But through all the rumors and reports and discussions, Houston never found an acceptable deal.
If the Rockets have their eyes on LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Love or any other star who might – but probably won’t – be available this offseason, trading Asik and/or Lin is the simplest way to facilitate it.
Can Houston trade those two?
According to an individual familiar with the Rockets’ plans, they are confident they would be able to move Lin and Asik’s contracts because unlike their failed efforts to trade Asik last season, they would be looking to clear cap room, rather than bring back rotation players with similar contracts .
Not asking for assets in return for Asik and Lin will help – there was a lot of grumbling about Houston’s asking price for Asik – but that might not be enough. Asik and Lin will each get paid $14,898,938 next season – a tough pill for a team to swallow if trading for them, even though their cap numbers ($8,374,646 each) are fairly reasonable.
Making the task tougher, Houston might have to narrow their pool of trade partners specifically to the team on the other end of a sign-and-trade. If they were focused on maximizing cap space this summer by trading Asik and Lin to any team that will take them, the Rockets wouldn’t decline Chandler Parsons’ team option. By doing that, they’re raising Parsons’ cap number from $964,750 to $2,875,130 when free agency begins – and it will only go up from there once Parsons signs.
Simply, Houston is not close to gaining enough cap space to sign one of its coveted stars. By declining Parsons’ option, the Rockets are moving even further from that goal.
Even if they trade Asik and Lin and take back no additional salary, they’d be projected to have just $14,321,273 in cap room. By comparison, here are the maximum starting salaries for their top target if each becomes a free agent this offseason:
- LeBron: $20,659,633
- Bosh: $20,659,633
- Melo: $22,458,402
- Nowitzki: $23,857,450
Unless the Rockets are aiming lower in the free-agent pool or have more up their sleeves – both of which are certainly possible – they’re not really gaining ground by trading Asik and Lin.
Unless it’s a sign-and-trade with Lin and Asik going out, which would allow the Rockets to take back a player with a higher salary than they could get with the aforementioned cap-room route. But the other team would have to accept paying Asik and nearly $15 million each next year. And we’re back to square one, where trading them in a worthwhile deal won’t be easy.