Sorry Boston Celtics, fans. I know you were really looking forward to the Kelly Olynyk-Vitor Faverani era in the paint, but a new big man could be in the mix now. According the ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Celtics have emerged as a dark horse candidate to make a trade with the Houston Rockets for backup center Omer Asik. The Philadelphia 76ers are still the frontrunner to get a deal done with the Rockets, but it might be a good idea to keep an eye on Boston as well.
This trade could happen for a few reasons. Although Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has a good relationship with Rockets GM Daryl Morey, the same could be said about Celtics GM Danny Ainge. And since Rockets coach Kevin McHale and Ainge also have plenty of Boston-related history from their playing days, the Celtics could conceivably work something out with Jeff Green or Brandon Bass, two players who would work well in the Rockets’ system as stretch fours.
However, there are a few obstacles to this deal going through as well. The Rockets may think twice before bringing in Green or Thaddeus Young from Philly because of the money they’ll be owed right around the time when Chandler Parsons is due for a much-deserved extension. Green will be owed $18.4 million over the next two seasons after this one and Young is owed $19.4 million over that same span. Since Parsons is much more essential to Houston’s future than these prospects, priorities could prevent the Rockets from pulling the trigger there.
The most likely outcome is a trade with Philadelphia involving Young, which might end up being a three-team deal where Young gets sent to the extra party because Houston can’t afford to pay him and extend Parsons. But keep in mind that the Celtics could also wave one or two first round draft picks in Houston’s face to give Morey extra incentive.
From Boston’s perspective, the interest in Asik is all about rebuilding and improving for the future. As Houston’s starting center last season, Asik showed he’s a tremendous defender and a viable starter for any team. He averaged 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game last year while locking down the paint and controlling the boards. Compared to this year’s 4.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.4 blocks per game, it’s clear to see that Asik is not getting the opportunity his play warrants.
Add that to his unhappiness coming off the bench behind Dwight Howard and you’ve got a situation that’s destructive to the Rockets’ chemistry. Houston’s deadline to trade Asik, a deadline they set for themselves, is this Thursday. Should the Celtics swoop in and sway Morey before then, Boston would be getting a solid rim protector for the future while also moving closer to tanking. Rookie head coach Brad Stevens has done such a tremendous job coaching that the Celts are leading the Atlantic division and as of right now, would be guaranteed a top-four playoff spot. Shipping away Green or Bass would make it a tad harder for Stevens to keep winning.
For the Rockets, trading Asik has been a must since it was first reported that the NBA’s Ratatouille look-alike was unhappy with the acquisition of one of the league’s best big men. Asik’s perceived cry baby attitude to his diminished role on one of the better teams in the loaded Western Conference apparently hasn’t hurt his trade value, which is good news for a Rockets team that is one solid stretch four away from being really dangerous.
Jeff Green is a versatile two-way player who has been having one of the best years of his career: 16.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game to go with 46 percent shooting and 41 percent from downtown. Add that to the fact that he’s one of the better wing defenders in the league and it’s easy to see why Houston would love to have a guy like him around. As for Bass, he’s not as attractive a target for Houston compared to Green, but he’s only owed $13.3 million over the next two seasons after this one. He’s also averaging a respectable 11.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, which the Rockets could put to good use as well.
The Celtics need to start losing for a better draft pick in the deep 2014 NBA Draft, and freeing up cap space to make room for Asik’s contract is an added bonus to losing guys like Green or Bass who are helping Boston win now. Asik will have a positive impact, but he’s not exactly the type of player that would turn Boston into an Eastern contender. The Rockets need to win now and are one piece away. Since that piece is not the unhappy Asik, Houston will deal him him before the week is over. Just don’t count out the Celtics as the team they choose to deal him to.