Dec 2, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Houston Rockets center Omer Asik (3) reacts to a call during the first half against the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
Last week, the trade rumors about Omer Asik started to die down as Daryl Morey’s asking price was just too high for the rest of the NBA. Morey has been praised over the years for being one of the better GMs in the league–even if he’s borderline crazy.
I mean, Morey was the guy who kept moving parts on the Houston Rockets for years without worrying about his job security. That takes a lot of guts to do, but now look at him. In less than a year’s time, Morey gained two superstar players on his team in James Harden and Dwight Howard. He’s drafted one of the more underrated players in the NBA in Chandler Parsons, and he’s now got one of the best defensive players in the league to dangle just outside the reach of the rest of the NBA–for now.
Asik is a wildly sought after prize by the rest of the NBA and that’s because of his defensheive prowess. The Boston Celtics were reported to be a hot candidate for a landing spot for Asik. I’m sure that that’s something Brad Stevens could appreciate because he’d finally be able to blitz more in pick and rolls. Because of their lack of rim protecting, defensive big men, the Celtics have had to play a softer style of defense by sagging back into the paint and trying to keep opponents in the middle of the floor.
The Celtics have a top 10 scoring efficiency defense, which is great for a first year coach’s system. No doubt, Ron Adams has a lot to do with the success of the Celtics current system. But Stevens and Adams have both made it clear in the past that they’d like to blitz pick and rolls a bit more. In an interview with Grantland’s powerhouse writer, Zach Lowe, Stevens talked about his lack of blitzing this season.
"Zach Lowe: You’ve made one massive change from how Doc Rivers coached. On his Boston teams, the big man guarding screeners on pick-and-rolls would jump out aggressively on those plays — really attack the point guard above the 3-point arc. You’re having the big guys on this team drop back more consistently than almost any team in the league. Have you always been a “drop” guy? Or is it just something you thought would fit this team?Brad Stevens: I’ve never dropped in my life. Thirteen straight years of hard showing and blitzing.ZL: What changed?BS: Looking at what I thought would be most effective long term, in large part because of study, and because of hiring a guy like [lead assistant] Ron Adams, and listening to what he thought was the best bet for our team. That was really hard for me. You’re coming into a new situation, and you’re not coaching what you’re comfortable with. It’s a double whammy. But Ron is really good at it, and [assistants] Jamie [Young] and Jay [Larranaga] have been here. Walter [McCarty] has been here in the NBA as a coach and a player. The more we looked at it, and the more we looked at our team, we just thought it was a good thing. Our guards can get into the ball, and our bigs are really bright on the back line covering for one another."
With Asik, they’d be able to do just that. Having a rim protecting presence or athletic perimeter defenders is essential to any system where you blitz pick and roll attacks. Asik probably wouldn’t cure their lack of mobility on defense, but he’d allow them to gamble on defense more often and that’s what Stevens would like to do.
But even with that positive, bringing in Asik wouldn’t be worth it for the C’s. Any deal that the Celtics make, they’d be able to dump salary for a piece that would likely be around for the future–that’s something that I’m always behind. They’d likely be getting Courtney Lee or Brandon Bass’s contract off of their books. They’d likely have to come up off of one of their future firsts, but for Asik’s defensive presence that could potentially be worth it. That saves them somewhere around $3 million next season.
But Asik’s offensive presence is something that clearly needs to be catered to if you’re going to have him on your roster. When Asik was a starter for the Houston Rockets, he averaged 10.1 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game. That point number should’ve been higher on such a high octane offense. He averaged 30 minutes per game on the highest paced team in the league. The Rockets averaged 96.3 possessions per game.
The Rockets didn’t suffer any with Asik on the court offensively, but that’s more than likely because of the strong offensive weapons that they had in every other facet of the game. The Boston Celtics don’t have those same weapons, and they’d likely have to give up a few offensive pieces to get him. The Celtics already have one of the worse offenses in the league. They don’t have a James Harden or a Chandler Parsons on this roster. Their best offensive players have been Jared Sullinger, Jordan Crawford and Jeff Green on occasion. Taking on an anchor like Asik would be a huge risk.
The Celtics only average 92.9 possessions per 48 minutes–a shade under three less than the Rockets last season. They rank 23rd in offensive efficiency only averaging 102.3 points per 100 possessions. On such a slow paced, offensively challenged team, Asik would be required to do much more than just rebound and put the ball back offensively. He’d have to position himself around the bucket in the right ways and possibly take some work in the post–something that he’s terrible at.
He doesn’t have the best hands offensively and tends to turn it over offensively. Last season, Asik had a turnover percentage of 19.8%–a figure that is incredibly high for a center. And that was with a usage percentage of only 16.4%. It’s not usually a good sign when there’s such a discrepancy between those two figures. In some unique cases, that’s alright, but Asik is never creating anything on the offensive end himself. Having such a low usage rate and high turnover rate with a low assist percentage shows that Asik does very little on the offensive end to help his team. That’s the true end that the Celtics need help on this season–especially without Rajon Rondo.
Omer Asik is a very valuable piece on any roster because of his defensive presence, but the Celtics already have a top 10 defense. There’s really no need to go all out for a rim protector at such a high price when your defense isn’t in jeopardy. We’ll see what move the Celtics choose to make on this front once talks heat up again. The Rockets certainly aren’t finished dealing with the rest of the league, and I’m sure that any other franchise would love Omer Asik. The asking price for Asik must come down, though, before anything else is to happen.