Restricted access: Bad news for C's

July, 1, 2012
7/01/12
9:07
PM ET
While the Celtics have a lot to be encouraged by early in the free-agency process, action elsewhere around the league might have provided a dose of bad news for the team on Sunday night. Before we spoil the surprise of this exercise, let's play a game with an anonymous player comparison:

Player A: 3.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1 bpg, 14.7 mpg, 50.6 FG%, 45.6 FT%, 66 games (2 starts)
Player B: 2.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 13.9 mpg, 54.5 FG%, 70.7 FT%, 55 games (3 starts)

Pretty similar, right? Now just check out these basic per-36 minute numbers.

Player A: 7.6 ppg, 13 rpg, 2.5 bpg
Player B: 7.6 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 4 bpg

And just in case you were wondering about some advanced metrics:

Player A: 13.4 PER, 20.1 REB%, 5 BLOCK%, 25.2 TO%; Ratings: 97 offensive, 92 defensive
Player B: 13.6 PER, 13.6 REB%, 8.5 BLOCK%, 19.2 TO%; Ratings: 107 offensive, 90 defensive

Ready for the bad news, Celtics fans? (After the jump).

Yoon S. Byun/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesGreg Stiemsma might benefit from the offer sheet that Omer Asik got from Houston.
Player A is Chicago Bulls second-year center Omer Asik. Player B is Celtics rookie center Greg Stiemsma. Both are restricted free agents this summer.

Asik owns a $2.3 million qualifying offer from Chicago, but Sunday night agreed to sign a three-year, $25 million offer sheet from the Houston Rockets that includes a whopping $15 million base salary in the final season.

Stiemsma owns a $1.05 million qualifying offer from Boston and visited with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday to kick off free agency. You can't help but wonder if some aggressive offer sheets -- maybe not to the level of Asik, but certainly more than Boston would prefer to spend for a backup center -- might tumble in soon.

Don't misinterpret. Asik is a phenomenal rebounder, far better in that aspect of the game than Stiemsma at this point. Asik is also 10 months younger and has an additional year of experience under his belt, but their stat lines are alarmingly similar.

And before you bark about how good Asik is defensively, hear us out. There's no denying Asik's talents on the defensive end. Of all NBA players with at least 250 defensive possessions against them last season, he ranked No. 1 allowing a mere 0.653 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data.

Stiemsma? He ranked No. 7 at 0.711 points per play and often was the first big off the bench to spell Kevin Garnett, so it's not like his numbers were overly inflated by sharing court time with Boston's defensive anchor (it did help that Stiemsma and Brandon Bass worked together often, as Bass and KG were two of the six players ahead of Stiemsma).

The point here isn't to suggest that Stiemsma deserves a $25 million offer sheet. You can question Houston's decision to throw that much money at Asik, even if that third year would put the Bulls in a tough spot if they decided to match the offer.

But you can make the case that a young, defensive-minded center like Stiemsma deserves a quality raise over that $1.05 million offer sheet he holds. It would be much easier for the Celtics to get him to ink that than have to fend off a long-term, quality-money offer from a team with enough cap space to give him a modest boost. If another team came in and offered even two years and $4 million, that's the biannual exception, which could be a nice chip to lure another outside free agent.

The Celtics also are in a tough spot because they don't own Stiemsma's rights, limiting the raise they can offer without using an exception given that they are over the cap.

Remember, too, that Stiemsma played much of his rookie season in pain, so much so that there was fear he might need surgery on his foot after the season (he won't, as doctors believe rest and rehab will be enough to get him healthy again).

The Celtics found a diamond in the D-League rough last year and Stiemsma made incredible strides in a shortened season in which he didn't have much in the way of practice time. It's a good gamble for a team to spend some money to bring him in and hope he can continue to blossom.

The question is how much will it be worth for Boston to keep him around?

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Jeff Green
PTS AST STL MIN
18.7 1.6 0.9 33.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Sullinger 7.9
AssistsJ. Nelson 7.0
StealsJ. Nelson 2.5
BlocksK. Olynyk 0.8