Omer Asik is going to be traded this week, and Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charlotte, Boston and Cleveland are the five teams most squarely in the mix, a league executive with intimate knowledge of the trade talks told SheridanHoops.com on Monday.
A number of three-team deals are being discussed, with Houston general manager Daryl Morey seeking to land a backup center along with a 2014 first-round draft pick — unless he can land a bonafide stud.
Asik has missed the past six games with a bruised right thigh. Of course, this is complete BS. But it ranks a distant second on Asik’s list of fake injuries, as anyone who watched the Turkey-Serbia semifinal at the 2010 World Championships can attest.
For the uninformed, here’s what happened: Late in a tight game, Asik was ever-so-slightly fouled on a drive to the basket. A notoriously poor free throw shooter, Asik fell to the floor and stayed there for several minutes because he was too much of a bitch ass (quoting the producer of the video cited below) to go to the line for two crucial free throws with his entire country watching. (YouTube video of the Academy Award performance right here.)
Asik’s acting job began with him holding his stomach, which was not touched when he was fouled, and concluded with him holding an ice pack to his head, which also was not touched. It was the biggest and most egregious flop I have ever or will ever witness.
Anyway, that’s ancient history; it happened way back on Sept. 11, 2010. Turkey went on to win the game, and Asik will stay out of Serbia for the rest of his life if he knows what is good for him.
Everything above this paragraph is fact. Everything below it is informed conjecture. So let’s have a look at the five teams mentioned above and see whether they have the goods to get a deal done and make it work under NBA salary cap rules.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS - The Sixers, now in full tank mode after opening the season 3-0, have been a mainstay in the Asik rumor mill.
They have a center of the present, Spencer Hawes, who makes $6.6 million and will become a free agent at the end of the season, and a center of the future, Nerlens Noel, who is on the shelf recovering from a knee injury.
The most obvious trade candidate is Thaddeus Young, an expendable power forward who is not exactly a stretch 4 but can knock down an outside shot and hit the boards. He carries the highest salary of any player on Philadelphia’s roster at $8.85 million.
The Sixers also have Evan Turner, whose trade prospects were examined on this site a week ago by longtime Philly sportswriter Jon Marks.
In the draft pick department, they have their own No. 1 pick in 2014 plus the Pelicans’ pick (protected 1-5), and GM Sam Hinkie will cling to them more than he will cling to any single player on his roster. So Morey won’t be getting a first-rounder if he does a straight up deal with his former assistant. But Philly owns the rights to Houston’s second-round pick and Brooklyn’s second-round pick.
The thinking here is that Hawes makes more sense than Young because Hawes can not only play as a backup behind Dwight Howard, but also can be a stretch 5 playing the power forward position since he shoots threes.
ATLANTA HAWKS – Paul Millsap’s name has been thrown out there, but Paul Millsap is twice the player that Omer Asik is, and Danny Ferry is no dunce.
So that just ain’t happening unless Wes Wilcox stages a coup d’etat.
But what else might get the deal done for Atlanta?
In the backup center department, there is Elton Brand (over the hill and making $4 million); Gustavo Ayon, who was the MVP of the Tournament of the Americas last summer for Mexico, which won the gold medal; and Pero Antic, a beefy Macedonian who might remind some of Nikola Pekovic, with a head only a few sizes smaller.
Nothing great among those three, but then there is this: Atlanta has the right to swap first-round draft picks with Brooklyn. And with the Nets floundering through their soda-spilling escapades as they languish near the bottom of the Atlantic Division, Morey could take a gamble that Mikhail Prokhorov’s $180 million mess might miss the playoffs and wind up in the lottery.
What if Morey can get a spare center, a possible lottery pick and rid himself of Jeremy Lin?
That’s why NBA trades can get interesting.
Here’s an eight-player trade that would be Linsane — but might make some sense for both teams: The Hawks get Lin, Asik and two players nobody’s ever heard of, and the Rockets get Ayon, Antic, Brand, Jeff Teague and the Nets’ pick.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS - They are one of the few teams with an expendable backup center in draft bust Bismack Biyombo. They would have to throw in a better-than-serviceable second player to even get Morey to return their calls, but since they are on our source’s list, they probably have already done so.
One thing Michael Jordan will not do is sacrifice another of his own future first-round picks. The ‘Cats already owe one to the Bulls from the ill-fated Tyrus Thomas trade, although they will keep it in 2014 if it falls in the top 10 (the protection drops to top 8 in 2015 and unprotected in 2016).
But Charlotte also owns the right to Portland’s 2014 pick and Detroit’s 2014 pick, and it’s fair to say Morey would only do a deal if the Pistons pick was put into play.
So if we start with Biyombo and a No. 1, what else would it take? How about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist?
BOSTON CELTICS – In my humble opinion, the only way Morey does business with Boston on this one is if Rajon Rondo is included. Despite their first-place standing, the Celtics stink.
Sure, Danny Ainge would be happy to hand over Brandon Bass and/or Courtney Lee, but he’s keeping his hands on Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger. What about Jeff Green, you ask? Yes, that could be a possibility.
But let’s get back to the bigger fish.
Ainge has been steadfast in saying that he has no plans to trade Rondo. But as we all know, you can tell Ainge is lying when his lips are moving, and Rondo was one of the primary reasons why Doc Rivers left Boston (the two nearly got into a fistfight, as reported exclusively here).
You put Rondo with Howard, and look out.
So what would it take?
For starters, the Rockets would be the ones giving up at least one first-round pick, and probably a couple of second-rounders as well. Jeremy Lin would have to be in the deal as well. So how about this, Celtics Nation: Would you give up Rondo for Lin, Asik and two future first-round picks if the Rockets agreed to take Courtney Lee and Bass off your cap?
Have a look in the ESPN Trade Machine. And remember that the first-round picks do not show in the WWL’s piece of gadgetry.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS – Andrew Bynum is too injury-prone to make Anderson Varejao expendable. That’s just a fact. And Varejao’s energy cannot be replaced. Reports out of Cleveland media outlets have shot down the Varejao-Asik rumor that was floated out there a few days ago.
But what about a different backup center?
Ladies and gentlemen, how about Tyler Zeller? He is a third wheel in Cleveland, but the Cavs would have to add a player or two along with a future first-rounder. Cleveland is owed one by Memphis in 2015 that has some very strange protection: 1-5 and 15-30. Cleveland also is owed a first-rounder from Sacramento, but that obligation will be extinguished if the Kings fail to make the playoffs between now and 2017.
So what else would get a Cavs deal done? Aside from Varejao, it seems almost impossible — unless it is a three-way deal through Philadelphia, which can absorb Asik’s salary in an uneven trade.
We won’t even bother with the ESPN Trade Machine on this one because it does not include picks. But what about Asik to Cleveland through Philly, with the Rockets getting Zeller and the Memphis pick, and Philly giving Thaddeus Young to the Rockets, and the Sixers getting back a pile of the five second-rounders that Houston is sitting on (New York’s in 2014 and 2015, Philly’s in 2014, and the Clippers’ and Wolves’ in 2015.)
Yes, that last one is creative. But no team gets quite as creative as Cleveland when making trades, so rule this one out at your own peril.
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.