Dig Baton Rouge

Big Question for the Big Man

By Casey Gisclair

The New Orleans Pelicans have a very big decision to make this upcoming offseason.

And it all centers around the big fella in the middle – post player Omer Asik.

You see, Asik is a free agent this coming summer and he’ll be free to sign with any team of his choosing. Asik has said in the papers throughout the year that he likes New Orleans and would be open to continuing his career with the team.

But at what cost? That’s the question that needs to be pondered inside and out inside the Pels’ front office facility in the coming months as the season wraps up and the offseason nears.

The Asik decision is a big one for the Pelicans and their future – a move that could have resonating impacts on the team’s roster for years to come. Winning this decision could be the domino that makes or breaks the team’s quest to push into the top eight of the Western Conference in the future.

The reason why this move is so crucial is because of New Orleans’ salary cap situation and the structure of the NBA.

If the Pels resign Asik at a long-term contract for a salary upwards of 8-10 million per season (what experts say Asik could command on the open market), it means that General Manager Dell Demps is satisfied with his current roster and believes that this core can survive and win playoff series in the future.

Think about it.

The Pels are already right at the salary cap line. Taking on Asik long-term and at thick money will keep them there at the cap line for a long, long time. Assuming the team re-ups Asik and factoring in that Tyreke Evans is on the books for a while and Anthony Davis about to be due a huge pay raise, the Pelicans will not be in a position to add significant salary through free agent signings for about a half-decade.

That would give Demps just the trade wire and the NBA Draft to make significant adjustments to the Pelicans’ core.

I’m not necessarily saying that’s a bad thing, but that is the reality of what would happen if the team made the decision to bring Asik back.

If New Orleans decides against Asik or if the Pels get outbid for the center’s services, then Demps’ options grow a little.

Asik is an $8.3 million salary cap hit this season – a number that will be coming off the books. If Asik goes elsewhere, New Orleans can use all of that money to get a new player on the market. Or it could possibly splice the cash up into two or three pieces and give the roster some depth.

Instead of Asik, maybe the team could find a stop-gap center for cheap and use the extra money to find an athletic wing? Maybe that’s the way to go?

Again – we’re not picking sides, we’re merely giving everyone something to think about.

But no matter how it’s sliced, the decision regarding Asik’s future will be the No. 1 thing on Demps’ to-do list when this summer rolls around.

When he’s at his best, Asik is an elite defensive center that can eat up the glass and have a huge impact on games. That’s why he will command such a high salary on the open market. But, of course, he’s also a bit of an albatross offensively and isn’t much of a low-post threat – the reason why some folks think the team would maybe be better of passing on the 28-year-old center.

Of course, the Pelicans may also get a blessing in disguise if Eric Gordon opts out of the final year of his contract this summer and opts to become a free agent.

But let’s not get carried away – that’s not happening.

There’s no way in heck Gordon can make big-dollar money on the open market like he’s making in New Orleans.

To Asik or not to Asik? That is the question.

Its answer will give a peak into the team’s future.


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