Having acquired Dwight Howard and James Harden within the last year, the Houston Rockets are one player short of having their own big three if they aren’t content with their very own Rockets version of the Kobe and Shaq.
The Rockets currently have a fairly lethal lineup but they are going to have to unload at least one of Jeremy Lin or Omer Asik’s contract after this season as each collects the biggest paycheck of their careers at over $15 million next season thanks to the back loaded deals that brought them to Houston.
It’s possible that neither can stay. The Rockets probably need a point guard whose skill sets exceed that of Lin to run an offense with two high powered super stars who command so much of the ball. For Asik, the only way he starts after the arrival of Howard is by moving to power forward, a position he has never played in the NBA and that may not suit his skill set.
Both are players of significant value and are two of the best trade chips out there right now. Asik is a respectable rebounder, shot blocker and defender who averaged a double-double per game in his first season as a starter, a season in which he played all 82 games during the regular season.
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Lin brings value to nearly any franchise thanks to his marketability alone. Jersey sales, ticket sales, whatever it is, people find Jeremy Lin interesting and for a franchise in need of a boost in business, he’s a good name to sign to a contract. From a basketball perspective there are certainly worse point guards in the league, but his skills and pedigree don’t necessarily fit mold of every team in the NBA.
The Rockets have already denied Omer Asik a trade and appear ready to take him into the new season as a major piece of what they want to do, but Lin’s future in Houston is less certain. Daryl Morey has come out and said that the former Harvard point guard will be there next season, but if opportunities exist for the team to upgrade at the right cost, one has to believe that Morey would jump at it.
The Rockets don’t have much in the way of first round draft picks to offer for next year as they’ll likely be giving that to Lakers from the deal that saw L.A. take Jordan Hill with Derek Fisher going the other way a few years back. They do have plenty of second round picks having acquired some from the Bucks and Knicks in previous trade deals and could offer a first rounder in 2015.
Knowing Morey, he could trade Lin just for draft picks and good young prospect, then sign someone out of free agency. In all likelihood that won’t happen given that Brandon Jennings and Nate Robinson are the only two real big names left at the position in free agency and neither really fits what the Rockets need. Robinson could become a Rocket, but he wouldn’t serve as a starter as he never has at any point in his career.
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The point is you never know. Morey is a genius at moving pieces around and building something. This current team is the end product of eight years worth of moves, so there is no reason to think that he wouldn’t be willing to fine tune it before next season’s trade deadline. In any case, a trade wouldn’t be made for Lin until just the right moment, when the Rockets can receive just the right pieces to add value to their squad and their team chemistry. Whether it’s this summer or next February, we’ll just have to wait and see.