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2016 NBA Free Agency: Omer Asik, the next amnesty clause candidate

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There might be a way to make Asik go away without costing the team too much but it requires some patience.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans signed Omer Asik to a big contract this summer. Compared to other starting centers he's still quite cheap, but the general opinion is Asik has drastically under performed that contract already. As such, fans and writers alike are devising methods for the Pelicans to trade Asik away this summer to open up an additional cap space this summer. That's probably not a good idea for the long term health of the franchise.

Mason Ginsberg at Bourbon Street Shots had the various incentives of Asik's contract in December. Most of them (making an All-NBA team, an All-Defensive team, or playing in an All-Star Game) are simply impossible to project Asik achieving. The remainder of Asik's contract, despite initial reports of a massive $60 million deal, is just $34.8 million. His average salary over the next three seasons is $10.5 million. Not a deal, but not debilitating. It's important to note that while Asik's minutes took a nosedive in Alvin Gentry's offensive system his production in those minutes was relatively unchanged from the end of the 2014-15 season.

MIN FG% TS% OReb% DReb% TReb% REB/36 PTS/36
Omer Asik 2014-15 1034 52.8% 55.0% 12.3% 28.4% 20.3% 12.9 10.2
Omer Asik 2015-16 1033 55.4% 56.6% 11.2% 27.8% 19.0% 12.8 8.9

After last season I touted Asik's production in the last half of the season while warning that Asik was not going to be Andrew Bogut. As we can see above Asik was nearly as productive (and more efficient) since December 1st as he was in the second half of the 2014-15 season. His rebounding decline, especially on the offensive glass, is less a product of individual skill and more a function of team scheme. Anthony Davis can attest to the negative effects of forgoing the offensive glass.

However, keeping Omer Asik is less about his production on the court and more about the cost of moving on. Trading Asik is going to be expensive and could cost multiple future first round picks. That's not a price the Pelicans, poor in young developing talent, can afford to pay. There is a chance, however, that 2016-17 could be Asik's last season in New Orleans.

Hoping for another amnesty clause

A new collective bargaining agreement is likely before next summer. The NBA and players union are already in the process of negotiating a new deal.

Both sides can opt out of the 2011 CBA by Dec. 15, and Silver said "clearly we’re operating under the premise that if we can’t get a new deal negotiated by then, they are likely to opt out. That puts a lot of pressure on both sides to work over the next 10 months, which is a long time, to get an extension done."

The last two CBA agreements have contained an amnesty clause. The 2005 amnesty clause was weaker, allowing teams to avoid the luxury tax by waiving a player. That player's contract still counted against the salary cap. After the 2011 lockout an even stronger version of the amnesty clause was included. While teams still paid out the remainder of an amnestied contract it disappeared from the salary cap completely.

The amnesty clause, effecting only contracts signed before the 2011 CBA took effect, was very popular. 21 of 30 NBA teams ultimately utilized the amnesty clause. While New Orleans did not use the clause themselves a contract originally signed by the then-Hornets, for James Posey in 2008, was ultimately amnestied by the Indiana Pacers in 2011.

Should the new CBA also include an amnesty clause the Pelicans could waive Omer Asik next summer at a relatively low cost of $24 million and immediately open $10.5 million in cap space. The 2017 free agent class is significantly better and deeper than this one. There's also a history of Tom Benson paying bad contracts away; in 2012 New Orleans traded away Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza for Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick. Lewis was waived that summer, costing Benson $13.7 million.

Another option for the Pelicans is to waive and stretch Omer Asik this summer. The remainder of Asik's contract would be stretched over the next nine years. If the Pelicans are unable to negotiate a lower amount waiving and stretching Asik's contract costs New Orleans about $3.9 million against the salary cap through the 2024-25 season. Is that really worth creating $6 million in cap space this summer? Even Dell Demps thinks that's short sighted. (I hope.)

There's a possible quick fix on the horizon and that requires a bit of patience. New Orleans would do well to try it out for once.