It is no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers would like to add a true center to their roster. Presently, the 6’11”, 260-pound scrappy Brazilian, Anderson Varejao, has been manning both the center and power forward roles for the Cavs. However, the 30-year-old Varejao has missed the final three months each of the past three seasons. His last healthy campaign was 2009-10 season when he played 76 games. Unfortunately, the Cavs have not had a suitable backup to step in during his absences.
The Cavs could have drafted a center during the 2013 NBA Draft but opted to fill other needs instead. Losing 6’10” center/power forward Marreese Speights, who opted out of his contract for the 2013-14 season, only further complicates the picture for the team. Essentially, the only options at center currently on the Cavs roster are the 7’0″, 250-pound center Tyler Zeller and the undersized Tristan Thompson, who stands at 6’9″ and weighs in at 230 pounds.
Given that most clubs highly value their big men, the market has been somewhat quiet when it comes to centers. However, an opportunity may be presenting itself in Houston. Center Omer Asik is perhaps the only Houston Rockets player who is not thrilled with the signing of Dwight Howard as a free agent. Asik knows that he has lost the starting role that he enjoyed last season and has demanded a trade. Houston has responded that it doesn’t want to move him, but that could just be posturing in order to maximize their return for him.
Asik is a 27-year-old seven-foot, 255-pound center who was drafted in 2008 by the Portland Trailblazers out of the Turkish basketball league, where he played for Fenerbahçe, as well as the Turkish National Team. In 2010, Asik played a key role in leading that team to a silver medal, ultimately losing to the United States National Team in the gold medal round. The 32nd selection of the NBA draft, he was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls in a three-team swap. Based on his fine play in the Olympic games, Chicago offered him a contract in July of 2010 and brought him to camp.
Asik played for two seasons in Chicago, honing his offensive game and free throw shooting skills. At the end of the 2012 season, Asik became a restricted free agent, signing a three-year, $25.1 million contract with the Houston Rockets. Chicago could have matched the deal and retained his services, but he opted not to, sending Asik to Houston. During the season, Asik set a career record for rebounds with 22 (six offensive) in a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in February. He also set a career high in points with 22 in January in a loss to the Indian Pacers.
Personally, I believe that Omer Asik is exactly what the Cavs need. He is a defense-first, high energy center that will protect the basket and the middle of the floor. His offensive game is still developing, but he does have skills to build upon. He has worked under the tutelage of Kevin McHale for the past year. McHale’s offensive game as a player featured excellent post footwork. I can’t see Asik playing for him for a season and not picking some of it up.
Personally, I believe that the Rockets are bluffing about not wanting to trade him. Immediately after meeting with Howard last week, the team announced that both Asik and Jeremy Lin were both on the block, as Howard had requested them to sign another max contract player. So obviously, Asik is not untouchable. Asik is insurance against Howard’s back problems, but expensive insurance. Asik’s game is not complimentary to that of Dwight Howard. Their style of play would not blend well with the two of them clogging up the lane on offense.
I believe that this is Daryl Morey playing the cards to his advantage, driving up the price for his asset. The less inclined he appears to be in trading Asik, the more other teams will be willing to pay for his services. Chris Grant is a pretty fair card player himself, so I don’t think that he will be buying any part of Morey’s mirage. It should get interesting moving forward. Let’s hope that Grant can deliver a major defensive tool to coach Mike Brown to craft his defense around.