Chicago Bulls: Why Keeping Omer Asik Is the Right Move

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Chicago Bulls: Why Keeping Omer Asik Is the Right Move
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The Chicago Bulls should match the Houston Rockets' restricted free agency offer to Omer Asik and keep him because the young center is a critical part of Chicago's front-court defense.

The Bulls are a team in flux right now.  Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Ronnie Brewer are gone, John Lucas may leave and Chicago is shopping Rip Hamilton.  Derrick Rose is out for a half season, Luol Deng is still injured, and the Bulls would gladly trade Carlos Boozer for the right offer.  

Nonetheless, Chicago should keep Asik because he is the critical piece of the Bulls' defense.   If they don't match, they will simply lose an important asset for absolutely nothing. He is versatile, young, and capable of playing 25-30 minutes per game as the critical defensive link in several different lineups.   

When paired with Taj Gibson, Asik essentially stops scoring in the front-court; teams score less than 95 points per 100 possessions with both of them on the court. When on the court with Boozer, he shores up what would otherwise be terrible defense.  

And, if Chicago opts to play him at center with Joakim Noah at power forward, they may stumble on a very potent combination.

More importantly, retaining Asik will allow Chicago to trade Taj Gibson, which is important for the Bulls' future. Gibson is a tough young forward with all-defensive abilities who still has another season on his rookie contract.  

But Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls' 2010 draft pick and a star in Europe, is coming next season and the Bulls will want to install him as their power forward of the future.  Gibson will be in demand from teams who need a defensive forward and young team leader, and Chicago could get a big asset back for him, perhaps even a top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.  But Chicago can't trade him if Asik is already gone because then they will only have Noah and Carlos Boozer, who they will look to amnesty in 2013 or 2014.

Finally, Asik can develop into Chicago's center of the future.  By 2014, when he will be paid $15 million as part of his strangely designed, "poison-pill" contract, he could be the best defensive center in the NBA (outside of Dwight Howard). He is still getting better and, if he can develop some offensive moves, can become a potent two-way player.  

That development would make Joakim Noah, an all-star level player himself, expendable and put the Bulls in a position to acquire the difference-maker who could propel them to that elusive NBA Championship.  

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