The Golden State Warriors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow in what could be the final game of the NBA season. Andrew Bogut, the stalwart Second Team All-Defensive center, has been relegated to a bench role as LeBron James and company ground the pace to a standstill in games one, two, and three. In order to speed things up Steve Kerr replaced Bogut in the starting lineup with Andre Iguodala. It worked to perfection in game four as the Warriors routed the Cavs 103-82. Bogut did not log a minute as Stephen Curry torched the Cavs in a 104-91 victory in game five.
Are the Warriors thinking of holding onto David Lee while shipping off Andrew Bogut due to the NBA Finals? Of course not. There is a reason the Warriors outscored opponents by 16.6 points per 100 possessions with Bogut on the floor during the season. Does any rational mind think the Warriors walk past the Grizzlies or Rockets without Bogut's presence in the middle?
Match ups matter.
Making the same silly mistake by diminishing the value of Omer Asik due to one bad series would be equally foolish. Asik made significant positive contributions to the New Orleans Pelicans throughout the season, both seen and unseen. The expectation that Omer Asik can do similar things to those Andrew Bogut does has focused everyone's eyes on what Bogut does individually on offense. He handles the ball more than Asik and is a superior passer in new head coach Alvin Gentry's scheme in Golden State.
Instead let's look at what Asik did on a fast team in Houston, and what he did once the Pelicans figured things out in the second half of the season.
Our roundtable on Asik replacing Bogut found that you, our readers, expect by a wide margin (64%) that Asik will not do the same things Bogut does but that Gentry will utilize Asik's strengths in a different but still successful role. In looking at both Asik's numbers as a starter in Houston and the second half of last year in New Orleans finds a number of similarities. Far too many focus on Asik's individual numbers; those are largely inconsequential. He is a low usage big man who rarely blocks shots, gobbles up rebounds, and shoots only close to the rim. However, when he's on the court his team consistently outscores opponents, performs better on offense and defense compared to when he sits, and shoots better behind the arc. Wait? Is that last part right?
|Omer Asik On||2464||107.2||101.3||5.9||76.3%||98.50||38.2%||53.3%|
|Omer Asik Off||1492||105.9||107.0||-1.1||73.3%||98.87||34.5%||51.0%|
Asik in Houston was the engine that started the fastest team in the NBA. The key to pace of play defensively is to create turnovers or rebound without committing too many bodies. Asik is a one man wrecking crew on the defensive glass. After most rebounds in New Orleans players rarely looked to run or leak out, preferring instead to have the lead guard come back to the ball and walk into the offense. That was a systemic decision. Asik is more than capable of grabbing a rebound and quickly passing out to get into transition.
|Omer Asik On||1034||105.5||101.2||4.2||77.3%||92.66||44.4%||51.1%|
|Omer Asik Off||944||105.2||105.5||-0.3||71.7%||93.29||35.5%||50.1%|
The second half of the year shows much of the same impact for Asik here in New Orleans. He made a small but positive impact on offense when he was on the floor while making a massive impact defensively. In Houston he was the leader in on-off net rating; +7.0 far outpaced every other player and he was the only player with a negative net rating on the bench. Anthony Davis (+12.0) was the only player better than Asik's +4.5 in the second half of the year. Only Tyreke Evans (+3.7) approached what Asik contributed.
Asik's impact goes beyond net rating. Again, as he did in Houston, he improved the shooting beyond the arc and overall. How does a big man who has yet to make a three point shot so positively improve three point shooting? It is almost as if screen setting, something even SportVU has yet to quantify for the public, is really valuable. This 123 game sample shows a measurable impact when Asik is on the floor; turning league average (or worse) 3-point shooting teams into elite from deep.
Cost of Replacement
As kickingcannons pointed out in his fanpost, replacing Asik is a difficult and costly endeavor. Attempting to clear the necessary cap space to sign a different center will cost a number of other assets. Restricted free agent rights to Norris Cole and Jeff Withey, early bird rights to Luke Babbitt and Alexis Ajinca, the mid-level exception, and the bi-annual exception.
Re-signing Omer Asik does not mean Asik is the long term center or that he will never be traded. Negotiating a fair price, one that is either a bargain or that can be traded in the future, is high on Dell's to-do list. However, those who hope Asik simply walks this summer are likely to be disappointed. Demps can see the difficulty in replacing Asik and must weigh the immediate loss (a starting caliber center) and future loss (a starting caliber center who will be a tradable asset in the future).
The last time a team let Asik walk without an asset in return was the Chicago Bulls. Then assistant coach Ron Adams was so displeased some link the episode to his eventual departure from the franchise. Why was Adams so upset? He thinks Asik is the best defender he has ever worked with as a coach.
That is ultimately why Omer Asik is going to stick around in New Orleans for at least this summer. His reputation around the league as an elite defender remains. He might not be the long term answer, but the cost of permitting him to walk is far to high for this franchise to pay.