The Houston Rockets have agreed to trade defensive specialist center Omer Asik to the New Orleans Pelicans in a deal aimed at clearing salary-cap space to chase LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in free agency, sources told ESPN.com.
In exchange for Asik, the Rockets will receive the Pelicans' 2015 first-round draft pick. The Rockets also will include $1.5 million in cash as part of the deal.
This maneuver by the Rockets also sets up the team to trade point guard Jeremy Lin, which would open up enough cap space for the Rockets to make a run at James and Anthony.
Asik is going into the last year of a three-year contract where he will earn $15 million as part of a balloon salary Houston gave him in a complex deal in 2011.
Asik averaged 5.8 points and 7.9 rebounds last season when he became a backup after Houston signed Dwight Howard. Asik asked for a trade last summer and was on the market during the season but the Rockets couldn't find a deal they liked.
The Pelicans have been on the lookout for a center to play alongside young star Anthony Davis since last season.
The draft pick included in the deal has protections. It will go to the Rockets if it falls between picks 4-19, sources said.
The trade cannot be finalized until after Thursday's draft because of league rules.
Information from ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman was used in this report.