Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
The advice offered to us on Sunday was stern: Keep an eye on Boston. The Celtics possess two players in different salary ranges that would presumably fit in useful ways next toDwight Howard: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass. The Celts also have a spare first-round draft pick or two to plug into any trade equation to sweeten the deal for Houston, amid rising suspicions around the league that Morey’s Rockets are going to find a way to come out of the Asik saga with at least one future first.
The same Rockets who happen to have a GM (Morey) and coach (Kevin McHale) who have long-standing relationships with Celts president Danny Ainge.
So, yes, I’d say you should keep an eye on Boston.
Asik is an interesting guy.
Here’s an admitted over-simplification of where Asik stands in the NBA: He’s overrated and overpaid to some fans, a bit of a darling in the analytics community.
Last year, he averaged 10 points and nearly 12 rebounds. Not bad in 30 minutes a game. The Celtics could use a double-double kind of center who is a legit 7-footer. His career numbers are less than those, which, coupled with his big contract, earn him the “overrated” label. But when you look at measures like rebounding and block percentage, his carer numbers (20.7% and 3.4% respectively) compare very well to Dwight Howard’s (20.8% and 4.5%).
And then there is, of course, his contract. Zach Lowe took a closer look at the Asik trade situation on Grantland a couple of days ago
Asik [is] worth more than the $8.3 million cap hit his contract brings next season. Whatever team gets Asik will have to pay him $15 million in actual money in 2014-15 because of the balloon payment built into Asik’s weird contract, and that payment is a meaningful obstacle in the ongoing talks, per several sources. It turned off the Pelicans, for instance, though they were never super-interested in flipping Ryan Anderson for Asik. That’s a lot of money, and even Asik’s biggest fans across the league are not sure he’d bring $15 million of on-court value in a heavy-minutes starting role. There’s also a sense that Morey subverted the spirit of CBA rules with the Lin and Asik deals, and that now he’s trying to ditch Asik right before the largest bill comes due. There’s a flip side to that sentiment, of course: The Rockets violated no rules in signing Asik, and whichever team gets him will get a partial Asik season at a bargain rate. But the resentment is out there. Nobody likes to feel swindled. Asik’s recent moping, including his asking out of the lineup last month when Houston visited New York, has raised concerns about his “attitude.” But those concerns don’t appear serious. Asik plays hard and cares very much about getting better at basketball.
The contract is the killer of a deal with the Celtics, in my opinion. His $8.3 million cap hit is manageable, and the Celtics could throw a package that includes Bass-plus-salary filler or Green alone and whatever picks were necessary to complete the move. But are the Celtics truly going to pay $15 million in actual money to Asik next season?
I doubt that.
They could just do it to flip Asik to a team that might be more willing to pay an expensive center who happens to have a more manageable cap number. But are the C’s willing to give up one of their precious future first round picks to do that? Is Asik, if featured in a larger role and, soon, along side Rajon Rondo going to up his value to a point that Jeff Green and a pick seems like a bargain?
I’m skeptical, but I’m certainly not ruling anything out. But whatever happens, I do want to make one thing clear. A trade like this isn’t about improving on-court performance, nor is it a sign of making a playoff push. Danny Ainge is not motivated by on-the-floor success, so don’t judge any trade or trade rumor in that light.
Ainge is motivated almost entirely from the business side of roster construction right now, so if something does go down, try to figure out what it means financially first, then we can look into how Asik would fit on the court.
The Rockets have set a December 19 deadline for Asik to be moved. Let’s see how it goes.
Related links: ESPN Boston: Eyes on C’s in Asik sweepstakes
On Page 2: Rondo’s shooting the lights out
Celtics practice began at 2 p.m. yesterday, but there was an All-Star in the gym getting up shots nearly an hour and a half before then.
“That’s one of the best things about Rajon,” said assistant coach Ron Adams, who was feeding and guiding Rajon Rondo around the hoop at the northwest end of the facility. “He really wants to get better.”
It will still be weeks before Rondo makes his season debut following ACL surgery rehab and gets to show off his improvements, but coach Brad Stevens isn’t looking for much of a perimeter marksmanship drop-off after watching Jordan Crawford and Avery Bradley combine to burn some strings.
“I think he shoots the ball pretty well, and his work and his shooting has really been good,” Stevens said of Rondo, who went through his first full practice yesterday. “That’s the one thing he’s been able to do, especially catch and shoot, for the last couple of months. And he’s put in a lot of time like these other guys have, so I think he’ll make shots when he comes back.”
Rondo’s mid-range jumper looked good last year. If he can improve on that even more, he can take the Avery Bradley approach (I can’t believe I just used AB as an example either) and shoot without hesitation when teams go under screens on pick-and-roll plays. I know he approaches the game thinking pass first (and second, and third, and fourth), but sometimes you have to be willing to score to soften up the defense.
It’s the one thing I think Rondo does need to show this year. With this new roster, he’s going to have to pick up the scoring burden. I think he also knows that, and the playoffs have shown he’s not afraid to do it when he has to.
Still, a little more scoring would be nice. And if he’s got more a more polished jumper, I’d love to see it used.
The rest of the links: