The NBA, A-through-Z: Rocket scheming

The free agents have just about all been signed up. The NBA is down to a series of Instagram photos from moving yachts and crossed fingers from worried teams hoping their players stay safe in the summer off. There’s nothing going on, save for that clock on the wall that is ticking down to the 2013-14 season.

And it’s moving SO SLOWLY.

This is why we’ve decided to pick 26 things we’re looking forward to in 2013-14. Or, at the very least, 26 things that intrigue us as we wait out an offseason that feels like it has thousands of miles left to cross before we can get to Halloween and opening week. Because there are 26 letters in the alphabet – you guessed, NBA A-through-Z.

We continue with Rocket scheming.

It’s an incredibly intriguing setup. The Houston Rockets currently employ Omer Asik, one of the league’s best centers, as their reserve center. He backs up Dwight Howard – the NBA’s best center. It’s a wonderful luxury that could see the Rockets attempting to move Asik in a deal that could bring back a sweet-shooting power forward, or a top-level point guard, because centers of Asik’s ilk don’t often become available on the trade market.

Mindful of his team’s youth, Howard and Asik’s potential, and (probably) the teams looking to make a basement bargain bid for a player that reportedly wanted out of Houston, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey let us in on a little secret he and his team have been working around for over a month now. Asik won’t start, more than likely, but he will at times play alongside Dwight Howard in a giant lineup that would feature the newest Rocket addition at power forward, with Asik manning the middle. This lineup will allow -1285 points per 100 possessions.

From a question and answer session Morey gave with Reddit:

Q: Daryl, how does Omer feel now about sharing the center position with Dwight? What sorts of conversations have McHale and you had in regards to potential concerns from both Omer and Dwight?

A: Omer would prefer to be a starter and is certainly a starter+ quality player. That said, he is a winner first & likes being on a winning team.

Q: Also, what are the chances we see Asik getting minutes as a power forward?

A: Coach McHale plans to experiment with Dwight at PF and Omer as C in training camp. If it works and helps us win, obviously we would look at using it.

This is a fantastic idea. And opposition to this idea, in my opinion, is what felled the Lakers during the early parts of 2012-13.

It’s true that both Howard and Pau Gasol were not at full health last season, but if coach Mike D’Antoni had properly implemented Gasol at center as a low post fixture to work off of, instead of asking the big man to play off the ball and on the perimeter, both Howard and Gasol should have been able to co-exist. Dwight Howard doesn’t exactly pop around the outside while lifting 17-footers, but it doesn’t have to be a power forward’s job (while working with a traditional low post center) to contribute strict perimeter moves. Working as a screener, cutter, and finisher, Howard can still get his looks.

All while working as a frightening defensive unit on the other end. It’s true that Howard isn’t used to chasing around Ryan Anderson types on the perimeter, but we’re not that far removed from his brilliant work hounding screen and rolls all over the court while Dwight worked in Orlando. The issue here is getting back to that sort of mindset, regardless of the position – because Howard has taken a step back over the last two seasons, for various reasons.

Houston was a markedly different team with Asik off the floor last year, because due to his long and fluid defensive presence the Rockets dipped from an above average defensive team with him in the lineup (think of his teammates, and their shortcomings) to a miserable defensive team with him off the floor. The Rockets really haven’t done much this summer to offset those defensive issues, and because Howard is right at Asik’s level on that end of the court, the only real upgrade defensively is the fact that a replacement-level defender at center is now being replaced by Omer Asik.

That’s a significant upgrade, but the Rockets want more. As well they should, because Howard has the athleticism and gifts to work as a fantastic power forward alongside Asik (who rarely shoots). All he has to do is submit to the plan. And, in an interview given while on a promotional trip to China on Monday, Howard seems just fine with the experiment.

From Jeffrey Wu at Focus Taiwan:

"There is no need to adjust. I have been playing basketball for my whole life. I started it up playing a point guard," the NBA star told reporters at a press conference to welcome his third visit to Taiwan.

"I think it can make our team tougher. We need [me] being as a power forward some games and Asik being a center. We will have a big lineup, and it will be tough for teams to truly score," the 27-year-old center said.

"You have two guys to play great defense in the paint. So I think it is positive, and it is no conflict," he added.

That’s a good start. Especially because the prospective starters at power forward for the Rockets don’t look all that hot right now. One of them is a pretty huge jerk, too.

It’s worth a try. And it’s certainly worth waiting out the offseason to see how the Asik situation plays out. I was inundated with Omer Asik trade proposals during radio interviews and on Twitter repeatedly during the days following the Dwight Howard signing, and I don’t have a damn thing to do with the Houston Rockets – so I can imagine the breadth of what Daryl Morey received. Patiently evaluating the on-court options, smartly, seems like the best course of action.

And if it doesn’t work out? You have a young center in his prime on an affordable contract that teams will line up to trade for.

Seems like another win-win, for the team that won the 2013 offseason.