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2015 NBA Free Agency: Kosta Koufos in a starting role in New Orleans

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Continuing to look for alternatives to Omer Asik, we drive north.

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing on our exploration of potential replacements for Omer Asik, we travel up I-55 to Memphis, Tennessee. There we find Grizzlies reserve center Kosta Koufos entering unrestricted free agency and certainly looking for a raise in both pay and playing time. A capable starter in limited minutes for George Karl with the Denver Nuggets Koufos has seen a significant decrease in minutes while backing up All-NBA center Marc Gasol.

Koufos is likely going to begin his free agency looking beyond Beale Street for his next destination. While Gasol is also a free agent, his long standing roots date back to high school. Waiting on Gasol to potentially exit the Grindhouse could backfire on the Ohio State product if other starting center openings are filled before hand.

Starting centers do not come cheap in the NBA and with his history Koufos could benefit by looking to strike quickly. Koufos started 81 games for the 57-25 Denver Nuggets in 2012-13; George Karl's final season. That team finished second in pace, fifth in offensive rating, and eleventh in defensive rating. When looking for an efficient, low turnover center to replace Omer Asik, Koufos is one of the most reasonable, attainable options.

Koufos by the numbers

Many of the strengths I noted yesterday when discussing Bismack Biyombo also apply to Koufos in different ways. Kosta Koufos is not much of a mid range threat, shooting below 32% beyond ten feet throughout his NBA career. While in Denver, Koufos was a solid finisher around the basket, converting 68% of his attempts within three feet. Within the limited spacing of the Grizzlies attack that did dip down to 60%.

Like Biyombo, Koufos is a superior shot blocker (although not to same degree) who also commits fouls more often. For instance, Koufos committed 63 shooting fouls according to Basketball Reference last season; Asik committed just 62 in 600 more minutes. Asik is a superior rebounder to every possible replacement we could discuss not named DeAndre Jordan. Koufos is no exception as he rebounds fewer opportunities and does so much less often while contested.

FGA AT RIM FG% AT RIM REB% PER OP CONTEST REB% PER ALLOWED
Asik 11.17 51.10% 60.90% 45.30% 18.6
Koufos 9.11 46.90% 59.50% 41.90% 15.3

Aquisition cost

If the Pelicans decided to try doing this by cap space, they could offer a four year contract worth around $37 Million. In addition to monetary cost, it would also require renouncing early bird rights to Alexis Ajinca and Luke Babbitt, restricted free agency rights to Norris Cole and Jeff Withey, the unguaranteed contract of Toney Douglas, the Mid-Level Exception, and the Bi-Annual exception. In place of all that the Pelicans would have the room exception (more than the Bi-Annual but much less than even the taxpayer mid-level) and minimum contracts to fill out the roster.

Instead, it would be more beneficial to work out a sign-and-trade between the Pelicans and Grizzlies. The most likely target for the Grizzlies would be Ryan Anderson, providing the floor stretching capabilities that franchise has sorely lacked for the past five years. Any reasonable contract offer to Koufos would work in a sign-and-trade with Memphis. Going this route, the Pelicans could maintain the rights to everyone listed in the first paragraph.

Of course, the downside is the loss of Anderson, to a division rival no less. Anderson has been hard at work getting into shape for next season already. Many, myself included, feel that Anderson is going to be a significantly more efficient offensive player under Alvin Gentry. If movement towards space and pace is the direction the NBA is headed, a message sent loudly from the NBA Finals if you have been tuning in, the threat of Anderson could be a critical cog in the Pelican offense next season.

Ultimately another foul prone non-shooter is not a great upgrade on Omer Asik in my opinion. If the Pelicans are going to get a lesser rebounder (which is almost certain) simply saving a little on a cap number isn't enough to move me away from Asik. Later in this series I will discuss a big man who checks a couple more boxes.