LeBron James signing with the Cavaliers might push Chris Bosh to the Rockets.
And not just for the reason you think.
Of course, LeBron leaving the Heat gives Bosh more reason to move on. He outwardly enjoyed playing with LeBron in Miami, and that’s no longer an option.
But for the Rockets to make Bosh a credible contract offer – not a max deal, mind you – they must trade Omer Asik.
As we’ve covered, the previously reported Asik-to-the-New Orleans trade won’t work without the Pelicans stretching Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson or Eric Gordon (likely not an option) or another team helping them.
The Cavaliers, their plans set with LeBron, might be that other team.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Gee was originally headed to Charlotte for Brendan Hayward in a trade agreed upon draft night, but the Hornets might not mind altering the deal. Gee has has an unguaranteed contract, according to ShamSports.com, and I suspect Charlotte might have just waived him. However, the Hornets might have wanted Gee for his value in a trade, and if so, they’ll probably want some compensation for not getting him.
To the Cavaliers, it makes little difference where Gee goes. They still get Brendan Haywood, who has a low $2,213,688 salary this year and then has a fully unguaranteed $10,522,500 salary for the following season. In a year, he’ll be a very valuable trade chip if Cleveland is willing to add salary.
So why would Cleveland go the trouble of trading Gee to the Pelicans rather than the Hornets?
New Orleans must be sending the Cavaliers an asset for Gee. The Pelicans would want Gee to facilitate the Asik trade.
A simple way would be trading Austin Rivers or Alexis Ajinca, both on guaranteed contracts, to the Cavaliers. Cleveland could accept either and still have room to give LeBron the max.
The Cavaliers might not value either Rivers or Ajinca, though, so New Orleans might have to go another route.
Instead of creating enough cap room to absorb Asik, the Pelicans could aggregate enough salary to trade for him. In this salary range, teams can receive 150 percent plus $100,000 of outgoing salary in a trade.
New Orleans already has Melvin Ely, Luke Babbitt and
Cleveland has two other players on fully unguaranteed contracts too – Scotty Hopson and Matthew Dellavedova. Adding either to New Orleans’ trade package for Asik would make the deal work. So, I strongly suspect the Cavaliers will send Hopson or Dellavedova to the Pelicans, too.
Then, New Orleans can make the Asik trade. Technically, it would be structured as three-way trade with Cleveland, New Orleans and Houston, because Gee and Hopson/Dellavedova couldn’t be immediately aggregated in another large deal. Maybe the Hornets get involved to make it a four-way trade and clear everything up at once, but that’s not as essential.
One more catch: Ely can’t be traded with other players until Sunday. But if everything is lined up in advance, the Rockets could complete this trade and still have time to sign Bosh and then match Chandler Parsons’ offer sheet.
There’s a lot are a lot of moving pieces in this Gee trade, but here’s the simple reality: LeBron going to Cleveland makes it easier for the Rockets to unload salary and pay Bosh.
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has his hands full.
I don’t want to pile on, but he might have one more responsibility that previously seemed completed: Trading Omer Asik.
Houston reportedly agreed before the draft to trade Asik to the Pelicans for a future first-round pick. The deal was slated to become official after the July moratorium, which ended last night.
At the time the trade was agreed upon, it wasn’t exactly clear how New Orleans would clear the cap space to absorb Asik, who has a cap number of $8,374,646. It seemed simple enough, though.
The Pelicans could waive the unguaranteed contracts of Melvin Ely and Luke Babbitt, use the stretch provision on Austin Rivers
Maybe New Orleans didn’t want to dump Rivers, Ajinca and Withey for no return. But the Pelicans could, theoretically, at least assure Houston they’d take such measures if no trades emerged.
Now, that set of transactions leaves New Orleans $102,228 shy of having enough room for the trade.
Unless they stretch one of their top-five players – Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson – the Pelicans can’t unilaterally create enough cap space to trade a first-round pick for Asik.
Safe to say, they’re not stretching those valuable players. That means a New Orleans player must get added to the Houston trade or dealt elsewhere.
Trading one of the big five could clear room, but again, I can’t see the Pelicans going that route unless they had something lined up independent of the Asik trade.
Much more likely: New Orleans trades Ajinca or Rivers. Dumping either would clear enough room to add Asik.
Ajinca, due $981,084 next season, is a decent backup center. He averaged 5.9 points on 54.6 percent shooting and 4.9 rebounds in 17.0 minutes per game for the Pelicans last season.
Rivers has struggled to shoot efficiently in the NBA, but he was the No. 10 overall pick just two seasons ago. His 2014-15 salary is $2,439,840, and he has a $3,110,796 2015-16 team option that must be decided by Oct. 31.
These players are movable. It’s even possible New Orleans already has contingencies in place to complete the Asik trade.
But the NBA didn’t release the actual salary cap until yesterday, and the league’s estimates tend to be conservative. This is the rare official NBA cap estimate that overestimated reality. I’m not totally convinced the Pelicans and Rockets were ready for it.
At this point, dealing Ajinca or Rivers might be somewhat cumbersome. If teams know why New Orleans must shed salary – or even if they don’t – they might demand a second-round pick to take on Ajinca or Rivers. So many teams are trying to maximize cap space, even these small guaranteed salaries could get in the way.
Trading a first-rounder for Asik was already costly. If New Orleans must add another pick to dump Ajinca or Rivers, the value of the deal drops for the Pelicans.
A simple answer would be dealing Ajinca or Rivers to Houston as part of the Asik trade. But the Rockets are already likely asking Bosh to sacrifice salary. Adding another guaranteed salary would certainly reduce the effectiveness of trading Asik to trim salary, even if just a small amount.
When the margin for error is so slim, it’s easy to look back at previous moves and wonder what could have been.
Why did the Pelicans keep Withey past July 5? That triggered a $100,000 guarantee, and though that amount alone doesn’t alter the feasibility of the Asik trade, it’s a hindrance.
Why did New Orleans give Ajinca, who hadn’t played in the NBA in two years, a guaranteed two-season contract when signing him in December? If that second year were unguaranteed, a reasonable stipulation for a player of Ajinca’s caliber, this problem would have been avoided.
The Pelicans can’t undo these previous decisions, and they’ll have to deal with the fallout. But their problem is now Morey’s problem.
On the clock with Parsons, Morey must address this if he hasn’t already.
The Pelicans also face a time crunch to address this. Barring a much bigger move, they can’t feasibly trade for Asik after using the mid-level exception. That means free agents are picking other destinations as New Orleans handles this issue.
I still expect Asik will be traded to the Pelicans (though I wouldn’t be shocked if the deal falls apart). It will just be a little more complicated now.
However, I’m not sure those complications will be sorted out before Parsons’ deadline or before New Orleans’ top MLE target signs elsewhere.