The Pelicans may have solved their problem at center before draft night.
Yahoo Sports first reported Wednesday night that the team has dealt a future first-round draft pick, presumably for 2015, to Houston in exchange for Omer Asik and $1.5 million in cash.
Pelicans officials could not confirm the trade, which will be not become official until July.
Other reports said the deal contains protections: The Pelicans will keep the pick if it is early in the the lottery or falls to 20th or beyond; the Rockets get the pick if it is late in the lottery to No. 19.
In Asik, the Pelicans get a defensive presence at center to go along with all-star forward Anthony Davis while freeing up cap space for the Rockets in their pursuit of either LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Asik was to count $8.3 million against the cap for the Rockets.
Asik, a 7-foot-0, 255-pound native of Turkey has been in the NBA for four years, the first two with Chicago, which acquired him from Portland in a three-way deal after he was the 36th player selected in the 2010 draft.
He moved to Houston as a restricted free agent in 2012. After starting every game in 2012-13, Asik was primarily a backup up for Dwight Howard last season, He started 19 games, averaging 20.2 minutes with 5.8 points and 7.9 rebounds.
Asik was mentioned a potential trade acquisition for the Pelicans since the Rockets signed Howard. Houston, in turn, reportedly coveted forward Ryan Anderson, who was leading the Pelicans in scoring until he suffered a season-ending neck injury in January, but the Pelicans were unwilling to part with him.
This season, the Pelicans used four centers: Jason Smith, who missed most of the season because of injury; Greg Stiemsma, who was released at the season’s end; rookie Jeff Withey; and midseason pickup Alexis Ajinca, who started most of the later games.