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2015 NBA Free Agency: Alternatives to Omer Asik

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If Asik ends up on a different roster, there exist other options that will not cost over 10 million per year, and more importantly, it doesn't mean the Pelicans might take a step back next season.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Let me preface this article by stating that I am a fan of Omer Asik. Even though I've made my feelings known I don't think he's worth a paycheck over the 10 million dollar mark per year, I could live with the result. Odds are that his possible new contract, one as lucrative to the one David proposed, should not ruin the Pelicans salary cap at any time in the future.

That said, it is not ideal to settle because just maybe that extra million or two, or an additional season on the books, might have an impact somewhere down the road. One just never knows for sure.

Alternatively, there could come along another team this summer that has him locked within their sights. About a year and a half ago, Danny Ainge and the Boston Celtics focused on Asik because:

"The NBA is loaded with quality players, and big guys are much harder to find than small guys. ... Everyone's looking for big guys that can defend."

Well, the Celtics are still missing that defensive stalwart they envy to protect the paint. Thus, don't be surprised if they don't enter serious dialogue with Asik's agent later this summer. Chances are there will be probably be another interested team or two.

At this point, there is no doubt Dell Demps and his staff have considered other options. Whether it's for improving the roster or of the contingency variety.

There has been a lot written about Greg Monroe and a few other highly prized centers, but unless New Orleans moves one of their core pieces, the Pelicans will not go down this road.

Moreover, with Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson on the roster, it appears the team's future starting center will face a minutes cap. For all the talk by Monty about needing a true defensively minded center at the end of the 2013-14 season, he only gave Asik 26.1 minutes a game. The minutes restriction was never more puzzling than when Ryan Anderson missed time to a knee injury.

Thus, let's have a look at several targets that will not be needed (or paid) to play a full accompaniment of minutes. By the way, I specifically focused on players who have the size to play exclusively at center (sorry Brandan Wright). Listed below are my top 3 in descending order.

3. Bismack Biyombo

At 22 years of age, Biyombo still remains a project, but it's largely for a lack of polish in his offensive game (yes he has issues catching the ball too). However, despite the limitations, he is currently a better option than Asik for one reason: he can finish! Biyombo made over 65% of his looks inside of 3 feet and had his shot rejected just 26 times in 2014-15. Conversely, Asik shot a near career low of 55% from the same range and had 89 shots rejected.

It should be mentioned that Biyombo has seen his FT% increase each season whilst in the league. Also, he has learned to accept his role within the offense. He attempted only a little over 3% of his field goals from outside of 10 feet.

However, as with Asik, Bismack is known for his work on the other side of the floor. This past season, he held opponents at the rim to a 49.1 FG%. The prior season, 39.1%. In both campaigns, he had a block percentage of 6.3 percent. For players who played at least 1000 minutes this season, that was the 4th best mark and one spot ahead of all-world Davis.

This coming July, the Hornets can extend Biyombo a qualifying offer of 5.5 million dollars. The general sentiment seems to question whether this is a good price. Well, considering just how comparable his production and skills are to Asik, I think he's an excellent buy in that price range.

2. Tiago Splitter

Tiago isn't a free agent, but rumors have begun to swirl this week that the Spurs may have to move him if they bring in LaMarcus Aldridge or some other impact player. Pounding the Rock, the SBNation site of the San Antonio Spurs, has the scoop regarding this recent news.

Like Biyombo, Splitter operates inside the 10 feet circle from the rim, but unlike him, he is very proficient from all the other areas. 0-3 feet, he had a 60 FG%; 3-10 feet, a sparkling 50.9 FG%. Tiago's footwork is impeccable, he sets solid screens and he makes a good deal of his free throw attempts.

Defensively, Splitter is solid. This past season, opponents shot 50.0% at the rim on his watch and in 2013-14, that figure was 44.7%. He's not the rebounder nor shot blocker as Biyombo, but he's considered fundamentally solid, much like Asik. In the past two years, his defensive real plus minus has finished twice in the top 10.

Splitter has two more years remaining on his contract: 8.5 mil in 2015-16 and 8.25 mil in 2016-17. For a legitimate two-way starting center in the NBA, that represents very good value. The biggest concern is that he has trouble staying healthy. In five seasons, he has surpassed 60 regular season games played just once.

1. Kosta Koufos

For those who follow underrated NBA players, Koufos is well-known. He's been considered underutilized for the last three seasons and it appears he's tired of it.

Koufos, by contrast, is an unrestricted free agent next summer whose camp, sources say, has made it known to Grizzlies management that it has less than pleased with the limited role carved out for the 7-footer over the past two seasons.

Offensively, he's another limited player but he's smart enough to know to stay within his comfort zone and that does include some touch on floaters and such. Perennially, he converts more than 60% of his attempts near the rim. In 1348 minutes, he was rejected a mere 22 times.

The reason why sits atop my list is because of his defensive abilities. He's a mobile 7 footer with the size to guard anyone, but unlike Asik, he will block shots. Opponents have serious issues scoring against him as evidenced by an opponent's field goal percentage of 46.9% and 47.4% the last several years respectively.

Grizzly Bear Blues summed him up well:

We'll keep it succinct and leave it at this: Koufos is big, smart, and good. He's always been one of the more underrated big guys in the NBA, which is partly the result of a subtle playstyle, but he's extremely valuable to whoever has him.

Pelicans are not pigeonholed

For all of Asik's contributions, there exist substitutes in case he is whisked away by another team's offer or if the organization chooses to go in a different direction altogether.

2014-15 Salary AGE TRB% BLK% TS% OPP RIM FG% RPM DRPM PER
Omer Asik $8,374,646 28 21.4% 2.1% 54.5% 51.1% -1.15 1.86 15.5
Bismack Biyombo $3,049,920 22 18.0% 6.3% 57.8% 49.1% -0.99 1.59 15.2
Tiago Splitter $9,250,000 30 13.9% 2.7% 60.1% 50.0% 3.26 2.70 18.9
Kosta Koufos $3,000,000 26 18.1% 3.9% 53.0% 46.9% 0.94 3.56 14.2

If the Turkish Hammer is a starter in this league, is there any reason why Kosta Koufos shouldn't be given the same opportunity? Tiago Splitter has certainly put up the numbers to justify he's worthy of more minutes than the 19.8 per game he saw in 2014-15. And if neither of these options are available, Bismack Biyombo is tantalizing enough to take a chance on considering it's fine to have starting defensively minded centers. Especially when a team boasts a Davis-Anderson power forward combination.

I don't expect a 1-year rental of Omer Asik will be the outcome, but when the Pelicans are realistically considering on paying a limited player more than 8 figures a season to average just the 7th most minutes on the team, the investment needs to be thoroughly analyzed.