SH Blog: Celtics are favorites to land Asik, Paul George says his ceiling is higher than Reggie Miller’s

omer asikOmer Asik has wanted out of Houston the moment Dwight Howard joined the team, and it appears he will soon get his wish.

Much of the news from Wednesday was about all the trade discussions involving the coveted center, and the Boston Celtics are the front runners to acquire his services. As usual, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports was on top of the latest updates:

The Boston Celtics have gained traction in trade talks to acquire Houston Rockets center Omer Asik, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The talks have centered on a package including forward Brandon Bass, guard Courtney Lee and a first-round pick, sources said. The Celtics and Rockets are still haggling over which future first-round pick goes to Houston in Asik deal, sources said.

Rockets center Dwight Howard and Bass played together on Orlando’s frontline, but sources insist Howard was never enamored with the partnership. Boston has been making the case Bass is much improved from his time in Orlando, and most agree he’s an upgrade over Rockets power forward Terrence Jones.

The Rockets have a self-imposed Thursday deadline to reach agreement on a trade for Asik.

If the final sentence is true, it looks like there will be some moving parts in the next 24 hours. While it’s a shame that Asik wasn’t willing to buy in and be a part of a contending team, his playing time was always going to be limited if he was going to back up someone of Howard’s caliber. A starting tandem of Howard and Asik didn’t work and never was going to work, given their inability to do anything outside of the paint area and inability to convert free throws. For someone who was probably good enough to win the Most Improved Player award last season, becoming a bit player again at the age of 27 was too tough of a pill to swallow. Hopefully, Asik finds himself in a situation he can be happy in when all said and done.

Looking for Rockets tickets? Look no further.

WHY ARE THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS SO GOOD?

AldridgeLillardSH1The league is increasingly heading towards an offense that heavily favors two things: executing for easy baskets at the rim and 3-point shots. Mid-range shots and long-range shots just in front of the 3-point line are considered the toughest and perhaps the worst shots. If you can take a 3-point shot, why would you ever take a 22-footer unless it was from the corner, right?

Right, but there are exceptions to the rule, and one of them is LaMarcus Aldridge – the power forward currently playing for the best team in the league (at least in terms of record). He’s one of the key reasons the team has been so good this season, but combining him with three other deadly shooters has really helped separate them from the rest of the league. See what Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland had to say about the Blazers:

So far this season, Aldridge has taken 339 midrange shots — repeatedly violating one of the key tenets of Morey’s efficiency-minded stratagem. As a team, Morey’s Rockets have tried only 292. Maybe Aldridge should start his own sports analytics conference, because his approach is working. He’s the leading scorer on the team atop the Western Conference standings. Take that, Dork Elvis! (Note: I love Daryl Morey and his wonderful conference!)

This midrange fascination is not new. Last season, Aldridge attempted 795 midrange shots, by far the most in the league (DeMar DeRozan was second with 628). The remarkable thing about Aldridge is that despite his ridiculous midrange volume, he produces points at rates above league averages in all of his active shooting zones. He can create scoring chances without much help, though he is a great pick-and-pop player as well.

Although Aldridge’s shooting numbers haven’t changed much since last year, almost everyone else’s have. The Blazers have three elite 3-point shooters now, and each of them has improved their efficiency since last year. Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, and Nicolas Batum are each in the top 10 in made 3s and each is shooting over 40 percent. Together, they form the most terrifying long-range scoring threat in the NBA. And yes, I am aware of, and impressed by, the Splash Brothers in Golden State.

Consider this: Klay Thompson and Steph Curry have combined to make 157 of their 368 3-pointers this season (43 percent); Lillard and Matthews have combined to make 143 of their 327 3s (44 percent). Add in Batum (not to mention Mo Williams), who’s made 58 treys himself, and you’ve got a trio of shooters unmatched anywhere in the league. Their combined numbers are scary, and as a result the Blazers make the most 3s per game of any team in the league despite being only fifth in attempts per game.

It’s going to be tough to keep up this level of shooting, and that should have a direct impact on where this team will end up by the end of the season. Case in point is the production of Wesley Matthews, who at one point had a true shooting percentage of 70 percent – better than LeBron James. You knew there was no way he could keep that up and true to form, that number has dipped to 64.5 percent. That is still beyond exceptional for someone who shot 57.4 percent last season.

Portland has also been very lucky with injuries: not a single player in the starting lineup has missed any games this season. Not one. That’s also very hard to sustain, and we have yet to see them face any sort of adversity in that regard because a single injury can completely derail a team. Just look at what happened to the Warriors when Andre Iguodala went missing.

In any case, the Blazers have truly been one of the biggest surprises so far, and it will be interesting to see if they can sustain some level of this dominance throughout the season.

ROOKIE ON THE RISE:

Rookie Trey Burke had his best game of the season against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday with 30 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo are the favorites for the Rookie of the Year award so far, but more games like this from Burke will land him right in the mix between the two for the award.

PHOTO OF THE DAY:

Many were upset when a whistle wasn’t blown against LeBron James late in the game when he appeared to grab Paul George from behind. It prompted someone to come up with this hilarious photo to explain what James was really trying to do:

LeBron Paul George

OTHER NEWS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE:

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