New Orleans Pelicans Acquire Omer Asik in Trade

Published: July 15, 2014

The New Orleans Pelicans acquired Omer Asik today in a trade. The trade was rumored in June prior to the 2014 draft, but the trade could not happen until today for a few reasons, explained below.

The Pelicans also acquired Omri Casspi. Both Asik and Casspi came from the Houston Rockets.

Following are the deal summary, release from the team, notes from the press conference, a looong, sandwich-required explanation of the deal and the path to it, and ending with a commentary.


Pelicans Receive:

  • Omer Asik, 1 season, $8,374,646 salary figure ($14,898,938 actual salary, smaller number is for the bookkeeping)
  • Omri Casspi, 1 season, $1,063,384 (veteran minimum, fully non-guaranteed through August 5th, fully guaranteed after)
  • $1,500,000 from Houston (does not have a salary figure value)

Rockets Receive:

  • Pelicans 2015 first round pick, protected 1-3, 20-30 (Rockets receive pick if 4-19 this season, unclear after)
  • Trevor Ariza, 4 seasons, $32,000,000 ($8,600,000 first year, $400,000 decreases each year afterwards)
  • Alonzo Gee, 1 season, $3,000,000 (fully non-guaranteed)
  • Scotty Hopson, 1 season, $1,450,878 (fully non-guaranteed)

Wizards Receive:

  • Melvin Ely, 1 season, $1,316,809 (veteran minimum, fully non-guaranteed through August 1th, fully guaranteed after)

As a consequence of the deal, the Wizards also receive a trade exception for $8,600,000, the amount of the first year of Ariza’s deal. This is really the prize for them in the deal, not Ely and his expiring contract. These things are created when an over-the-cap team trades salary in an unbalanced way to an under-the-cap team. Since they are not traded, I did not include it above, but I wanted to mention it so the trade motivation is understood. At this time, Washington is rumored to be looking to trade for DeJuan Blair, and this could be of use.


The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that the team has acquired Omer Asik, Omri Casspi and cash considerations from the Houston Rockets in a three-team trade that sends Alonzo Gee, Scotty Hopson and the Pelicans’ protected first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft to the Rockets and Melvin Ely to the Washington Wizards. As part of the three-team trade, the Rockets have acquired Trevor Ariza from the Wizards.

Asik (7-0, 255) was originally drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round (36th overall) of the 2008 NBA Draft before having his draft rights traded to the Chicago Bulls. The four-year veteran has appeared in 278 games (103 starts) with the Bulls and Rockets and holds career averages of 5.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.

In 2013-14, Asik appeared in 48 games (19 starts) and averaged 5.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 20.2 minutes per game. He started all 82 regular season contests for the Rockets in the 2012-13 season, posting career-high averages of 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 30.0 minutes per game.

Appearing in 33 career playoff contests over his four NBA seasons, Asik holds postseason averages of 4.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.0 block per game.

Prior to the NBA, the Turkey native played for Fenerbahçe S.K. Istanbul from 2005-10.

Casspi has appeared in 327 games (96 starts) over the course of five NBA seasons with Sacramento, Cleveland and Houston, holding career averages of 7.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 20.7 minutes per game.

Notes from the Press Conference

  • Asik was introduced with a 3 jersey
  • Dell said the team both wants and needs Asik
  • Asik is looking forward to the music and food in New Orleans
  • The Pelicans team excites Asik
  • Dell feels that Asik is a needed piece, and that he’ll fit in well. Both of these things make the franchise feel he is worth the risk of trading a protected first round pick for a player on an expiring contract.
  • Asik is not eligible for an extension since he was signed to a 3-year deal, but Dell is confident that they can resign Asik in unrestricted free agency.
  • Dell believes that Asik and Davis playing together will benefit both players
  • Asik was the teams number one target.
  • Dell did not want to show his hand about the teams’ next highest priority.

Looong, Sandwich-Required Explanation

Since Anthony Davis joined the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012, Coach Monty Williams has tried to protect him from heavy contact and the stronger big men in the NBA and has often lamented his limitations in doing so. He said flat-out that conversations needed to be had in Basketball Operations in getting him players that will play in his style rather than having to adapt so much and so often to the roster.

All of this points to one of the two big needs on the roster . . . a classic big man who defends and rebounds, as opposed to the other, which is, simply put, a bigger talented wing player.

Pelicans fans wondered in which direction the team would go and who would be the acquisition. On the evening of June 25th, 2014, the night before the 2014 NBA draft, it was rumored that Omer Asik would be traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. The deal had a protected first heading to Houston with cash coming to New Orleans. A quick look at the books and trade rules showed that this deal count not take place until after the July moratorium, and so began a search to understand just how the deal would be completed.

Below is the attempt to explain.

First, background.

  • We need to understand why the deal had to wait. We really only need one reason, so here is one; there may be more, but that’s just piling on. Since the trade, as reported, was unbalanced, then there had to be more to the story or the Pelicans were trading Asik in cap space. The Pelican had none (like most teams), so they had to wait until the books reset following the start of the 2014-2015 NBA season and the July moratorium, a period where deals are only verbally committed to while the NBA does its accounting for the just-ended season in order to set the salary cap for the new season.
  • Some may be confused at the inclusion of the 2015 first round pick since New Orleans traded their 2014 first round pick (and the player picked with their 2013 first round pick for that matter). The NBA has a rule that does not allow trades of first round picks that could, in any possible way, leave the team with 2 consecutive future first round picks. The Holiday trade was legal because they made the pick, then traded the player and one future pick. Once that draft had passed, they could then trade the 2015 pick since they are not without consecutive future picks. This could go on forever and be within the rules.
  • $1,500,000 in cash was also reported to be traded from Houston to New Orleans. This cash has a role in trades, but it has no value in salary calculations. Cash is simpl a thing of value that can be used in a trade to help motivate moves and complete them in some cases, but it does not enter into the salary calculations.
  • A point about Asik’s deal needs to be addressed here. He is paid more than his cap figure indicates . . . and by a large amount. This has to do with the manner in which he was acquired by Houston. The salary he is paid (equal to that of Eric Gordon) is Tom Benson’s problem, and is meaningless going forward other than that (and that may in fact matter, as each team has it’s own internal spending limits set by the will and capacity of ownership relative to the business of basketball). While it may have affected the willingness of teams to deal for Asik or affect the value in return for him, it plays no part in making the mechanics of the deal work. The figure of $8,374,646 is all that matters going forward in this article. THAT is what matters in the trade calculations.
  • Asik was unhappy in Houston following the acquisition of Dwight Howard in free agency in 2013, and he was vocal enough about this for it to be clear to many observers. As such, this may have depressed his market. Additionally, Houston was trying to build a title contender, and discontentment disrupts these efforts.
  • In an effort to win a title, Houston was making a big free agent play, with realistic hopes of landing either Chris Bosh or Carmelo Anthony this season. To make this move, they needed to clear space. Thus, a trade for Asik that clears his entire salary figure supports this, and this was a key parameter of the deal for Houston, so the Pelicans offering a only a pick, even protected, was a big plus for them.

Now that we understand the key aspects of the deal, especially the hidden fact that Houston was greatly benefiting from clearing cap space, it leads us to determine just how this will happen. Once the books for 2013-2014 were closed and those of 2014-2015 were opened, it was clear that the Pelicans simply did not have the cap space to do the job, and the projections at the end of 2013-2014 were good enough to make it clear from the start.

As is always the case with Dell, a move is needed to make the move . . . in this case, the twist was that we knew the last move but none before.

The Pelicans had four basic routes to do this, a combinations of them would work:

  • Clear space by waiving players, even those with guaranteed contracts, and cap holds
  • Clear space by trading players
  • Find multi-team deal in which at least one other team could absorb salary
  • Trade players with non-guaranteed deals to Houston

The first two routes potentially give up assets that may have more value later since the Pelicans could not create enough room by simply waiving their minimum contract non-guaranteed players. The space created by such a move would only be $6,939,807. To clear the around-$2,000,000 needed to absorb Asik’s deal (the cap was not set exactly at the time, so one had to work from conservative estimates), the Pelicans would have to lose Austin Rivers, who may not be at his peak trade value at this time.

The third is complicated and would almost certainly require the Pelicans or Houston sending out an asset of value not already discussed.

The fourth was then the simplest option. The team had the non-guaranteed contracts of Melvin Ely ($1,316,809), Luke Babbitt ($981,084), and the $100,000-guaranteed deal of Jeff Withey ($816,482), which may or may not have been acceptable to Houston. We’ll assume so for the time being. Using the Traded Player Exception (TPE) rather than can room to make the deal would only require $5,516,431 in salary leaving the Pelicans. This is because the trade rules state that for deals where the salary totals for the involved players are below $9,800,000 for each team, then the larger of the incoming and outgoing salaries can be within $100,000 or 150% of the smaller. This outgoing figure for the Pelicans allows them to absorb $100,000 + 1.5 * ($5,516,431) = $8,374,646.50, which is just over Asik’s salary. Thus, $5,516,431 is the smallest such salary, and the Pelicans were well short of that using their most-contractually-waivable players.

Since no single option worked, a combination was required.

Also, a choice had to be made: over the cap, or under the cap. This choice is perhaps more complex that it seems on the surface.

  • If the Pelicans could stay over the cap, they would have access to the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception ($5,305,000), the Bi-Annual Exception ($2,077,000), and keep any Full Bird, Early Bird, and Non-Bird rights to their free agents not lost through free agency or in sign-and-trades
  • If the Pelicans went under the cap, they would only have access to the Room Mid-Level Exception ($2,732,000) and a reduced number of the various Bird rights, which would limit the ability to bring such players back or use the sign-and-trade mechanism to add assets, but they would have more flexibility in making the Asik deal work due not only to lower salary but to actual rules governing trades

There are other Exceptions they have access to in either case, thus, they are not part of the decision-making.

As it turns out, the Pelicans chose to go under the cap, losing the larger Mid-Level. A possible consequence of this was the loss of Anthony Morrow, but certainly the ability to sign a free agent commanding more than $2,732,000 . . . the difference between $5,305,000 and $2,732,000 is pretty big in the NBA.

In order to go under the cap, the Pelicans renounced the cap holds of Al-Farouq Aminu ($7,214,244), Jason Smith ($4,750,000), and James Southerland ($816,482). Once Anthony Morrow agreed to sign with Oklahoma City, his cap hold ($915,243) could be removed. Removing the Southland cap hold was nearly meaningless, and he could easily sign again for the minimum. The Aminu and Smith holds being renounced removed the Pelicans’ ability to use the Bird Exception to sign the players or sign-and-trade them. They can still be signed using another exception or space, or they could be signed-and-traded using space (and this is still true at the time of this writing). The Pelicans’ cap space, however, is quite low, however, and this means that the Room Exception would be the only likely way to retain either player for above the minimum salary (and this is still true at the time of this writing . . . and this is likely how the rumored Salmons signing will take place).

The Pelicans’ had $57,202,888 in contracts (Gordon, Evans, Holiday, Anderson, Davis, Rivers, Ely, Ajinca, Babbitt, Withey) and had cap holds for Miller ($915,243) and Roberts ($915,243). Since the salary cap is $63,065,000 and no Incomplete Roster Charge is necessary, this leaves $4,531,626. Keeping in mind that the Pelicans could not simply waive their non-guaranteed contracts to create space, they traded for additional non-guaranteed contracts using the cap space they created.

First, they used a top-55 protected 2016 Clippers’ second round pick to get Alonzo Gee from the Cavaliers. His contract is for one season at $3,000,000 and is fully non-guaranteed for the season. The Pelicans could do this trade because they were under the cap, so they can execute unbalanced trades. Cleveland was just going to send Gee out in another deal, but sent him to New Orleans instead. The second round pick may actually become a pick for them, but it can also be used in deals such as this, so it’s an asset for them when they would have just lost a player.

This reduced their cap room to $1,531,626, but increased their total non-guaranteed salary to $5,297,893, which is still less than the required $5,516,431. If we include Withey, it works, but he’s $100,000 guaranteed. Plus, he’s an asset, as is Babbitt. Acquiring another non-guaranteed contract could preserve both Withey (if Houston or a third team would have him) and Babbitt. This player would need to have a contract worth at least $1,199,622.

Once Brian Roberts agreed to terms with Charlotte, his hold was removed, and the Pelicans’ space increased to $2,446,869. Miller’s hold could be removed, as it had very little practical value unless he was going to sign for more than the minimum somewhere, and then his Early Bird Rights would be potentially useful. This created a narrow band with ceiling of $2,446,869 or $3,362,112 without Miller’s hold and floor of $1,199,622. A few NBA contracts fit the bill, and Dell got one.

Scotty Hopson’s expiring contract is fully non-guaranteed and is worth $1,450,878, right in the needed band. He was traded from Cleveland to Charlotte after Dell traded for Gee. Gee was originally part of the Cleveland-Charlotte deal that sent Brendan Haywood and the rights to Dwight Powell. I’m not sure why the switch was made, but it may have been to help Charlotte maintain cap space for negotiations or set-up potential deals or executions that did not manifest. At any rate, the Pelicans acquired Hopson for cash. This deal is legal because it a trade into the Pelicans’ cap space and players can be traded immediately after being received in a trade. Since he and Gee were received into cap space, they can be aggregated immediately, too. In other words, they can be traded in one big transaction to receive one player (if necessary) rather than only being able to receive players into the smaller separate slots created if each is considered alone.

Now, the Pelicans can trade the contracts of Melvin Ely, Alonzo Gee, and Scotty Hopson away and receive Omer Asik.

But, that, of course, could not be the end of it. Washington wanted to work their Ariza free agency deal into a sign-and-trade. This would give the Wizards a Trade Exception. The Rockets could then use some cap space in another deal before acquiring Ariza, if that proved useful, and maybe this was a condition of Washington not bidding higher for Ariza (or at least using that as a negotiation tactic). The Pelicans were already trading, so it did not affect them. In order to make the deal work, the Pelicans simply had to send an asset to Washington, and they are sending Melvin Ely. With that, each team is giving something, each team is receiving something, and each team “touches” two others, which is rule.

As a final wrinkle, the Rockets sent the Pelicans Omri Casspi in the trade. Since Casspi is on a minimum salary contract, his incoming salary can be ignored, per trade rules, and is absorbed using the Minimum Salary Exception. The same goes for Ely, which preserves Washington’s Trade Exception amount. Casspi’s addition also allowed Houston to treat this trade as one that allows them to go over the cap, should that be necessary.

Some details:

  • The Pelicans preserved every contract on their books at the start of the 2014-2015 season (along with any potential deals involving those contracts) and added Asik and Casspi. This brings the roster to 11, with Miller’s hold on the books and Aminu, Smith, and Southerland unsigned.
  • By going under the cap, the Pelicans lost access to a pair of exceptions, including the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception worth $5,305,000. As some speculate, this may have cost them a chance to retain Morrow. The alternative may have been to lose an asset such as Rivers, or perhaps the chance to simply trade Rivers suitably was not there.
  • Besides the cash that may have been net sent or received, and using up some of the cash-trade limit, the only assets given up by the Pelicans, other than the opportunity cost listed just above, was the top-55 protected Clippers’ 2016 second round pick and the 1-3 + 20-30 protected Pelicans’ 2015 first round pick. The first round pick has that same protection through 2020. Then, the pick is top-3 protected. If the protection triggers, it converts to a second round pick. As a consequence, the Pelicans can not trade another future first round pick until this pick is conveyed or the pick is converted to a second round pick.
  • Casspi’s salary being added to the deal allows Houston to make this trade using the Traded Player Exception, should that be necessary. Without Casspi, the Rockets were sending out only Asik’s $8,374,646, which allows a return of $12,661,969. Adding Casspi to the deal allows them to take back $14,257,045. Ariza, Gee, and Hopson have a total contract value of $13,050,878. It should be noted that Houston can retain these large expiring contracts for future trades, but they will have to wait to trade them in aggregate if this happens by way of an exception, as it appears it will.
  • Since Casspi was traded pursuant to an exception, unlike Hopson and Gee, the Pelicans can not trade him and aggregate his salary immediately. As such, they will likely give him a look at a minimum. Given the needs of the team and his strengths, it could be reasonable to keep him around were it not for a rumored future signing of John Salmons. Casspi can be traded immediately or later, but if they can’t use his contract or his talents, he may be waived.
  • As noted above, Washington is viewing this as a non-simultaneous deal, and is receiving a trade exception. Ely’s deal does not affect the size of the deal since he was traded into a minimum salary exception. Him going to Washington serves two purposes: Some asset had to be passed between Washington and New Orleans, and Houston did not need to send out even more salary.
  • Asik’s deal expires after this season, and the Pelicans will have his Full Bird Rights. Thus, they will be able sign him to whatever deal they see fit and go over the cap to do so. He is not, however, eligible for an extension since his contract was only 3 years in length.
  • At least one reason for the deal taking so long was the fact that Melvin Ely could not be traded for 3 months after he signed as a free agent. However, a large reason for this deal happening was the late-season signing of Ely. As it seems, the waiving of Stiesmsa at that time was not primarily an indictment of Stiemsma or an endorsement of Ely. Rather, it was made to facilitate a trade.
  • Babbitt is still on the roster and his fully non-guaranteed contract is still on the books. Dell also may have roster spots to get more such deals.


As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been quiet. This is for a few reasons, not the least of which is that I am not a paid writer, reporter, or journalist, so when life demands it, I must spend my time elsewhere, and this is still happening, but life is settling down (some). I am a fan. I write, but I’m more of an analyst and thinker. My talent for these and writing has let me to place where I talk to fans about my thoughts and get some access to the team, which is very nice, but a heavy responsibility.

We here at Bourbon Street Shots are an assorted group, but we set aside part of our lives to bring our thoughts, opinions, and more to you, the city, the team, and anyone who cares.

For that we get some nice praise at times, which is, at times, nice.

In the end, this is all we are, and I don’t think we pretend to be anything else. We are thankful that some give us the encouragement as assistance to do the best job we can, which is not perfect by any means, with the time we have.

What I do, as I said, is analyze, research, educate. This is what I do in my life . . . all of it . . . including this. In most cases here, my subjects are not the typical fare of basketball fans and enthusiasts, but the off-court stuff of salary, law, and business. While some focus on the players and Monty, I focus more on Dell and Dennis.

Sitting back for years and watching them work as I peek over the fence at others in parallel roles, and I know they are doing good jobs, especially given the state of the franchise 2 – 4 years ago.

Given all this and my background, I sit with patience and try to figure out what is going on using the data provided and the rules as I understand them. I try to figure out what Dell does and what he’s thinking. I don’t ask him. The last time I talked to him, I didn’t ask him what he was going to do, as that ruins the fun. I asked him to explain a couple of things past to me, and he did quite openly. These were small things, and they just helped me think in the manner I wanted . . . as Dell. This is not to say I wish to only think like Dell; I wish to add that arrow to my quiver.

I told him he was sneaky, and we moved on to other topics. He’s a genuinely nice guy, and he’s a fun subject of inquiry since he is so very crafty and so infuriatingly patient.

He is also a professional. He’s paid (a PILE of money) to do this. He knows the rules, he knows the options, and he knows the plan. Now, he may screw it all up, he may take the good gamble or the ridiculous risk and the dice just don’t work out, and he may be a genius with a horseshoe . . . somewhere. At any rate, it’s him that is the subject.

There is a choice any observer can make when trying to sort out Dell’s moves. One can discuss the moves, or one can discuss the discussion. I prefer the former, others prefer the latter. I find the latter to be simply wasteful after a point. Rather than trying to sort out all the comments about rumored moves, deciding if there were actually better options, getting upset about the idea of potentially better moves, I find it more useful to simply study what the man does, the rules he has to operate by, and the situation the franchise is in to understand the why’s of it all.

Others can make their own choice, but for a man in my position, I prefer to just focus on what that talented professional is doing so I can judge him correctly at the end of it all . . . the good and the bad. The story is not over, so any of my judgments (such as, “I like this move,” which I do), are scratched in sand, not etched in stone. When the movie is over, when the hero cries, when boy gets the girl . . . that’s when I will pronounce my nearly worthless judgment on the prowess of Dell Demps at a job I never had and never will have . . . because I’m not good enough at THAT to have it. Same goes for whose who are keeping him around.

In this case, I will take note of what Dell Demps gave up in order to trade for Omer Asik and Omri Casspi, how he kept the roster intact by trading away bookkeeping assets and players-acquired-for-the-purpose rather than clearing cap space, and how he gave up exceptions that could have been used to go retain some players and go after others.

I just jot them down . . . and watch.


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