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2015 NBA Free Agency: Bismack Biyombo a low cost option for the Pelicans?

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The Pelicans search for a cheaper option at center begins.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Back in May Oleh explored three different potential replacements for New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik. Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo was one of those options. At the time Biyombo was relatively entrenched as the reserve center to starter Al Jefferson. Thanks to the NBA trade season firing back up that is no longer the case.

The Hornets, desperate to dump the contract (and persona) of Lance Stephenson completed a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers late last night. Out goes Stephenson and in comes Spencer Hawes and (temporarily) Matt Barnes. A quick look at the depth chart in Charlotte seems to spell out Biyombo's fate.

Jefferson picked up the player option for next season and will be the starting center on day one. Hawes, with three years remaining on his contract, becomes a reserve big man. Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh, back-to-back lottery pick power forwards from Indiana, battle at the power forward spot. Marvin Williams, a tweener who was thought to be an answer as a stretch four last summer, also remains.

So, Bismack Biyombo appears to be exceedingly available. The problem for the Pelicans is that 23 year old big men with Biyombo's skill set and rate of development in the NBA are unlikely to come cheap. With only the Mid-Level Exception (or clearing a number of role players for cap space) available a sign-and-trade becomes a logical next step.

Biyombo by the numbers

Biyombo is a significantly better finisher around the basket than Omer Asik. Despite operating in an offense completely devoid of spacing Bismack shot 65.7% within three feet of the basket, an enormous improvement over Asik's 55.3%. Both players are non-threats beyond the immediate area around the basket and converted at a nearly identical rate from the foul line.

Biyombo is not without warts. He turns the ball over more often (16.5% TOV% to Asik's 15.7%) and fouls at a much higher (but still sustainable) rate. Along with that he is a much less accomplished rebounder. However, as a rim protector Biyombo shows real promise and is far more capable shot blocker than Asik.

FGA at Rim FG% at RIM REB% PER Op Contest REB% PER Allowed
Asik 11.17 51.1% 60.9% 45.3% 18.6
Biyombo 8.35 49.1% 61.0% 42.1% 20.2

Biyombo is quite short as NBA centers go, clocking in at just 6'9.5" in 2011 according to Draft Express. However, he makes up for it with an absolutely massive 7'6" wingspan and standing reach exceeding 9'3". That is more than enough length when combined with Biyombo's strength and mass to play center well in the league. It doesn't hurt when you can also occasionally throw it down.

Hypothetical transaction

So, Biyombo is a bit of a long play here. He is a better finisher around the hoop on offense and blocks more shots than Omer Asik but is a step back as a rebounder and still has a way to go in terms of defensive IQ. The Hornets still will not have substaintial cap space to work with this summer unless Gerald Henderson opt-out of his contract. The void left by Stephenson's departure needs a ball handler to fill it and what better way than to acquire a player who's game is quite similar.

Enter Tyreke Evans.

A sign-and-trade of Biyombo for Evans could work. The Hornets, hoping to compete in the ragged East get another creator on a relative discount. New Orleans gets a fearsome front line of shot blocking virtuosos patrolling the paint. Biyombo's deal, should it fail to pay the expected dividends, is mere peanuts when the salary cap explodes.

Does this happen? Probably not. I still don't see the Pelicans letting Omer Asik walk for nothing. Betting so much on a man who has yet to hold the fort as a full time starting center successfully in the NBA is an enormous ask; even for a front office willing to risk big. Here again the cost of replacing Asik, both in term of financial cost and outgoing talent, rears its head. Measuring the cost of acquisition goes beyond looking solely at the cap figure of each player; and in total cost Asik remains the far cheaper option.