What do the Houston Rockets want in an Omer Asik trade?

They are not, I'm told, boxing themselves into a specific position to target an exchange.

Word is they're just looking for a difference maker. At any position.

The Rockets, according to the latest whispers, are still in the early stages of working through their Asik options, because trading a proven defensive anchor who protects the rim and gobbles up rebounds isn't necessarily as easy it sounds. (Not when said defensive anchor also has well-chronicled offensive limitations.)

Houston's other conundrum is this: There is some sentiment within the organization that Asik, while widely regarded as superfluous to requirements now that Dwight Howard has landed on NASA soil, is the Rockets' third-best player.

So they've got to get something undeniably good in return to convince themselves that it's truly better to make a deal as opposed to dealing with the internal headaches of keeping Asik around and trying to keep him plugged in when he's not starting ... but also knowing that he represents incredibly luxurious insurance for Howard, whose mere presence on the roster ensures that the basket will be protected for all 48 minutes (and beyond).

I still have Asik right at the top of my Vets Sure To Be Dealt Before The Trade Deadline list, because he so badly wants out, and because trades are what the Daryl Morey Rockets do.

You also have to have Iman Shumpert, Derrick Williams and Arron Afflalo/Jameer Nelson up there. Especially Shumpert now that, according to league sources, both the Knicks and the player himself concede that a trade is inevitable. But I remain convinced something will happen on the Asik front between Dec. 15 and the Feb. 20 buzzer for deals.