Over the weekend, Marc Stein reported that he kept hearing that the Boston Celtics were a team to watch in the auction for Houston Rockets Center Omer Asik. Later this evening, additional reports surfaced that the Houston Rockets were interested in Jeff Green.
With these reports in mind, I thought it would be of value to take a deeper look into Omer Asik, and what he could mean to the future of the Boston Celtics.
The first thing one should question is if the Boston Celtics could acquire Omer Asik for Jeff Green. the more I think about it, the more I can't escape the thought that the answer is a resounding 'yes.'
The Houston Rockets are done with Omer Asik. He, pretty predictably, has been a terrible fit alongside Dwight Howard and he has absolutely no interest at returning to a backup role. Because of this, not only have the Rockets made him available they've gone straight e-bay on the situation, apparently telling teams that they'll take whatever the best bid is on Asik on November 19th. And while it's still to be determined, the Rockets seem unlikely to accept my offer involving this autographed picture of Nicolas Cage.
The Rockets are interested in Green's services for good reason; Capable of filling a few of their holes, Green's a pretty ideal fit for them. As a power forward, he spreads the floor for Howard to operate while giving the team another race horse to run with in transition. His versatility allows for the Rockets to play him at the 3, giving them the first semblance of perimeter defense they've seen in a while. And while his rebounding numbers leaves something to be desired, one could easily see Dwight Howard making up for Green's shortcomings.
So while Omer Asik's cap hit is only about 8.3 million dollars, whatever team that takes him on will need to pay Asik somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 million dollars next season. While Asik's talents are apparent, that's a pretty difficult pill for a potential owner to swallow: Especially for a guy who isn't selling tickets.
What I haven't been able to figure out, and what could be an absolute deal breaker for the Boston Celtics is what number is used to determine the luxury tax hit. With the Celtics just squeaking under the line now, the 15 million dollar number would put the Celtics about 7 million dollars over the luxury tax line. With an estimated penalty of 2:1, essentially the Celtics would have to pay 22 million dollars for the services of Omer Asik.
I suspect that wouldn't be the case, though. And if it's not, a Asik for Green swap would make next to no difference to the team's current situation as their cap hits are nearly identical.
That brings us to our next point, what exactly does he bring?
What Omer Asik is, is clear: He is a 7 foot tall, rim protector, who rebounds the ball at an exceptional rate (11 rebounds in 30 minutes a contest last season).
On the subject of rim protection, a clarification: Asik isn't necessarily a great shot blocker. Last season, Asik only averaged 1.1 blocks a game. That's obviously not a horrible number by any means, but it certainly isn't elite.
He is however, an elite defensive player overall. He's strong on the ball, and while he's not the fleetest of foot, rotates to help really well. Where he makes the biggest impact though, is in the pick and roll game.
While the following videos are from his days with the Bulls, they do a great job of showing what makes Asik so special on the defensive end:
As you can see, he does a very good job hedging off the pick, staying far back enough to where he could recover on the roll, while cutting off any easy penetration from the ball handler. When the ball handler does attempt penetration, he does an incredible job staying between him and the hoop. Adjusting to cuts well, and using his length to contest any shot.
The following video speaks to his ability to recover. As I said above, he does a great job falling back enough just far enough where he's both able to stop penetration, but also recover to the roll man. For more on his defense, this post on NBA.com by Jason Friedman is really worth reviewing. He does an excellent job breaking everything down.
Offensively? Asik's nothing to write home about.
That isn't to say he's poor, he's just isn't particularly good. While a shot chart isn't always the greatest barometer of a player's talent, it's a pretty good indication of what Asik's capable of. You'll quickly find out why.
It's not just that he doesn't shoot well from outside, he doesn't shoot, period. Of no interest to him. Like me listening to a song by the Cardigan's that isn't called 'Love Fool', or an attractive female weathercaster being asked out by a colleague. No thanks. For reference, even Kendrick Perkins took more midrange shots (and at a higher percentage).
Knowing his limitations isn't a bad thing by any means, but it's important to remember just how limited his offensive game is.
What's most concerning about Asik's offense is that he has a bit of a reputation of having pretty poor hands. To the point where at least one Chicago writer believes that it was a big reason why the Bulls opted against matching the Rockets bid last summer. While that's highly debatable, it should be a real concern for Celtics fans who hope to see their team acquire Asik
Although Rajon Rondo's jump shot looked to improve last season, it still needs a good deal of work. Scoring at a high rate with two players with such limited range for their respected position is a challenge in itself, combining that with a few turnovers because Asik couldn't handle Rondo's (occasionally difficult to handle) passes could make for some truly ugly basketball.
While some will be quick to point out that this wouldn't be Rondo's first stint with a center who has issues handling passes, it should be noted that the Boston Celtics finished in the bottom third in offensive production on multiple occasions when Kendrick Perkins was at center on this team (and that was with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett).
That being said, in my eyes - eyes that have watched a lot of Kendrick Perkins, and admittedly not nearly as much Omer Asik - Asik's hands seem to be a lot better, and he's much more capable in the pick and roll game. For reference, here's a look at his 21 point, 11 rebound effort in the playoffs last season against the Thunder that show what Asik can do.
So, what's the verdict?
It's a difficult 'yes,' though I think the Rockets would have to make the package a little more attractive. Chris Mannix, who was in Boston to help out on pre and post game is reporting that the Celtics have 'no interest' in a swap. My guess is that could change if the Rockets were willing to include surging prospect Terrence Jones, or agreed to take on Courtney Lee's salary.
While he isn't the sexiest of players Asik is what Jeff Green isn't: He has a definitive position, and serves a definitive role. That position, is an increasingly difficult position to fill and he plays a role that the Celtics really need. If Wyc and Co. are willing to pay his price tag, it's at least worth seeing the impact an elite defensive talent could bring to Brad Stevens' team.
And part of that's because I think we've seen enough of Jeff Green to be able to determine what he is. He's an overqualified role player. He's an exceptionally gifted, a pretty good defender, and he can't be relied on in a scoring role on a nightly basis. Capable of putting a contending team over the top, not capable of carrying a team.
My concern is giving up our top chip for Asik, whose a really nice player but not much more. While a player like Greg Monroe is probably a pipe dream at best, losing Green all but kills that, and really another 'dream trade' scenarios. It's worth noting that Asik's maligned ending with the Rockets will likely make him a challenge to repackage.
I'd much prefer the Celtics to try to sell Houston on Bass, but I can't see Houston biting on that package.
Should the Celtics trade for Asik? You be the JUDGE
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MattDotRich 12/17/2013 08:00:00 AM Tweet