The Houston Rockets should be the most interesting team to watch leading up the NBA trade deadline. Why? They are in the very odd situation of being an elite NBA team and a title contender, but with big time talents being underutilized and clearly on the market (Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin), added with them having real needs, mainly a top stretch 4, they could be the only NBA team that are buyers and sellers.
Asik would have been traded weeks ago if it weren’t for the fact that his contract (and Lin’s) rises from 5 million this season to 15 next season. There are still teams that will trade for him despite his contract, as he is an elite rebounder and post defender and I believe that he will be traded by the deadline on the 20th. However, they would be foolish to sell him for 25 cents on the dollar, as he is a franchise center and so they should trade for nothing less than a long term piece to their core. They can and should trade him for a long term roster fit.
As for Jeremy Lin, you can bet on Darryl Morey doing whatever he can to move him, but he has the same contract as Asik and will be much more difficult to move. Morey is arguably the NBA’s most creative executive, so anything is possible, but it seems very doubtful anyone will take on an average starting point guard for 15 million next season.
Beyond their two poison pill players, it is safe to assume that anyone besides James Harden, Dwight Howard, Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones (incredible value) is up for grabs if it will help them improve. They already have their Big Three and don’t have time to develop draft picks that will be in the mid to late 20′s for at least the next 4 years (when Harden and Howard’s contracts expire). The Rockets should be buyers at the trade deadline, but they also have one very big piece (and one smaller piece) that they want to move, which makes them sellers too (once again it is rare) and that makes them the franchise to watch right now.