- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Pinpointing a front-runner in the Omer Asik trade sweepstakes is still tricky at this juncture.
Yet there are a few things we can say about the current state of the Asik trade market:
1. Keep your eye on Philadelphia. Front-runner would be overstating it, but the notion that the Sixers are a viable destination for Asik is increasingly making the rounds. And that certainly makes sense given (A) Philly's front office is run by a certified Asik fan in former Rockets exec Sam Hinkie and (B) Philly has a frontcourt player to send back to Houston in Thaddeus Young, whose skill set can click with Dwight Howard's, albeit not as well as seemingly unattainable dream target Ryan Anderson; and (C) there really isn't an Asik for Philly to draft with the high pick it's likely to snag in the 2014 lottery.
2. Can't imagine this is an absolute stance if Houston is really after the best trade it can find this month, but I'm told those rumbles you've heard about the Rockets preferring to ship Asik to the Eastern Conference are indeed true. For all of his offensive shortcomings, Asik is precisely the sort of defensive center who can really bother Howard one-on-one. Better, then, to send him somewhere Dwight would have to face the Turk as infrequently as possible. Atlanta and Milwaukee are thus two more teams to monitor, with the Rockets undoubtedly drawn to Paul Millsap and his cap-friendly contract -- though the reality is you can say the same about a ton of teams -- and what has been described to me as the strong possibility that the Bucks are about to get active on the trade front in the wake of such a poor start.
3. My Grantland pals Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe recently had a compelling podcast discussion offering all sorts of reasons why the better-than-expected Portland Trail Blazers might be moved to try to upgrade from Robin Lopez to Asik at center by offering Lopez and another quality asset in exchange for Dwight's disgruntled backup. All indications at this point, though, suggest that Portland is thrilled with Lopez's impact and not planning to make a run at Asik. Houston is similarly lukewarm on the idea.
22hMarc Stein and Mike Mazzeo