Omer Asik - Not a Half Measure

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans had a hole at center. No longer.

In case you like your sleep, you missed a busy night.

Center of Weakness

Omer Asik has been a rumored trade target for the Pelicans since last summer when the Rockets acquired Dwight Howard. There appeared to be a reasonable interest from both parties; Ryan Anderson had played successfully beside Dwight Howard and New Orleans wanted a center beside Anthony Davis. Despite those rumors, a trade was never consummated. Now Houston is attempting to clear cap space to make a run at a third star to join James Harden and Dwight Howard. The cost to acquire Asik dropped dramatically and Dell Demps took the offer.

New Orleans had a problem on defense last year, not offense. On offense they posted a Offensive Rating of 104.7, good for 13th in the league. Defensively they were 26th in the league logging a disgusting 107.3 Defensive Rating. I outlined the problems on defense here, but to review. The Pelicans could not defend the rim, they could not gather defensive rebounds, and they could not defend the corner three. All of these tied into a lack of talent at the center position. The players available fouled too often and rebounded too little. When they were in position to defend, they fouled. Far too often, they were not in position.

Last week I took a hard look at the problems the Pelicans had through the lens of the new SportVU data. As it related to centers, again the information was unkind. New Orleans struggled to convert rebound opportunities (57%, 26th in the league) and posted an abysmal number defending the basket (53.4%, 23rd in the league). I tried to convince everyone that Greg Monroe did enough to fix all these things. Everywhere the Pelicans had a weakness at center, Monroe provided an above average answer.

Asik and Destroy

If you gave me the opportunity to create a player in NBA 2k to fix the problems the Pelicans had last year, I would have created Omer Asik. Again, remember that the Pelicans' problems were fouling, defending the basket, and rebounding the ball.

Greg Stiemsma last season averaged 6.0 personal fouls per 36 minutes. Alexis Ajinca raised the Steamer by clocking in at 7.1 personal fouls per 36 minutes. The inability to defend without fouling is why the Pelicans allowed the most foul shot attempts per field goal attempt in the NBA. Omer Asik fixes that problem, logging just 3.4 personal fouls per 36 minutes.

Stiemsma allowed opponents to shoot 50.8% at the rim while defending 11.4 shots per 36 minutes. Ajinca did slightly better, holding opponents to 50.4% while defending 9.4 shots per 36 minutes. These are fairly pedestrian numbers for big men in the NBA, made less so when you account for the horrific fouling rate. Omer Asik excels, allowing just 47.7% while challenging 10.3 shots per 36 minutes. Factor in his fouling and there is no contest. Asik defended more shots at the rim than Dwight Howard (9.3) while fouling less (Howard fouled 3.6 times per 36 minutes).

Then we come to rebounding. New Orleans posted a defensive rebound rate (DRB%) of 73.8%, good for 21st in the league. It is hard to play good defense when you foul too much, you cannot defend the basket (again, tied to the fouling), and you cannot end possessions with a rebound. Taking a look at the SportVU data, it is easy to see why. Anthony Davis and company were able to snag just 57.0% of all rebound opportunities, ranking 26th in the league. Ajinca contributed positively, corralling 58.6% of all opportunities. Stiemsma let more than half slip away, posting just a 49.7% rate.

Omer Asik is not a good rebounder. He is an elite rebounder. Asik collected 65.6% of all rebound opportunities. In his last two seasons he has posted defensive rebound rates of 31.0% (good for second in the NBA) and 30.1% (again, second in the NBA) according to Basketball Reference.

No Half Measures

The Pelicans could have attempted to spend big and bring in Monroe. They would have got an above average performer in their areas of need at a cost at or near the maximum. It was likely going to cost Ryan Anderson (see post coming at 11am) and likely more.

Instead they spent their 2015 First Round Pick on a full measure. Every single weakness is not solved with an above average option for Demps. Demps did not pick the half measure when he should go all the way. The Pelicans need defense and rebounding at center. They did not get someone who is kind of good at those things. Dell Demps got someone who is ELITE at those things.

Below is a table for your perusal. FGA @ Rim is per 36 minutes; those statistics and rebound percentage per opportunity are pulled from NBA Stats. DRB% is pulled from Basketball Reference. Points allowed per possession is pulled from Synergy Sports. PER allowed is pulled from 82games.com.

FGA @ Rim FG% @ Rim DRB% REB% per Opp P&R - PPP Post Up - PPP PER Allowed
Omer Asik 10.3 47.7% 30.1% 65.6% 0.79 0.80 16.1
Dwight Howard 9.3 47.8% 27.9% 68.5% 0.84 0.74 16.3
Joakim Noah 7.9 46.8% 24.5% 62.5% 0.78 0.78 16.5
Tim Duncan 11.3 47.6% 28.3% 65.8% 0.79 0.79 15.4
Roy Hibbert 11.8 41.4% 15.0% 50.0% 0.86 0.67 15.3
Marc Gasol 7.1 50.8% 20.5% 64.7% 0.90 0.79 14.6
Andrew Bogut 10.3 45.0% 29.7% 68.1% 0.90 0.87 13.9
DeAndre Jordan 10.5 49.4% 29.3% 71.6% 0.94 0.81 15.9

Now go read this excellent piece by Drew Garrison on Asik's defense. I will tease you one quick quote.

The primary role of any big man is to defend the paint, but Asik doesn't just "protect" the paint. He rotates around the key like a junkyard dog protecting property. Here, Tony Parker is trapped in the corner and Danny Green moves toward him for the escape pass. Tim Duncan sets an off-ball screen while this happens and Asik slides out of the paint and below the free throw line to help:

Full Measure. Now let's see what else Dell has up his sleeve.

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