Fun fact: when you type "Omer Asik" into a Google search, the first thing that comes up is "Omer Asik contract." Fittingly, that is the perfect way to sum up the 2015-16 season for the lumbering behemoth: a player that regressed so far that he is no longer judged by his play, but rather by his grotesque contract.
Pegged as perhaps the most divisive player of the summer, expectations were (unfairly) lofty for Asik heading into the 2015-16 season. Under the reign of Alvin Gentry, Asik projected to be a poor man's version of Andrew Bogut only without the excellent passing or Australian accent. To put it lightly: uhh, none of that happened at all. Nope.
Instead of being a key cog in the Pelicans rotation, Asik stumbled his way through the season before eventually falling out of favor with Gentry and losing minutes to the most washed of washed up players in the league: Kendrick Perkins. In one summer, Asik's contract has gone from "questionable, but you could talk me into it," to "RUN, RUN FAR AWAY!"
(Because the first thing I thought would pop up when I typed in "running away gif" was Snow White. Who knew she had that kind of athleticism.)
For the first time since his rookie season, Asik failed to tally 13 rebounds per 36 minutes, coming in just shy with 12.7. 12.7 is still a strong number, and illustrates the one elite skill Asik can bring to the table when engaged. That is what we expected from the Turkish big man; a bunch of massive box outs that coalesced into fast breaks and easy buckets on the other end. He would supply enough offense to justify his presence on the court and would resist extinction by providing timely rim protection.
Sadly, we were rarely treated to that kind of performance from Asik in 2015-16. A forgetful season was properly punctuated with a late March tilt in Brooklyn in which Asik played the first four minutes before being exiled to the bench for the remainder of the game. As a viewer at the time, I was melancholy. I felt like I was watching the demise of a player right before my very eyes. The go-go nature of today's NBA is making players of Asik's profile essentially useless.
Opposing defenses would ignore Asik leading to a ripple effect capable of marginalizing the Pelicans' offensive spacing to mush. Davis would have no room to operate at the top of the key and the driving lanes for Tyreke Evans and Jrue Holiday were compromised. Even when Asik found an open crease along the baseline, there was a 50/50 shot of the ball smacking off his brick hands before fluttering out of bounds a la Joel Anthony:
(Sorry to bring you into this Joel.)
The future for Asik is bleak unless the NBA undergoes a renaissance where the big man is viewed to be vital rather than volatile. As the days go by, the $30-plus million he is owed over the next three seasons will prove to be more of a nuisance than that zit you have right under your nose. You try everything you can to be rid of the pain, yet it still remains -- taunting you each day you look into the mirror.
For the Pelicans to hum with the proper tune on offense next season, Davis is going to have to be featured as a center, thus relegating Asik to the bench full-time. I presume Dell Demps is going to venture into the depths of hell to try and dump Asik onto a sorry sack franchise that has no idea what they are doing (helloooooo Sacramento), but I would be hard-pressed to view a trade as a realistic conclusion to this relationship.
Bottom line, Asik has to figure out a way to tread water in today's NBA and gel within Gentry's system or he really will be remembered just as the guy with the atrocious contract.