The Hawks are among the teams pursuing Rockets center Omer Asik as Houston attempts to trade Asik and Jeremy Lin to clear cap room for Carmelo Anthony, according to Sam Smith of Bulls.com, who works the news into his weekly mailbag column. Still, Rockets GM Daryl Morey recently said he doesn’t expect to trade Asik or Lin in pursuit of a marquee player, and he’s downplayed the notion of trading his backup center ever since his self-imposed December deadline for swapping Asik passed.
Rumors have persisted nevertheless, particularly given a March report that identified Houston as one of two non-New York landing spots atop his list of preferred free agent destinations. The Rockets have roughly $57MM in commitments beneath the projected $63.2MM cap for next season. Shedding the cap hits for Asik and Lin would give the team an additional $16.7MM in flexibility, putting them in range of the nearly $22.5MM maximum salary for which Anthony is eligible. It would still be difficult, if not impossible, to find teams willing to absorb both Asik and Lin without giving up salary in return, particularly given their balloon payments of $15MM each for this season, as I explained in November.
The cap figure for Asik, like Lin, will be slightly less than $8.4MM, significantly less than what they actually make next season. Still, I’m not certain Asik would be the proper fit on a team that liberally launched three-pointers this season and found success with that strategy in the playoffs against the Pacers, particularly if the Hawks envision moving Al Horford to power forward, as Smith suggests. That would be similar to the sort of situation in which Asik found himself this year next to Dwight Howard on a Houston team that prioritizes floor spacing.
Asik is nonetheless a highly skilled interior defender whose contract would expire after next season, giving Atlanta the chance to go after the juicy 2015 free agent class. It’s unclear what the Hawks would be willing to surrender in return, but I’d imagine the Rockets would prefer that it center on draft compensation, given their apparent desire to clear salary for this summer.