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Omer Asik: Mid Term Report Card

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Taking Synergy Sports for a spin to see how Omer Asik is defending this season.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Dell Demps had a problem. Anthony Davis taking a beating at center was not an option in the near future. All the weight gain (Davis has added nearly 25 pounds since the NBA Combine in 2012) in the world was not going to speed up AD's aging process. The highlights, the poise in interviews, and the absurd stat lines can allow one to forget Davis has yet to turn 22. The Pelicans needed a big body to protect their prized asset.

Robin Lopez was decent in New Orleans. He was not good, and he certainly was not as effective as he is in Portland. Lopez struggled with foot speed in the pick and roll while posting an abysmal rebound rate. His game has taken off in the Northwest thanks to a defensive scheme that takes his limitations into account. None of that means he was capable of doing the things necessary to pair with Anthony Davis.

Last season Jason Smith, Greg Stiemsma, and Alexis Ajinca all took turns at center. Smith was effective, but struggled with injuries. Stiemsma was a trainwreck into a burning building off a cliff into a pit of man-eating snakes. Ajinca was serviceable as long as he wasn't in foul trouble. One problem, he was always in foul trouble.

Enter a trade of the 2015 First Round pick for Omer Asik.

Report Card - Defense

After the trade was announced I took a dive into Asik's performance. At the time, I wrote the following.

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 that was a chart comparing Asik to the most renowned defensive centers in the league. Asik compares very favorably. Thanks to Synergy Sports Technology, we can take a look at Asik's performance halfway through the season on specific types of possessions. Points per Possession allowed were pulled before the Knicks debacle. The rest of the stats are from NBA Stats (FGA @ Rim is per 36 minutes) or 82 Games (PER Allowed).

FGA @ Rim FG% @ Rim DREB% REB% PER OPP Post Up P&R - Roll Isolation Spot Up PER Allowed
Omer Asik 11.4 50.2% 29.5% 62.6% 0.900 0.654 0.676 0.706 18.1
Dwight Howard 8.9 44.7% 28.6% 68.7% 0.667 0.720 1.190 1.153 13.9
Andrew Bogut 11.0 42.5% 27.0% 68.2% 0.547 1.182 0.762 0.875 13.3
Tim Duncan 10.5 46.4% 27.7% 65.9% 1.062 0.743 0.828 1.062 20.7
Roy Hibbert 11.5 40.8% 22.1% 58.9% 0.985 0.781 0.867 0.674 15.9
Marc Gasol 9.0 49.6% 22.7% 65.9% 0.720 0.578 1.133 0.922 11.8
Joakim Noah 7.6 51.9% 22.4% 61.2% 0.913 0.925 0.828 0.907 16.3

That is a ton of numbers. How about Asik's rank in the class of these seven centers.

FGA @ Rim FG% @ Rim DREB% REB% PER OPP Post Up P&R - Roll Isolation Spot Up PER Allowed
Omer Asik 2nd 6th 1st 5th 4th 2nd 1st 2nd 6th

FGA @ Rim is a measure of how frequently a player defends the basket. In this area Asik does well, especially when you consider he averages just 2.4 fouls per 36 minutes. He is also doing it slightly more frequently than he did last season, when he averaged 10.3 shots defended per 36 minutes. Is that a function of him defending better or the Pelicans as a team defending worse? If I had to pick one, I would lean toward the Pelican defense around him being bad.

In the other areas he has delivered as promised. Gobbling up defensive rebounds, providing solid defense in post-ups, and elite defense in isolation, spots ups, or in the pick and roll. PER allowed could be a stat to latch onto, but I would point out that Tim Duncan is 7th in PER allowed while being the hands on favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year this season. (Note, he hasn't done that in his career yet, which is absurd).

Report Card - Offense

Offense is where I think expectations, and Asik's proclivity to providing negative highlights, muddies the debate about his impact. Omer Asik has bad hands. He bobbles passes. These were all well known weaknesses before he came to New Orleans. I don't know anyone expected those traits to change upon his arrival in the Crescent City.

Asik is currently posting the best PER of his career at 16.0. Not world beating numbers, but remember, his primary purpose is defense and that simply is not reflected in a measure like PER. While he's at it, Asik is getting to the glass at the best rate in his career and turning the ball over less than he ever has in the NBA. Last year Greg Stiemsma turned the ball over on 24.4% of his used possessions. Asik's 15.5% (just 1.2 per game) blows that out of the water.

All of that translates to a personal offensive rating of 114. His previous career high was 109, last season. In the three seasons prior Asik never cleared 105. Asik is not a good offensive player. Despite all the blocked dunks that stick out, he is actually having the best season on offense in his career.

Meeting Expectations

Omer Asik is meeting all reasonable expectations this season. He continues to provide elite defense, on par with the efforts of the best centers in the NBA. Every single center on the defensive table has a cap hit of at least $12 Million this season except Duncan ($10M, the Spurs discount) and Asik ($8.3M).

On a team that cannot defend the roll man in the pick and roll (as a team the Pelicans are dead last in the NBA, giving up 1.106 points per possession) Asik practically cuts that value in half when he is the primary defender. On every type of play Asik's presence improves the outcome relative to the Pelicans as a team.

This franchise will have a big decision to make on Asik and his future in a Pelicans uniform. A number of other decisions (specifically, who is the GM making that decision, who is the coach, etc) are going to made between now and July.

One thing is certain, Asik has held up his half of the bargain.