Year in Review: Omer Asik
Reflecting upon Omer Asik's past, present and future following the 2013-14 campaign
Rebounding has always been the name of the game for Omer Asik and that continued to be the case for the Turkish big man both on and off the court during the 2013-14 season.
His campaign got off to a rather inauspicious start when a calf injury struck on the first day of training camp, robbing him and the club of precious time in their efforts to experiment with a supersized frontcourt pairing that included the newly acquired Dwight Howard. Asik returned in time to get a few preseason appearances under his belt, but when the real games began the early returns from his partnership with Howard were uneven at best. Then not long after the 27-year-old had been transferred to a reserve role, another leg injury put him on the shelf – this time for two full months. The much-anticipated follow up to his career year appeared to be devolving into a dud.
But once Asik regained full health he wasted little time reminding the league that he remains one of the elite rebounders and rim protectors in the world. His play off the bench provided Houston with the NBA’s best one-two punch at the center position, and when Howard himself succumbed to the injury bug during the season’s final month, Asik responded by stuffing the stat sheet to the tune of 10.7 points and 14.6 rebounds per game. What’s more, his reinsertion into the starting lineup beginning with Game 3 of the playoffs against Portland gave the Rockets their best bet to climb out of an 0-2 hole as his defense and rebounding helped Houston stem the tide and win two of the next three games in the series. A third victory appeared in the offing, too, until … well, it’s still probably far too soon to travel down that hypersensitive and rocky road of what-ifs.
All told, the fourth-year forward established a new career high from the free throw line (.619) and once again ranked among the league leaders in both defensive and overall rebound rate. So while the first half of the season might have been a rocky ride, Asik’s ability to rebound (pun intended) and respond in such a positive, impactful way served as an awfully strong reminder of his talent for delivering winning basketball plays on a regular basis.
The month of April saw Asik produce a bevy of big games, but none could quite compare to his performance against the Nuggets during which he racked up 18 points and a career-high tying 23 rebounds (a mark he’d actually set five days before versus Brooklyn) to help Houston rally for a 130-125 overtime victory. Asik also added three steals and three blocks to his gaudy totals that evening as he largely served as the Rockets’ first, last and only line of defense on a night when the club had been forced to play without the services of both Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley due to their respective injury issues at the time.
THE NEXT STEP
As Asik embarks upon what figure to be the prime years of his NBA career, there should be little mystery regarding what he’s going to deliver on a night-to-night basis. He sets devastating screens (a hugely underrated and underappreciated art form), is an elite low-post and pick-and-roll defender, and his aforementioned rebounding chops are nothing short of world-class. Yes, he’ll need to continue fine-tuning his free throw form and finishing technique around the rim, but even if he never improves one iota going forward Asik’s skill set promises to remain highly-coveted and invaluable due to the dearth of big men capable of providing the expert rebounding and rim protection he routinely delivers.