The free agency interest train got rolling out of the station ahead of schedule yesterday, as rumors of the C’s interest in Bulls big man Omer Asik took off, thanks to this nugget in a column by Sam Smith of Bulls.com:
The Celtics are one the teams said to be considering a strong offer to Bulls center Asik. The thinking is it might help them retain Kevin Garnett, who though playing very well at center the second half of the season doesn’t want to return as a center.
Now I want to make a couple things clear here before this thing spins out of control. Would Asik be a nice fit on the C’s? Without a doubt. Numbers-wise he’s a top 10 rebounder in the league (by offensive and defensive rebounding rate) during last year’s regular season. He hits the defensive glass as hard as KG and he grabbed 14.9 percent of available offensive rebounds last year when he was on the floor, which comes close to topping the C’s team offensive rebounding rate (I wish I was kidding about that).
Asik is also a strong defensive center, and while he is limited on the offensive end with his production (just 3.7 ppg last season) that low number was a big byproduct of playing just under 15 minutes a game.
With all that said, the chances of Asik coming to Boston are virtually slim-to-none if Garnett returns in a Celtics uniform. The reason? Money and cap room.
There’s lots of talk about how the C’s have plenty of cap room this offseason (up to 22 million actually), and that’s true to a degree. However, that cap room is predicated on the C’s not retaining all of their own players in free agency including Garnett and renouncing those cap holds and in turn, bird rights on the likes of Ray Allen, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass etc. You want big money to spend on the likes of a promising big man like Asik? Be prepared to say goodbye to all of those guys listed from playing in green, adding to the holes on this team’s roster for next season.
Now if Garnett and company sign a big hometown discount, that changes matters, but that’s not a situation I, nor the Celtics are probably counting on.
The other complicating factor here is the fact the 26-year-old Turkish center is a restricted free agent. That means Chicago has the right to match any offer given to him within three days by another team and retain him for that price, giving them a pretty strong advantage in free agency if they like Asik (indications are they do).
If you look at Chicago’s situation heading into this offseason, they are well over the salary cap (and proposed luxury tax) already and will likely only have the mini mid-level (3 million) dollars to spend in free agency. With so little to spend, retaining their own players becomes even more important, making the likelihood of them allowing a guy like Asik sign elsewhere very slim, unless another team grossly overpays him. That kind of overpay scenario is something Danny Ainge is unlikely to do, for someone as limited offensively as Asik is.
The C’s will bring in veteran and youthful bigs this offseason to help their aging core in the rebounding department. Due to the circumstances I just described though, chances are Asik won’t be that guy, especially if Garnett returns to the fold.