DON'T LET STATISTICS FOOL YOU, MATCH ROCKETS' OFFER FOR ASIK
You can't judge Omer Asik by his offensive statistics. That's not just a Tom Thibodeau PR pitch, it's obvious to anyone who watches the Bulls on a regular basis. If you dig into the numbers, his value skyrockets.
Asik's value certainly wasn't lessened by his sloppy hands, as evidenced by Houston's aggressive contract offer to the restricted free agent. Will Asik be worth $14-$15 million in a few years? When you put a number on it, it's hard to argue, because the Bulls have such big contracts already.
But the Bulls haven't dominated the regular season on star power alone. The second-team defense was as vital as any one player. It was obvious how good Asik and Taj Gibson are by the faith Tom Thibodeau has in them at the end of the game. And Thibodeau, an old-school coach with advanced statistics street cred, knows who is good. Hardcore Bulls watchers know the truth: Asik is a better isolation defender than Joakim Noah.
That's why the Bulls are thinking long and hard about matching the Rockets' offer, which seems ridiculous on its face.
Houston general manager Daryl Morey is on the forefront of the advanced statistics charge in the NBA and he must have salivated over Asik's defensive page on the Synergy Sports website.
I won't bore you with a parade of numbers and acronyms, but let's just say his overall rating is "Excellent." Asik, who showed great footwork and discipline as a one-on-one defender, led the NBA in one of the most respected individual defensive stats with a .653 Points Per Play (total points per play divided by number of plays) number. As a big defender on the pick and roll (which accounted for 46 percent of his playing time), that number is even better at .631. He's also ranked excellent defending jump shots and shots around the basket (not post-ups).
Asik lost some valuable coaching time during last year's lockout, and with some Berto Center reps with one of the best teaching staffs in the NBA, his offensive game will improve.
Derrick Rose's return will key the Bulls' championship hopes, but if there's no depth or defense, what team will he return to?
I hope the Bulls keep Asik, costs be damned.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
ASIK FINE PLAYER, BUT NOT WORTH BUSTING BUDGET
A very smart general manager once said -- and was then plagiarized a couple thousand times -- that you never fall in love with your athletes. Unless, of course, their names are Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose or any other where a first name alone will suffice.
Otherwise, it might be easy to attach greater value to, say, an Omer Asik than is necessary.
Asik is a nice player, a good soldier. Mostly, he is a 7-foot player who can move, play defense and block shots. That's a luxury and Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau will hate losing him. And the bench mob, which probably wasn't going to be the same anyway, will never be quite the same.
But Asik was a liability offensively, has epically terrible hands, is a poor free-throw shooter and there are all kinds of big guys who can do that for them. I'd almost give up three inches and 15 years and get Kurt Thomas back rather than muck up the entire salary cap.
The decision is almost entirely a financial one, even Gar Forman will admit to that, and tough to justify when the Bulls could end up paying Asik more in the third year of his contract (potentially $14.9 million), than Joakim Noah. Let the Houston Rockets, with the help of Kevin McHale, reconcile that.
In the meantime, while Rose works to return to his old form, the Bulls need to worry about what to do with Luol Deng, sign some free agents and take care of Taj Gibson, who can also back up Noah and continues to improve, something Asik did not do last season.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.