake, but I have …

0. Zero reason to doubt Daryl Morey’s decision not to trade him at this point in time.

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