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New Orleans Pelicans Will Probably Regret Re-Signing Omer Asik to Huge Deal

this is a discussion within the Pelicans Community Forum; The New Orleans Pelicans made a mistake with Omer Asik . Initial reports indicated the big fella would receive $60 million over five years, but Scott Kushner of The Advocate reported that the actual contract is a bit less: That’s ...

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Old 07-19-2015, 05:31 PM   #1
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New Orleans Pelicans Will Probably Regret Re-Signing Omer Asik to Huge Deal

The New Orleans Pelicans made a mistake with Omer Asik.

Initial reports indicated the big fella would receive $60 million over five years, but Scott Kushner of The Advocate reported that the actual contract is a bit less:

That’s more digestible, but Asik is still way out of place in New Orleans.

He bangs the boards like your annoying 10-year-old brother bangs the drum set in your basement, but that’s...it. The Pelicans could use his rebounding, but close to $12 million annually should bring a whole lot more than that.

There is something to be said for bringing “the band back together,” as general manager Dell Demps told Jim Eichenhofer of NBA.com on Sunday. But why bring back a cowbell player at a hefty price, when in reality, you don’t need him to make top-notch music?

Again, Asik has value. He’s no scrub. But the Pelicans are going to regret this one.

Who’s Off-Key?

Let’s revisit Demps’ “bring the band back together" quote, shall we?

“[We] felt that with the continuity of the group, and those guys added to it, we played at our best,” he continued to Eichenhofer. "So we wanted to continue growing. That was a major reason why we wanted to bring back our same core guys.”

In 2014-15, for the first time in four years, NOLA made the playoffs. Despite catching an emphatic four-game beating from the eventual defending champion Golden State Warriors, the postseason appearance ushered in a new era of basketball in the bayou.

The Anthony Davis era is here! No more rebuilding!

Demps’ mentality is to bring back all the key pieces and allow them to grow together. Asik, at the relatively young age of 29, was the oldest player on the team last year, which speaks volumes to the Pels’ youth.

This isn’t the Eastern Conference, though, where a team like the Milwaukee Bucks can go from tanking to contending in a matter of two to three years. If the East were a fish bowl, the West would be a vast ocean full of sharp-toothed predators.

The Pelicans have the unfortunate task of swimming with the big fish, so giving the roster plenty of water and sunlight and then hoping it progresses isn’t the whole answer. Building continuity is definitely part of the equation, but it’s not the be-all and end-all.

If Asik were a game-changing player of Tristan Thompson’s caliber, opening up the checkbook would be fine. But with the Turkish center on the floor alongside AD last season, the Pelicans were worse offensively and (get this!) defensively than a pairing like AD/Ryan Anderson.

Isn’t Asik supposed to be a brick wall on defense, a big who holds his own and then some in the paint?

Let’s call a spade a spade: Davis isn’t the reason for the drop-off on either end. He has some defensive cracks in his quickly cementing armor, but he’s an offensive gem with that elusive LeBron James trait—he makes everyone else better.

According to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, new coach Alvin Gentry will look to play The Brow a lot more as a center than a power forward in this coming season, which would almost certainly force Asik to the bench.

Is a backup center, who could get leapfrogged by Alexis Ajinca (if the latter puts on some weight and shows the ability to guard at the 5), worth $12 million a year?


Even if you throw all the other stuff out of the window, Asik averaged just 7.3 points and 9.8 rebounds last year. In a potentially decreased role, just how far will his numbers plummet? Under Gentry, will we get a replay of the team’s first-round matchup with the Warriors?

Shield your eyes, if so. Golliver has more on that:
In the playoffs, it became clear very quickly that Asik was a major weak link during New Orleans's first-round series loss to Golden State. His presence on the court allowed the Warriors to ignore him and pay extra attention to Davis whenever they wanted. He also didn't engage with the necessary energy and determination on defense.

Asik somehow managed to register just two field goals and zero blocks in 79 minutes during the series, and New Orleans was outscored by 36 points with him on the court. It was a full-out disaster, and the 28-year-old Asik isn't going to magically develop a better feel for the game over the course of this next deal. Williams responded to Asik's struggles by going smaller, a natural adjustment that the pace-loving Gentry is sure to consider as well.

In a run-and-gun, up-and-down attack, Asik will struggle. Some will point to his 10.1-point, 11.7-rebound season in 2012-13 with the Houston Rockets, but he also played 30 minutes a game. Was his increased production a sign of proficiency in the offense, or was it because he was the only serviceable player inside?

Ajinca, a lanky 7-footer with a sweet offensive touch, is a better fit under Gentry, and he came at a price (four years, $20 million) that will more than slice Asik’s yearly check in half.

Why throw money at the former Rocket when holes like a three-and-D wing or scoring off the bench could’ve been addressed? Demps abandoned his constantly active strategy that helped get the team to the playoffs last year when he decided to “bring the band back together.”

And next year and beyond, he’s going to pay for it.

The Road Ahead

Everyone loves to point to the salary cap increase as an explanation for everything.

Had NOLA not gone in on Asik, might the team have a chance to actually use some of that newfound space next summer when Anderson and Gordon both come off the books?

Think about a player like DeMar DeRozan, an explosive scoring guard capable of lighting the league on fire alongside Davis. Think about Kevin Durant. Think about the possibilities.

And now, think about what the team will do if Demps continues on the path he’s currently walking: re-sign everyone.

Here’s what the GM told Eichenhofer:
I was once told that when you have chemistry and magic, you can’t put it on paper. Once you have it, you better keep it. But then you always weigh that risk of, do you think you can get better chemistry (by making changes)? We really liked watching the way our guys played together last season, playing with a sense of desperation and urgency (during a 25-16 second half of 2014-15 to reach the West playoffs).

We feel building our team, keeping them together and fostering continuity is going to be very important. The guys like each other and the city of New Orleans. They’ve embraced the opportunities. We felt like they want to be here.

Thing is, Asik might not want to be in New Orleans if Gentry plops him on the bench and/or uses him sparingly. Once Dwight Howard’s arrival booted him from Houston’s starting lineup, he wanted out.

Golliver agrees Asik's history with demotions doesn't bode well for his relationship with New Orleans:
At his last stop, in Houston, Asik wound up pouting for months on the bench when Dwight Howard took his starting job. If Gentry eventually decides to use Asik more situationally, in favor of smaller lineups, how will Asik respond? That's not a question you want to be asking about an eight-figure investment, especially one who so badly shrank from the moment in the playoffs.

Even when accounting for the increased salary cap, the value just doesn't seem to be there. Moving on, or at least driving a much harder bargain, should have been the play here.

This pairing seems destined for a split via trade, just like what happened in Houston. Perhaps the Pelicans would get something out of the deal then.

But perhaps they could’ve gotten more had they not even bothered with Asik in the first place, and instead addressed other areas of the roster.

Stats are accurate courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com. Contract info is sourced from HoopsHype.

Read more New Orleans Pelicans news on BleacherReport.com

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