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Chicago Bulls Offseason Questions: Omer Asik is worth the large price

You're the best (of what's left over) arah-ound!  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
You're the best (of what's left over) arah-ound! (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Omer Asik is a restricted free agent and yfBB laid out the options for the Bulls. It likely cost the Bulls $5 million to keep Asik for next season, but for a longer and more expensive deal than he may seem to be worth, presenting a dilemma: the Bulls can't really afford to keep him, but they moreso can't afford to lose him.

When looking around the NBA over the last decade, one can get flabbergasted at the tens of millions that bums get because they're seven-footers. It can be a complete mindrape to even see that guys like Darko Milicic and Eddy Curry even land spots on NBA rosters, let alone the fact that just about every NBA center between their rookie contract and hanging onto the ends of benches made over $5 million in 2011-12.

Asik may not not replaceable

Tim Duncan (unrestricted), Spencer Hawes, and Roy Hibbert (restricted) aren't going anywhere [some would disagree on Hawes, but maybe these playoffs change things -yfbb]. If Brook Lopez (R) isn't a Net next season, it'll be a sign-and-trade. What you're left with is a group of a specific type of player that all NBA teams need where the best un-signed option is: Javale McGee (R). Because of this, McGee will make a lot -- and I mean dozens of millions of dollars over the next three or four years wherever he goes.

The available centers for the Bulls to replace Asik are, according to (R=restricted free agent): Jason Collins, Greg Stiemsma (R), Ryan Hollins, Semih Erden, Brian Cardinal, Ian Mahinmi, Yi Jianlian, JaVale McGee (R), Ben Wallace, Marcus Camby, Roy Hibbert (R), Kyrylo Fesenko, Jordan Hill, Marreese Speights, Hamed Haddadi, Eddy Curry, Juwan Howard, Ronny Turiaf, Kwame Brown, Brook Lopez (R), Chris Kaman, Nazr Mohammed, Earl Clark, Lavoy Allen (R), Spencer Hawes, Robin Lopez (R), Joel Przybilla, Hasheem Thabeet, Jason Thompson, Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan, Jamaal Magloire, Aaron Gray, and maybe a handful of others I've missed because they're just that much worse.

Given that the Bulls' health history among their bigs require a competent center on the bench playing at least 1,200 minutes in an 82-game season, let's eliminate those who didn't play 500 in this shortened 66-game season. Here's what these guys produced in the 2011-12 season:

Totals Advanced Shooting Per 36 Minutes
Greg Stiemsma 6-11 26 BOS 55 3 766 13.6 .579 7.7 19.0 13.6 8.5 .170 .545 .707 7.6 8.3 4.0
Ian Mahinmi 6-11 25 DAL 61 12 1139 13.5 .585 10.7 17.7 14.2 2.2 .144 .546 .639 11.2 9.1 1.0
Omer Asik 7-0 25 CHI 66 2 971 13.4 .509 14.9 25.1 20.1 5.0 .129 .506 .456 7.6 13.0 2.5
Jason Thompson 6-11 25 SAC 64 47 1657 16.4 .558 10.5 19.3 14.7 1.9 .114 .535 .602 12.7 9.6 1.0
Marreese Speights 6-10 24 MEM 60 54 1345 14.1 .491 11.3 21.4 16.2 1.8 .096 .453 .771 14.1 10.0 0.8
Nazr Mohammed 6-10 34 OKC 63 1 692 11.0 .477 10.4 17.1 14.0 3.9 .090 .467 .565 8.9 8.8 1.9
Earl Clark 6-10 24 ORL 45 1 559 8.1 .405 7.1 18.6 12.8 4.5 .027 .367 .724 7.9 8.0 2.1
Chris Kaman 7-0 29 NOH 47 33 1372 15.3 .478 7.9 23.5 15.8 4.7 .024 .446 .785 16.2 9.6 2.0
Generated 5/15/2012.

Asik would then be among the relative elite of an available bunch likely coveted by: the Warriors, Rockets, Mavericks, Cavaliers, Heat, Bucks, and maybe the Trail Blazers (depending on how their disability exemptions work out) and Nuggets (depending on whether or not they can keep McGee).

Where the price for Asik goes up

That's what we call a bidding war that will rise above the Bulls' qualifying offer of $2.4 million. They will then have to use their Early Bird Exemption to pay Asik in what may be a highly-backended deal, as yfBB noted:

But it then gets a bit more complicated. If a team is under the cap (like, say, the Cavs, who've expressed interest in Asik), they can make an offer that can still be matched by the Bulls, but it'll be less comfortable to do so. This can be done by offering a contract that's still based on their available cap room, and backloading the money to years 3-4. Larry Coon's example is a team $9m under the cap offering a 4-year, $36m deal with yearly figures of $5/5.2/12.6/13.1m

Again, the Bulls can match that or any offer. But while there's been 'informed speculation' that the Bulls intend to do so, and it'll only cost them $5m in 2012-13, the decision may get tougher than what's currently being let on.

With Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, and Joakim Noah all guaranteed around $47 million in 2014-15 when Luol Deng and Taj Gibson will be free agents, the Bulls will have a lot of difficulties navigating around the rising luxury tax -- that will be penalizing them even greater for becoming 'repeat offenders', if other deals put them over that tax cap beforehand.

There then becomes a highly priced trickle-down effect to re-signing Asik to a price at which Amnesty-ing Boozer almost makes the Bulls worse off with no wiggle room to sign free agents and one less resource to trade. And all because of the seven-footer scarcity phenomenon that just can't be fixed.

So, those bums who couldn't play 500 minutes this season are getting roster spots somewhere. And if they don't re-sign Asik, one of those could be the Bulls' next backup center.

Simply put: guys like Asik will get "overpaid" in the eyes of many for a few years and every other viable option for the Bulls will, too. And if the Bulls don't do it, they pay a greater price laying hopes in the health and consistent competence of Noah and Boozer.

So, you want the problem of expensive seven-footers to be fixed, huh?

The problem is a simple economics axiom on supply and demand -- or more specifically: abundance vs. scarcity. When a much needed resource is scarce in supply, but those in need don't fluctuate up or down, the value of the resource increases. If the price doesn't reflect the value, it becomes easier for the resource to be hoarded; then, those in need remain without the resource at all.

There's a prohibition legend that goes as such (and I'm paraphrasing):

  1. Alcohol becomes completely illegal in America;
  2. The raids on alcohol producers along with those who shut themselves down in accordance with the law greatly increases the scarcity of the supply;
  3. But the love for alcohol among consumers doesn't change;
  4. A black market then appears for alcohol and what's highly coveted by the market is whiskey;
  5. Canadian producers -- most notably Canadian Club -- agrees to sell whiskey to illegal distributors in America;
  6. As demand rises, the illegal distributors become more desperate to the whim of Canadian Club's prices, lowering bargaining power;
  7. Certain distributors -- who happen to be the richest -- then threaten physical force on Canadian Club 'salespeople' if the price keeps rising;
  8. Now that the price is forcefully fixed to what people are accustomed or what feels right, those richest distributors buy all of the whiskey and become a whiskey cartel (or an oligopoly), wrecking the bargaining power of the lower level direct distributors (underground saloons, shop owners, etc.)

The exact same thing happens in the NBA and if the league simply capped salaries on players based on their all-around skill, it would be in organizations' interest to pay the low price and sit very good seven-footers on their bench for the entire year, just so no one else can have them. The wealth of seven-footers couldn't be spread throughout the league and there would actually be even worse seven-footers than the worst we seen now.

And again, that means: if the Bulls don't re-sign Asik, something like this may happen again -- literally.