COMMENTARY | This we do know: Omer Asik will be traded no later than Dec. 19, and for the Houston Rockets organization, it will be a huge relief to what has been a story that has caused so much drama.
Disgruntled since the day that the Rockets signed Dwight Howard, Asik will soon be on the way out to a destination where he can become a full-time starter once again.
Last week, the Rockets gave other teams interested in acquiring Asik a window between Dec. 15-Dec. 19 to make a deal. Both dates serve of importance: Dec. 15 marks the first day that free agents who signed new contracts in the offseason are eligible to be traded, while Dec. 19 is the last day for any player acquired this season who will still be eligible to be traded before the February 20 trade deadline.
ESPN's Marc Stein reported that the Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks are likely targets, with the Rockets possibly receiving veteran forward Thaddeus Young and a draft pick in return from the Sixers, while the Hawks could send forward Paul Millsap.
"Philadelphia and Milwaukee have been mentioned as potential destinations for Asik, but don't count out the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have a veteran big man in Anderson Varejao who doesn't need any plays run for him and could provide the kind of defensive play next to Howard that the Rockets had hoped Asik would provide."
Varejao might just be the best option for the Rockets at this point -- an experienced big-man who can play both the center and power forward spots by either coming off the bench, or starting alongside Howard. His skill set is very similar to that of Asik's, as he has the ability to defend the rim and grab rebounds at a high rate, while being a roamer around the rim on the offensive end.
While he may not be the stretch-4 that the Rockets have been looking to get, he can solidify a 2nd unit that is in desperate need of a big man. Backup center Greg Smith has only appeared in 3 games this season, and has been sidelined since Nov. 14 with a knee sprain. But Smith has only one full season of NBA experience under his belt, and he was rather inconsistent last year when head coach Kevin McHale expanded his role late in the season.
In 21 games with the Cavaliers this season, Varejao is averaging 8.5 points and 8.3 rebounds, and recorded the best season of his 10-year career in 2012-2013, averaging 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds. His contract is also what makes him so much more appealing versus the likes of Young or Millsap. Varejao is making around $9 million this season, but has a team option for next season, which will give the Rockets total control of letting him go if they don't want to pay the $9 million that is owed to him for next season. Young has 2 more years left on his contract after this season from the 5-year, $42 million deal he signed with the Sixers in 2011, while Millsap is under contract through next season.
Furthermore, it gives the Rockets a big man who can body up with the superior power forwards of the West: Zach Randolph, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge, who carried the Blazers to a 111-104 win Thursday night over the Rockets with 31 points and 25 rebounds. Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons, and Omri Casspi all did their best to match up with him, but Aldridge had his way all night.
The only downside to Varejao is that he's had a string of injuries in recent years, most notably last season when he missed the last 3 months from a blood clot. Slowly making his way back, he's put together some solid performances in the past 7 games, averaging 8.7 points and 9.5 rebounds in 25 minutes per game.
Sure, this is just a pure rumor and speculation; don't be surprised if Asik's ultimate destination is a team that hasn't even been mentioned yet. But for what it's worth, Anderson Varejao may be the perfect piece for the Rockets to get in return.
Michael Ma is a Yahoo Sports Contributor, and covers the Houston Rockets as an editor for Rockets blog Space City Scoop, and as a columnist for Rocketssocial.com. He's been a basketball junkie since the Illegal Defense rule was still in effect. You can follow Michael on twitter @RealMichaelMa.
- Sports & Recreation
- Houston Rockets
- Anderson Varejao
- Omer Asik
- Dwight Howard