A wild Pelican appeared!
On Friday, the great folks at ESPN continued their #NBARANK with players 121-130. A pretty decent group, headlined by Detroit Pistons point guard. Outside of Manu Ginobili, it’s a pretty young group of players. Aaron Gordon is probably the most interesting player of the bunch, as he’s experimented with a three-point shot over the summer. Rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay is also in this group; I like his game and think he ends up our 2015-16 Rookie of the Year.
Overall, It’s nice little group of guys around including Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert (a very good role player, who developed himself into a shooter) , Boston’s Avery Bradley (tough, smart defender) and even Portland’s Mason Plumlee (classic pick-and-roll center with good athleticism). Still, we’re talking about one player that made the list - Omer Asik, who slotted in the 127th spot.
#127 -- Omer Asik
The former Bull and Rocket checks in at 127. After seeing the wear and tear Anthony Davis was experiencing at the center position, the Pelicans went out last summer with the intent to find someone who can provide New Orleans with a rim protector and defensive-minded attitude next to the franchise player. They quickly reeled in Asik. At the cost of just a first round draft pick, the Pelicans nabbed Asik to pair next to Davis.
In was an up-and-down season for Asik to say the least. The 7.3 points, 9.8 rebounds and 51% shooting were all solid. Next to someone like Davis, the scoring wasn't required and having someone who can provided double-digit rebounding was important when playing next to the likes of Ryan Anderson and Dante Cunningham. Overall, the raw statistics were fine.
He even performed well with the "advanced" stats. Next to a rebounding vacuum like Davis, Asik finished with a 21.4 total rebounding percentage, including his second highest offensive rebound rate of 14.0%. His true-shooting percentage dipped, but he's never known for his offense. Asik's RPM ranked him 36th among centers, but that was sunk by a -3.01 ORPM. His DPRM, 1.83, had him slotted for 21st in the league. It was a fine season when just looking at the numbers.
The issue is that New Orleans still had some troubles defending the rim, finishing in the middle of the pack (16th). Asik's numbers at the defending the rim were so-so (51.1% on 8.1 shots defended per game), but the biggest issues wasn't even really Omer's fault. The Pelicans just looked out of sync at times with Asik on the floor. With his offensive deficiencies, the Pelicans often played four-on-five offensively with Asik on the floor. Take that and his solo defensive play and it looked bad at times.
It doesn’t hurt to say that Asik just looked uncomfortable out there at times. On offense, there were times he didn’t even want the ball, scared to blow a layup or shot at the rim that wasn’t a dunk. Defensively, he was still adjusting to play with someone like Davis in the frontcourt. This year, with a full year of knowing what to expect, I doubt that will be much of an issue this year.
Regardless, the Pelicans took the good with the bad and decided to maintain the relationship, re-signing Asik to a five-year, $60 million dollar contract..
It looks like a lot for a player depending on defensive value, but consider the cap is jumping to unfathomable heights over the next two seasons, and it's fine. Then, consider the coaching change and it creates some intrigue for Asik. The Pelicans were good defensively with Asik and Davis on the floor (100.5 defensive rating), so all new coach Alvin Gentry has to do is mesh his offensive strategies with that combination and New Orleans is in business.
With Davis improving his range and Anderson as one of the best shooters at the four and you have the players next for him to thrive. Offensively, he’ll have his spots at the rim and should be a bit more effective as a diver. Defensively, I think Asik and his value will be increased if he plays more with Jrue Holiday and Alonzo Gee - defensive-minded players who can make his work at the rim a bit more easier.
I think we'll see a new-and-improved Asik, one that helps the Pelicans take that jump from a team stuck in the middle of the pack defensively, to a top 10 defensive team.