In the summer before the 2012-13 season, the Rockets handed Omer Asik $25 million over three years to be their center of the future. On paper, it seemed like a major risk, as Asik had a small track record in the NBA and a complete lack of offensive skill.
In his two seasons in the NBA, Asik had managed just one double-double, the benchmark by which many big men are judged. In fact, in that stretch, Asik had eclipsed 10 points just 6 times in 148 games, a remarkable stretch of offensive futility.
The one thing that Asik did was rebound. In a league where smaller, quicker, athletic big men are cropping up all over the place, Asik stood tall in the paint for Chicago and grabbed nearly every rebound in sight. In the 2011-12 season, Asik grabbed over 20% of the rebounds available to him, propelling himself to third in the NBA in rebounds per 48 minutes.
These stats were great, but the question facing Asik would be whether he could sustain those statistics in a move to the starting lineup. After all, Asik was only asked to give his all for some 15 minutes a night against smaller backup centers. In a league short on true big men in the starting lineup, finding centers off the bench who could match Asik's bulk inside was a rarity.
But now, Asik would be forced to fight for those same rebounds against the Dwight Howard's, Joakim Noah's, and Tyson Chandler's of the world for thirty minutes a night. The result? Amazingly, Asik is now grabbing more rebounds percentage-wise and on a per-minute basis than he has ever done in his career.
How's he doing it? It's very simple, he's doing all the same things he's done his entire career, but simply at a higher level. With an inferior rebounder next to him in Patrick Patterson (compared to his past partner, Taj Gibson), the Rockets are asking Asik to take on a lot more responsibility inside than the Bulls ever did. The Rockets are essentially counting on Asik to rebound many shots by himself, and he's doing so very well.
Not only does this elimination of second looks help the Rockets defense, it helps the offense as well. Asik is grabbing the third highest percentage of defensive rebounds in the league, and that allows players like Chandler Parsons, Jeremy Lin, and James Harden to leak out in transition and get quick strike fast break points. Without Asik's presence inside, that becomes impossible.
As Rockets fans, we don't know what the next few years will bring. There is one thing you can count on, however, and it's Omer Asik to grab rebound after rebound and help the Rockets dominate the boards. That's why Omer Asik is the Master of his Craft.