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Height is expensive in the NBA, Omer Asik's contract in perspective

Omer Asik was signed to what appeared to be an enormous deal this summer. Turns out that's the going rate for a competent seven footer.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

There are few topics more polarizing among New Orleans Pelicans fans than center Omer Asik. Nowhere does that dissent become more vocifierous than Asik's most recent contract. Initially the contract was reported at a ghastly five years, $60 million. Some, especially of the local broadcaster type, harp on that initial report as a damning failure by Pelicans GM Dell Demps. Of course, others dig deeper.

Eventually the final numbers were tallied and Asik's contract comes in at a far more reasonable number. The first four years will cost the Pelicans $41 million unless Asik reaches still unspecified incentives. Asik's fifth year is only guaranteed for $3 million, putting the total guaranteed number at $44 million. That still sounds like a lot of money! Come to find out being seven feet tall and being skilled enough to be an NBA player is an incredibly lucrative enterprise. 19 different NBA centers will make more than Asik during the 2015-16 season.

Position 2015-2016
Dwight Howard C $22,359,364
Marc Gasol C $19,689,000
DeAndre Jordan C $19,689,000
Brook Lopez C $19,689,000
Enes Kanter C $16,407,500
Greg Monroe C $16,407,500
DeMarcus Cousins C $15,851,950
Roy Hibbert C $15,592,216
Andrew Bogut C $13,800,000
Al Jefferson C $13,500,000
Joakim Noah C $13,400,000
Tyson Chandler C $13,000,000
Robin Lopez C $12,650,000
Nikola Pekovic C $12,100,000
Al Horford C $12,000,000
JaVale McGee C $12,000,000
Nikola Vucevic C $11,250,000
Marcin Gortat C $11,217,391
Anderson Varejao C $9,638,554
Omer Asik C $9,213,483

All from Basketball Insiders. Note that ESPN's salaries list has a number of omissions.

Before you ask, yes the Philadelphia 76ers are still paying JaVale McGee $12 million to not be on their team this season and therefore have a chance at reaching the salary floor. The entire Pelicans center rotation (Asik, Alexis Ajinca, and Kendrick Perkins) will cost about $14.5 million this season.

While no one expects Asik to turn into a dominant offensive force the possibility he could return to his 2012-13 form with the Houston Rockets in an uptempo environment might do wonders. In his first season as a full-time starter Asik averaged a double-double with 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds a game. The wide open court provided a significant boost for the big man as he shot over 60% within three feet of the basket; Asik converted just 55% of such looks in the clogged toilet offense ran by Monty Williams.

While Asik runs on the cheap end of starting centers Ajinca is one of the most expensive reserves at nearly $4.4 million. Ajinca is surrounded by centers on rookie scale contracts in his pay grade. The pair of Asik and Ajinca are nearly opposites; one is a defensive stalwart with glaring deficiencies on offense and the other an elite scorer who cannot keep himself on the floor due to foul trouble and slow feet.

Between the combined efforts of Asik and Ajinca the Pelicans have an above league average center. The problem lies with that skill set being divided between two men instead of combined in one. Barring significant scientific advancements the Pelicans must contend with substantial weaknesses from their center.