The combination of Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Kendrick Perkins elicited a lot of fear from sad or downright angry hometown fans during last season. To put it bluntly, the trio was collectively awful, yet the New Orleans Pelicans have to go to that well again because two of them remain on the roster and the team has designs on keeping Anthony Davis as the starting power forward.
Should Alexis Ajinca or Omer Asik be the starting center to begin the season or should the Pelicans perhaps look in another direction (Terrence Jones)? Why?
Kevin: Alexis Ajinca
I don't think either should start, but at this point I'd take Ajinca over Asik until he can show he can dominate defensively again. I'm a big believer in using our athleticism and defensive versatility to put pressure on the opposition. I'd love to see a Holiday, Hield, Moore, Hill, Davis line up, or a Holiday, Hield, Hill, Davis and Jones lineup be our starting five.
Chris: Flip a coin
I have been pretty consistent on this topic, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, but who cares! What matters is the player appearing in fourth quarters and how many minutes these two role players receive overall on a nightly basis. If the Pelicans limit Asik to around 12 minutes a game, playing him very little in the fourth quarter, go ahead and start him, especially if it keeps his ego in check. Ajinca... I don’t think I‘m comfortable going there.
David: Omer Asik
If the Pelicans are actually trying to keep Anthony Davis happy, they should start Omer Asik. Or they can start Alexis Ajinca, wait 90 seconds until he's picked up two quick fouls, and then sub in Asik — that's still fundamentally starting Asik at center.
Ajinca at center has sounded good for years as an idea, but the results have not followed. Yet, again we forget. Worry just about spacing and offense (this team finished 27th in defensive rating last year) and hypothesize about the wonders of what the best version of Ajinca might look like at center.
Kenny: Omer Asik
This may bother some Pelicans fans as he might be the furthest thing from a fan favorite, but Asik should start. I feel like with the depth at guard this year and a much improved perimeter defense, we’ll see a much improved Asik.
The team needs his big body to bang with large opponents and help Davis protect the paint and dominate the boards. Plus, one of his most underrated parts of his game is his ability to set screens. Buddy Hield and the other outside shooters could use all the help they can get creating lots of good looks while two of the team’s best playmakers sit on the sidelines at the start of the season.
Oleh: Alexis Ajinca
The NBA is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. As I wrote last month, Ajinca finished last season on a much, much stronger note than Asik and he may be primed to pick up right where he left off. On the other hand, the once highly prized defensive center was merely average under Monty Williams and well below that level last season under Gentry. Trends should not be ignored for the sake of narrative.
Now, if Asik proves last year was an anomaly, even by his standards, and can become a significant difference maker on defense again, I’ll happily change my answer. Ultimately though, I agree with several others that naming a starter is secondary to the coaching staff deciding on a potent finishing five lineup. The Pelicans biggest advantages will likely exist when they go small: Anthony Davis wreaking havoc anywhere he pleases as long as he’s surrounded by four perimeter threats.
Travis: Omer Asik
What I potentially really like about starting Asik: if the team is winning games, there’s general cohesion and Davis is pouring in floaters, jumpers and dunks, Asik is your man. He’ll defend the pick and roll, his own guy, and somehow bother outside shooters all at the same time. Maybe he sweats on people and grosses them out, I don’t know. And he’ll rebound.
I don’t believe Asik is reliable enough if the team is struggling, though. I’d look for him to potentially get shifted to the bench and land fully in the doghouse after 15 games or so if the team is approaching last year’s disastrous start. I expect him to start Game 1, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he ends the season in a different uniform. And to that, I again say “meh” since I don’t find him too exciting or skilled of a player, anyway.