The Houston Rockets will send center Omer Asik and $1.5 million to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for a future first-round draft pick (likely 2015), a person with knowledge of the deal told USA TODAY Sports.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not yet been finalized.
With the Rockets preparing for a major run at soon-to-be free agents such as the Miami Heat’s LeBron James and the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, this move is to clear Asik’s $8.3 million salary off their books for next season. The Rockets have planned for quite some time on trading Asik and point guard Jeremy Lin if they thought one of the high-profile free agents might come their way, though they aren’t expected to trade Lin (also on the Rockets’ salary cap sheet for $8.3 million next season) until they know that one of their main free agent targets is willing to head for Houston.
According to the person, this deal won’t be formalized until July because of league rules that wouldn’t allow it to take place any earlier. For starters, the Pelicans already owe their 2014 first-round draft pick to the Philadelphia 76ers and — per what’s known as the Stepien rule — aren’t allowed to owe a first-rounder in consecutive seasons. Yet because that 2014 obligation will be considered fulfilled by the time the draft starts on Thursday night, they would then be free to trade their 2015 pick from that point on.
The Pelicans would be over the projected salary cap for next season with this deal, so the deal isn’t expected to be formalized until the free agency moratorium ends on July 10.
At that time, New Orleans would need to send players whose salaries total $8.3 million (likely players with non-guaranteed money) to make the deal work. Per league rules, those salaries can not exceed 150% of the incoming salary ($12,561,969), plus $100,000.
Yet Asik’s deal is a much larger investment than his salary cap figure indicates, as he is owed approximately $15 million because his deal has what’s known as a “poison pill provision.”
Still, New Orleans general manager Dell Demps is clearly going all-in on the idea of pairing Asik with All-Star big man Anthony Davis and being a playoff team next season after they went just 34-48 last season.
Asik’s deal expires next summer, though, meaning this is a calculated risk that Demps has decided was worth taking.