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How Danny Ainge’s Celtics can acquire Omer Asik

12.16.13 at 1:25 pm ET

As we’ve discussed in great detail, the Celtics have the picks and assets to enter just about every NBA trade conversation, so it comes as no surprise that they have reportedly entered the Omer Asik sweepstakes.

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 to Dwight 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. Marc Stein,

The Rockets set a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to deal Asik, who requested a trade last month and even sat out a game due to concerns that resulted from the Dwight Howard signing this summer. The 7-footer hasn’t played since Dec. 2 after suffering a bruised right thigh and getting his swollen right knee drained.

This season and next, Asik is owed $20.1 million of his uniquely structured three-year, $25.1 million deal, including $14.9 million next year, although he would count $8.4 million against the salary cap. Make no mistake, though, Asik is a catch. The 27-year-old Turk played every game of his first three NBA seasons, culminating in career averages (10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds) during his first winter in Houston. He’s widely considered an elite rebounding center with an improving offensive game whose impact is measured best by advanced analytics.

But how much would the Celtics be willing to give up for Asik? First, Rockets GM Daryl Morey‘s asking price.

He hopes to come away with either a strong defensive wing who can catch-and-shoot, a power forward who can fill in as a backup center, or expiring contracts that come with first-round picks — or some combination of those assets. Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

Recent reports have indicated the 76ers are the leaders in the clubhouse for Asik’s services, offering 25-year-old power forward Thaddeus Young (15.9 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.6 apg, .533 TS%, 16.3 PER, 721 minutes), but Terrence Jones‘ emergence as Houston’s starting 4 as well as the two years and $18.9 million remaining on Young’s contract after this season might require a third team to complete — and further complicate — a deal.

Both Jeff Green and Brandon Bass appeared in Stein’s piece about Boston’s initial interest and would meet Morey’s desires. Green for Asik works straight up, but Morey may have similar concerns over the two years and $18.4 million left on Green’s contract, and Ainge might hesitate in trading his most potent offensive weapon. (And wouldn’t it be ironic if Ainge deals Green for a defensive-minded center with a limited offensive game?)

The Celtics could more easily part with Bass, whose numbers compare favorably to Young’s (11.7 ppg, 6.5 rig, 1.4 apt, .536 TS%, 16.1 PER, 753 minutes), and Ainge would have to throw in MarShon Brooks to make the money work. The Bass contract (just $6.9 million next season) could be attractive enough to trump Thad’s youth (Bass is 28). This would be a no-brainer for the Celtics, who desperately need a legitimate center to protect the paint, but Ainge might have to sweeten the offer with one of his nine first-round draft picks over the next five seasons.

If parting with Bass and a first-round pick is too steep, Ainge still has the expiring contracts of Kris Humphries and Keith Bogans to package. Because of a trade exception from their blockbuster deal with the Nets this past summer and Houston’s salary cap flexibility, the Celtics could ship Humphries and a protected future first-round pick for Asik, but Ainge might want those assets to package for a better player at the deadline.

Regardless, Ainge can meet Morey’s demands in any number of creative ways, which was the plan all along.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, NBA, Omer Asik
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