I'm not sure I can follow up the rampant success that was the Greg Smith report card. The readers have spoken and certainly he is the most controversial player, an even bigger lightning rod than Jeremy Lin. I'll chalk that up to stuff no one expected ever. All the same we'll move on to a clearly lesser player in Omer Asik. The seven foot Turk was signed this off season from the Chicago Bulls via Daryl Morey's exploitation of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Asik was the highly touted back up center in Chicago under coach Tom Thibodeau (Of Jeff Van Gundy's defensive camp). Omer came to the Rockets with red flags regarding his stamina but he managed to play his way out of any possible concern about his game this year. Asik was a revelation on the roster this season and provided everything the Rockets have pined over for the last three years (Rebounding, interior defense, and a legitimate seven foot player).
Omer was certainly a breath of fresh air in Houston in his first year and it was great to see a guy bleed Rocket red on the court far more than anyone should have had to.
Asik averaged 10 points/12 boards/and 1 block per game. Asik's rebounding alone placed him fourth in the NBA in rebounding behind Pau Gasol, Reggie Evans, and Kevin Garnett. Throughout the year Omer proved to be quite the complete player and contributed 10 points a game, good enough to average a double double at the center position in Houston, the first since Yao Ming.
Omer held a Player Efficiency Rating of 14.89, 35th among centers in the NBA. This is a peculiar stat considering its reliance on offensive production. Omer held down a defensive rating of 103 and a total rebound rate of 22%. Defensive rebounds didn't escape the big fella with 31% of all available defensive rebounds ending up in his possession. Omer saw action on 16% of offensive plays the Rockets ran through the center position where Asik converted at a 56% true shooting percentage. Overall Omer contributed 5.5 wins to the Rockets team in his first year. Omer did all of this while literally doubling his time on the court.
Rebounding. Omer was a black hole for rebounds this season. Throughout the season Rockets fans clamored for more rebounding from their power forward position but Omer's prolific skills managed to stack the deck against any power forward seeking to collect the loose ball. The last rebounder the Rockets had to average over ten a game was none other than Yao Ming. I want you to let that sink in, 12 rebounds a game. Foreign centers excel in Houston, this is all the reason you need to disavow enduring another Dwightmare. Omer's defense is worth mentioning here as well because he anchored the interior of a defense that sorely needed him. Omer was certainly not a prolific shotblocker but he was certainly a player who altered an opponent's game plan on the defensive side of the ball.
Catching passes. Granted, most of this problem comes down to guards throwing shuffle passes at his knees, Omer came in to Houston with a reputation for stone hands and even that was mitigated as the year went on. Early in the season Omer showed a great deal of frustration handling bad passes from James Harden and Jeremy Lin that resulted in turnovers. Thankfully Omer also offered us the opportunity to see a winning effort while scoring 0 points in a game. Asik came through in the clutch on several occasions and often punished opposing centers when given the opportunity. As the year progressed he pulled in more passes from Harden and Lin and converted them into authoritative dunks. If for no reason other than the fact that he managed to consistently improve on his catching of passes he gets a strong grade here even on the bad.
Free throw shooting. Omer shot the free throw at a clip of 56% this season. For reference Dwight Howard shoots his free throws at 49%. When you're a center you need to learn to hit your free throws, the closer to 60% the better. When the game really mattered Omer stepped up. The hack-Asik strategy backfired on Oklahoma City as he buried his free throws left and right. Throughout the season he was improving on his percentages and managed to convert on many and-1 calls following his dunks. Really, even the ugly aspect of Asik's game won't hurt him here.
I'm a fan of the Turk. If you're not I'm going to assume you're impossible to please. He came to a team on a "risky" deal with concerns about stamina and handles and he completely blew expectations out of the water. He produced offensively where he was expected to and excelled defensively and rebounding wise. Asik brought respect back to the Houston position in Houston and hopefully he doesn't have to abdicate that position any time soon. An extra season to work with Kevin McHale and possibly Hakeem Olajuwon could do wonders towards really bringing the big man along.
As usual, feel free to call me names on twitter @QuestionablyBD, e-mail insults to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just plain call me out in the comments section. If you're visiting this blog because you saw I listed this log on my CV, I apologize.