The Celtics are one [of] 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.
Because Asik is a restricted free agent, the the Bulls are entitled to match any offer he receives. Ordinarily, that would make it difficult for a team like the Celtics to pry him away, but Boston may actually have a chance in this instance.
Between Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, Chicago has some massive long-term contracts on its books.
Though keeping Asik in the fold would be ideal, it may be prohibitively expensive given his potential impact on the organization’s luxury taxes. And, with Noah starting at center, it’s hard to imagine the franchise coughing up much dough to retain a backup center.
In truth, Asik is good enough to start for a number of teams, and the Celtics know that.
Boston also has the cap space to force Chicago into making a tough decision. With a handful of contracts coming off the books, the Celtics could offer Asik well in excess of $5 million while still signing Garnett—and potentially another solid free agent—to a lucrative deal.
The 25-year-old hasn’t put up stunning numbers in his two seasons with the Bulls, but nor has he had the playing time in which to do so. It’s telling, however, that he averaged over five rebounds in just under 15 minutes a game this year.
He’s also an above-average defender who should only improve with a more significant role.
Boston has long needed a center after its recent experiments with the likes of Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal sputtered out with their aging bodies.
Asik may not have All-Star potential, but he’s a safe option with his best years ahead of him. Most importantly, he would allow the 36-year-old Garnett to return to his natural position at power forward.
On the offensive end of the floor, Garnett has benefited from facing off against slower opposition. With big men often reluctant to leave the paint and put a hand in KG’s face, open jumpers from the top of the key became commonplace.
Forcing Garnett to defend those opposing centers has been another story, however.
Bodying up against those heavier bodies in the post unquestionably takes its toll. As spry as Garnett looked throughout the duration of the postseason, he’s surely uninterested in taking his chances over the course of a full 82-game season.
Asik would take that defensive burden off of Garnett’s shoulder and lessen the need for him to battle for rebounds in the paint.
In short, Asik may be able to extend Garnett’s career by another two or three years, at least if Garnett is willing.
With an improved frontcourt rotation, he’s far more likely to be.
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