For the interim, the Houston Rockets have halted their efforts in trading center Omer Asik, citing the lack of compensation they expected when they decided to trade him. The team placed a Thursday deadline to trade Asik, but after trade talks, decided to keep him for the foreseeable future. After a 2012 season that saw Asik average 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds in 82 games for an upstart Houston Rockets team, Asik found himself on the bench, after the team acquired Dwight Howard in the offseason. Even in his small role this season, Asik has still found himself valuable, allowing just 43.2 percent on shots at the rim, per NBA.com’s player tracking. The teams that were interested in acquiring Asik were the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats, and Boston Celtics.
Rim protection is a very important thing in the NBA, and for a slightly above-average price, Asik provides just that. While tanking, Philadelphia could both use his rebounding and defense in the interior, currently ranking in the bottom tier in both rebounding and defense. The 76ers can also handle Asik’s 15 million dollar payout in 2015, as they continue to revamp the roster with draft picks. The Phoenix Suns looked to be lottery bound, but thanks to the duo of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, the Suns are looking to make a splash. This past week, the Suns revealed that they were willing to give up one of their 2014 draft picks for the right guy, and Asik fits the profile, especially with Channing Frye spacing the floor at the power forward position. The Charlotte Bobcats don’t have a shooter at the power forward, but they do have a top four defense, and the addition of Asik would reaffirm that defensive commitment.
The Celtics…well, that’s where I’m intrigued.
On the surface, the Celtics would be a nice fit for Asik, and the Celtics should push more to acquire him. Boston currently ranks 11th in the league in defensive efficiency and 17th in rebounding percentage, two statistics that would definitely improve with the addition of Asik to their lineup. Along with his defensive contributions, Asik also allows Boston’s offense to offer a different look as well. For starters, Asik would help them on the offensive rebound front, as Boston ranks 17th in the league in offensive rebounding percentage. Without Rondo, Boston can play a stronger shooting lineup, much like Houston last season. For stretches, I can see Boston going with Jordan Crawford, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, and Omer Asik, as three of the five (Crawford, Bradley, and Green) shoot over 38% from three, while Sullinger operates in the middle of the floor, shooting 52% from mid-range this season.
With Rondo is where the intrigue lies. Neither Rondo nor Asik are great shooters, which causes problems in the NBA. Still, Rondo’s return would help the team defensively, and the Celtics would have to supply this duo with lineups with shooters surrounding them to work. Along with Bradley, Green, and Crawford, the Celtics also have Courtney Lee as another defender/shooter for any potential Rondo-Asik lineup. The Celtics have just that, and if Brad Stevens can find that correct balance on the floor, maybe it can offset the fact that neither guy can shoot outside of 10 feet.
When you dig deeper, the potential acquisition of Asik has to make you wonder what the Celtics think of the current trajectory of the team. Perhaps they feel that Rondo’s impending return, combined with Asik’s defense and timely team offense; that could push Boston into the playoffs, if not win the lowly Atlantic Division. At 11-15, Boston leads the Atlantic, but with Toronto just one game out, and Brooklyn on the verge of clicking and getting healthy, the Celtics might not hold onto that position for long, and that muddles things for Boston’s playoff chances. Still, Boston projected to be much better than expected in a lowly Eastern Conference, and adding Asik and Rondo would certainly allow them to claim one of the playoff spots in the East.
Still, I can’t help but think that the move of Asik would be skipping a step in the “rebuilding” process. If I was Boston, my first priority would be eliminating some of the long-term contracts off my books, in hopes of acquiring more cap space in 2015, 2016, and moving forward. Excluding Rajon Rondo (not on the table) and Gerald Wallace (awful contract with 30 million dollars owed over two years), the Celtics have Brandon Bass (one-year, 7 million after this year), Courtney Lee (two years, 11 million), and Jeff Green (player’s option at one-year, 9 million) left. In the Asik trade talks, the Celtics were believed to be giving up Jeff Green, but it was rumored that the deal was Bass, Lee, and a first-round pick. Either way, the Celtics have a couple of contracts to unload before the actual rebuild into a constant title contender.
Overall, the Celtics would be a nice fit for Asik, and I would like to see him in Boston, but if the Celtics did acquire him, it would seem like they’re skipping a step in the process. After the “Big Three” era, the Celtics should probably rejuvenate the roster with young talent first, then acquire the outskirts of the roster. That being said, the Celtics have amassed two major components to rebuilding this last offseason. The first was hiring Brad Stevens to take over for Doc Rivers, and in a short amount of time, he’s received the praise of being a very good coach. The second was amassing a boatload of draft picks. Including their own picks, the Celtics have additional first round picks in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018, thanks to the previously mentioned trades. Those picks will allow Boston to fill out their roster with cheap talent, or move them for future picks. Those two major components allow Boston to engage in Omer Asik talks, but I think they should remove those other contracts off the books first, and then come around to making the moves for contention.
*We’ve seen conflicting reports. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports have been adamant in reporting the Celtics have interest in Asik, even going as far as saying the talk between the two teams were “heating up”. Meanwhile, Celtics beat writers and reporters have claimed otherwise, saying that the talks “never got off the ground”*
*Statistics provided from NBA.com’s Media Site and NBA.com’s Player Tracking*