Depending on who you talk to, Omer Asik was either the bane of the team or a fantastic complementary piece to Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson.
His overall offensive statistics were an eyesore: a 7.3 PPG, a 58.2 FT% and a 51.7 FG%. Considering that nearly 90% of his attempts came within 3 feet of the rim, that field goal percentage was downright abysmal for a player standing seven feet tall.
Conversely, among players who surpassed 1500 minutes, Asik posted the 3rd highest TRB% in the league at 21.4%. After the Pelicans finished 21st in TRB% in 2013-14, they jumped up to 8th this past season. (Losing Al-Farouq Aminu didn't prove to be fatal to the rebounding department after all.)
Bringing Asik into the fold, many expected the Pelicans defense to improve leaps and bounds, especially at the rim. In 2013-14, the team ranked 6th worst at defending shots 5 feet and in, giving up a 61.3 FG% to opponents. In 2014-15, that mark improved to 58.7%, good for 16th best.
The problem was never so much the opponents' conversion rate, rather their propensity for getting shots inside this area. Courtesy of NBA Stats, the Pelicans gave up 32.6 attempts within five feet, the most in the league. By association (blame the team's starting center who was renowned for defense in his prior stops), many were quick to point the finger at Asik.
Individually, opponents had a 51.1 FG% against him -- not the greatest figure but still very palatable. For instance, Marc Gasol (49.4%), Joakim Noah (51.7%) and Al Horford (49.8%) were all in the same ballpark. However, their respective teams were lauded publicly for their defense.
The main reason?
Their teammates did a much better job at keeping opponents away from the rim. Per 36 minutes, Asik was contesting 11.2 shots at the rim per game. Gasol (8.1), Noah (7.3) and Horford (8.8) all had to defend significantly fewer attempts. Omer was covering for a lot of mistakes all on his own.
Okay, that's enough background for now; besides I'm sure most of you are well versed at the rest. David and I have repeatedly beat the Asik-is-good-for-the-Pelicans drum since he first arrived in New Orleans and The Bird Writes hasn't even posted his 2014-15 season review yet. So, instead, let's get to purpose of this article.
What is Asik's value?
Both Asik's PER and win shares per 48 minutes had him just a notch above an average NBA player. According to Layne Vashro's Four Factors, he was the 2nd worst starting center based on offensive statistics, ahead of only Jordan Hill. Defensively, it was a different story. He finished as the fifth most productive center, sitting behind DeMarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, Chris Bosh (!) and Rudy Gobert. As you may have surmised, combining the two sets of Four Factors, he tows the line of average again. Out of the 161 players who played at least 1500 minutes, he placed 92nd.
For 2014-15, Omer Asik was the 20th highest paid center at $8,374,646. Despite being a middle tier performer, he was paid like a lower tier guy. Now, don't forget, we should also consider the number of starting centers that were on rookie contracts: Jonas Valanciunas, Andre Drummond, Alex Len, Rudy Gobert, Enes Kanter and Nikola Vucevic.
Three years ago, Daryl Morey handed a 3-year, 25 million dollar contract to Asik to pry him out of Chicago. At the time, he was revered for devising a contract that circumvented the CBA and prevented the Bulls from matching. Fast forward to today, and this type of material is all you'll see regarding that deal.
- The Man Who Sold The World (a great read) - "He overpaid the offensively limited Omer Asik"
- Did Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey Outsmart Himself with Poison Pill Deals? - "But they cramp teams’ cap space down the road—for the same reason that the Knicks and Bulls were afraid to match Lin’s and Asik’s offer sheets, Morey is now slapping himself on the forehead. He outbid even himself to get his guys."
Over the last several months or so, the common knowledge across social media seems to believe that Omer Asik will command a multiple year contract averaging in the neighborhood of 10-12 million dollars a year. I'm sorry, but I just don't see it.
- Omer Asik averaged 26.1 minutes a game, but his fourth quarter minute average was much bleaker: 4.8 minutes a game. Monty Williams values defense and rebounding, yet even he has succumbed to the change in the NBA landscape. If you're not an elite athlete like DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard that patrols the air in the paint like a Patriot missile system, it's not prudent to play an offensive non-entity throughout crunch time.
- Despite the interest, Daryl Morey was not able to move Asik last season. Sure, he was asking for too much in return, but I would have reckoned a better offer would have come around this past off-season if interest in Asik remained high. All it took was a middling first round pick from New Orleans. Although a poison pill awaited, Tom Benson proved owners will pay it if it increases the likelihood of a postseason berth.
- Lastly, Asik is happy in the Crescent City. Per Pelicans.com.
There are not too many comparable players to Omer Asik. Defensively he is one of the soundest players, exhibiting all the proper fundamentals; however, he's not an elite paint protector because he's more grounded than the majority of his counterparts. Offensively, he operates strictly around the rim, but despite this, his conversion rate was worse than Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson or Jrue Holiday. Free throws? Forget about it.
Although the NBA has moved away from only paying for offense, teams are also smart enough to realize Asik has nearly as many flaws as he does positives. A lasting impression of his ineptitude during the Pelicans-Warriors first round playoff series will be everyone's freshest memory. In four games, he totaled 8 points and 0 blocks. A 20 FG% and a 57.1 FT% were on full display across 80 played minutes.
If many considered his recently expired contract as a terrible deal and he didn't prove he is capable of remaining elite against NBA starters as he did against reserves, Asik is not going to command a salary anything significantly beyond on what was already deemed an overpay. Not with an approaching off season that is loaded at center with names like Marc Gasol, Robin Lopez, Tyson Chandler and DeAndre Jordan, just to name a few.
If I'm throwing my hat into the ring, 8-9 million a season is the most it should take to re-sign Asik. I hope Dell Demps pays it because the Pelicans cannot readily replace his limited but very necessary production on next season's salary cap sheet, but if he requires a higher figure, show him the door.