Did the Houston Rockets Just Get One Step Closer to Courting LeBron or Carmelo?

The Rockets sent Omer Asik to the Pelicans for a first-round pick. Was it a move to get one of the league's best?

On the day of the NBA draft, various teams are trying to make their last effort move to trade away - or for - draft picks, or to acquire that one player they may not get in the actual draft. And with teams trying to position themselves for a run at this years’ free agent pool, some high value players are on the move just to clear a little cap space.

Houston is one of those teams making moves in an attempt to stay far under their salary cap. As I mentioned earlier this week, Houston is a potential destination for LeBron James, but Carmelo Anthony could be considering a move to the south as well. So with Omer Asik now on the move after a trade with the Pelicans, what exactly is the ripple effect?

What This Means for Houston

It’s not often you have the chance to court James or Anthony at the same time. The Rockets are perhaps hoping for a high-risk, high-reward scenario by trading Asik, but to be honest and fair, he's been on the trading block ever since last summer when they signed Dwight Howard.

The only negative of this trade is the Rockets lose a defensive specialist for the team. Not only was Asik the backup to Howard, but the team played better defensively when Asik was on the court.

Team Offensive RtgTeam Defensive Rtg
On the court105.5102.1
Off the court109.7103.4

But considering the offensive dip with Asik on the court, it was worth the gamble to land a top-tier free agent. If Howard can live up to his 20 point, 12 rebound potential every night, they'll barely notice Asik's absence.

The Rockets' positives to this trade include a 2015 first-round draft pick. However, due to league rules, this trade can't happen until after the draft, and the Pelicans also protected their draft pick. The Rockets only get it if it lands between pick 4 and 20 in the draft next year, but the Rockets may not even keep the pick very long if it helps them trade Jeremy Lin.

Asik was only one of a series of moves the Rockets could make. If it clears the necessary cap space to sign LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, it doesn’t matter how they get there. They must obviously love our nERD rankings too because if they net James, they would be able to pair James Harden, numberFire’s top shooting guard with a 14.7 nERD score, with James’ second-best overall nERD score of 20.4. And Howard’s 6.0 nERD score would just rise if able to play with James. This would be the ideal situation for the Rockets.

If the Rockets miss out on the top prize, there's Carmelo Anthony as well. Anthony would net an upgrade in teammates, and they could hide his defensive inconsistencies a little more. While not James-like in his nERD score, Anthony was the 13th-best player overall according to the numberFire metric (9.9 nERD). Anthony would be a “consolation prize” for the Rockets, but I’m sure there would be no love lost in adding a player of his caliber to a team with Howard and Harden. The Rockets need all the firepower they can get with the ever-improving Western Conference.

What This Means for New Orleans

Anthony Davis made his living by averaging a double-double throughout the season, and adding another piece alongside him would only improve the frontcourt for the Pelicans. Having someone to play down low would allow Davis to hang around on the perimeter more and improve his mid-range game (8 to 16 feet out), where he shot 42.3% last year.

Asik has good potential for the Pelicans. Before the Rockets signed Howard, Asik averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game. Due to knee injuries that plagued him last season (as well as riding the bench often), Asik saw a dip in his numbers, as he averaged only 5.8 points and 7.9 boards last season. He's only four years into his career, and he has room to grow with an improving Davis.

The Pelicans may have tied their hands salary cap-wise, but it gives them a good foundation to stay competitive. It could help out Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans as well. The Pelicans will be stuck with their massive contracts for another year or two, but if they can combine to average another 30 points per game, it will be worth it to stomach those contracts.

This deal is a win-win for both teams. The Rockets have a chance to compete for James and Anthony and take their team to the next level. They could possibly have one of the best starting rotations if they pull it off. The Pelicans may not have much of a chance at the playoffs, but in a division where they face the Mavericks, Spurs, Rockets, and Grizzlies, they can at least attempt to handle the paint better, as all four teams have a way to create havoc close to the basket.