Pelicans.com continues its look back at the 2014-15 season with player-by-player analysis of the team:
As the Pelicans’ biggest acquisition of the 2014 offseason, Asik arrived in New Orleans in exchange for a protected first-round pick (New Orleans made the ’15 playoffs, making that pick the 18th overall in next month’s draft). The 7-footer from Turkey was brought in to provide the Pelicans with a true center next to Anthony Davis in the frontcourt, while adding much-needed rebounding and interior defense.
It took some time for the Pelicans to become more cohesive around their new starting pivot, but they were one of the NBA’s most improved defenses in the second half of the regular season. Asik’s production mirrored that of his team, with him collecting double-digit rebounds in 16 of the club’s final 25 games. New Orleans went 17-10 during that span, after starting 28-27.
Although the Pelicans envisioned him as an ideal partner with Davis along the frontline, Asik showed his value to an even greater degree when the two-time All-Star couldn’t play. During a five-game winning streak played almost entirely without an injured Davis, Asik averaged 11.8 points and 11.0 rebounds, while shooting an efficient 69.0 percent from the field.
Overall, the Pelicans jumped five spots in defensive rating from the previous season, finishing at 22nd overall, but that doesn’t accurately reflect the team’s post-All-Star break improvement.
“He’s a huge part of what we do,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “If you look at our defensive numbers from last year to this year, we improved in a number of categories and Omer was a huge part of that. He was one of the guys that helped us get stops. He was really good at guarding and blocking shots and it makes our defense that much better. Early on, it didn’t look like it and I’ll be the first to admit that. It takes time to figure out schemes.”
Asik, who wrapped up a three-year contract he initially signed with Houston in 2012, will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Asked about his future with the Pelicans following a season-ending Game 4 defeat to Golden State, Asik called the team’s playoff trip a positive experience.
“I think going forward, this will be a good lesson to learn,” he said of facing the Warriors. “It seemed like we had so many player changes all season that we didn’t play much together. We didn’t have enough time to adjust to each other. It always takes time. Everything is experience. I think there is good stuff going on here. It’s a really young team and its future is good.”
Asik briefly told the media that he would prefer to play for New Orleans next season, saying “Of course. Yes.”
TOP THREE OMER ASIK GAMES OF 2014-15
#3, March 10: New Orleans 111, Brooklyn 91
Asik helped the Pelicans wrap up a critical 2-0 road trip by blowing out the Nets at Barclays Center. En route to a 6-for-8 shooting performance from the field, Asik feasted on dunks, highlighting his 12-point, 15-rebound performance, in just 27 minutes.
#2, Feb. 21: New Orleans 105, Miami 91
Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis both sustained first-half injuries on the Heat’s home floor, but Asik picked up the slack in the frontcourt with a timely game. The Pelicans were plus-18 with Asik on the floor, as he racked up 15 points (6-for-8 FGs) and nine rebounds.
#1, Oct. 28: New Orleans 101, Orlando 84
In his Pelicans debut on Opening Night, Asik delivered one of the best all-around games of his NBA career, posting 14 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks. The latter stat tied his career high. He also had five swats Feb. 9 vs. Utah.