Phoenix Suns have the assets to facilitate a Rockets trade of Omer Asik

Scott Halleran

While the Phoenix Suns might not want Houston Rockets center Omer Asik for themselves, the Suns do have exactly the return that Houston is looking for: a stretch four and lotto picks.

Setting aside for the moment that the Phoenix Suns might want Omer Asik for themselves (because I don't think they should), it is obvious that the Phoenix Suns have exactly what Houston wants in return for a trade of disgruntled center Omer Asik.

Recap on Asik

A year ago, after striking out on Dwight Howard in trade from Orlando, the Rockets used a little-known and lesser-available tactic to sign Omer Asik to an essentially unmatchable contract away from Chicago. Because Asik had been a second-round pick whose contract had expired, another team could offer a backloaded deal with money of essentially any amount up to the player maximum in year three.

The terms of the deal: $5 million in 2012-13, $5 million in 2013-14 and then a whopping $15 million in 2014-15. It's that third year which caused the Bulls to not match the offer. If the Bulls had matched the offer, their salary cap would have taken hits matching the salary going out (5, 5 and then 15), whereas Houston's cap is hit evenly in each year (8.33 million per year) though the salary is still the salary.

A year later, the Rockets got Dwight Howard in free agency and Asik is no longer needed. Asik is a 26-year old defensive and rebounding powerhouse who can't score from anywhere outside a couple feet from the basket, including the free throw line. You can't play Asik in crunch time because teams just make him miss free throws.

To Suns fans, he's Miles Plumlee at his NBA peak on the defensive and rebounding end, though Plumlee has a higher offensive upside.

The booty

Reportedly, the Rockets want some return on their investment despite being in an untenable situation. They can't play Asik and Howard together very effectively, and Asik wants out in the worst way. Latest reports are that the Rockets WILL trade Asik between December 15 and December 19.

The Rockets reportedly want a lottery pick AND a stretch four who can play full time power Howard out at the perimeter to leave the lane open for Dwight Howard.

The Suns

Interestingly, the Suns have the assets that Houston wants.

Need a stretch four?

  • Channing Frye - makes mid-level money to match Asik's cap hit, and makes 50% of his threes over the last few weeks. He's an older Ryan Anderson, but still provides the same skillset.
  • Markieff Morris - makes cheap money and isn't consistent, but fits the skillset Houston needs better than their current PF in Terrence Jones
  • Marcus Morris - was drafted by Houston in 2011 at #14 overall and fits the skillset they need right now, but was traded for a second round pick last spring so you can guess they don't like Morris enough to bench Terrence Ross. Still, Morris now makes 42+% of his threes - better than he ever did in Houston, and maybe will accept the role better than he did a year ago.

Need a lottery pick?

  • The Suns have up to three lottery picks in the 2014 Draft (though they project to be late in the lottery, in the 10-14 range)
  • The Suns have up to two lottery picks in the 2015 Draft (theirs and Lakers')

Do the Suns want to trade 30-year old Frye at this point, with the team overachieving thanks partly to his stabilizing and mature presence? Whatever you think of Frye on the court, he's a proven post defender and three-point shooter, but also a very calm, helpful voice in the locker room of a very inexperienced team.

I'm not sure the Suns want to trade Frye, or that Markieff or Marcus Morris are the answer in Houston.

The opportunity

I am not a fan of acquiring Asik for the Suns' use directly. He is older than both the Suns current centers (Asik is 26, while Plumlee is 25 and Len is 20), and he is paid a great deal more than they are. Plus, he appears to be a malcontent if he's not starting.

On the other hand, I think Plumlee does a lot of what Asik offers (though not as well) and Len really should either get time in the next 1-2 seasons to play big minutes or be traded. Len should not be pegged for 15 minutes a game for the next two years while a guy like Asik is under contract and demanding to start.

Yet, I do see the Suns having the return that Houston wants.

Could the Suns participate in a three-way trade with another team that wants Asik but doesn't have the stretch-four or lotto pick available in return?

This is where you come in, Suns fans. Here's your Sunday challenge.

Who out there wants Asik, and has assets to give back to the Suns befitting a lotto pick and Frye but doesn't match up well with Houston?

Remember, you have to meet salary cap restrictions of all teams involved.

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