The Houston Rockets are about to tip off the 2013-2014 NBA Season. Injury to Omer Asik prevented the team from trying to refine the Dwight Howard/Omer Asik twin tower attack. Though the sample size is only three games, the Rockets have to ultimately confront the fact that the Dwight Howard and Omer Asik two-headed monster does not work. The reduction in production faced by Omer Asik makes the pairing almost criminal. Follow after the break for a glimpse into the reality of the impact that Howard and Asik have on each other in our known sample size. Before the comments roll in, yes, it’s completely acknowledged that there is not enough data to definitively state that Howard/Asik cannot work.
In three games with Omer Asik Dwight Howard averaged: 12 points/14.3 Rebounds/1.6 blocks in roughly 25 minutes and 45 seconds of floor time per game. While any Lakers fan will quickly discuss how they would have been happy with that production from Dwight on a nightly basis, the Rockets have another issue to address. Omer Asik’s production… Ugh. Omer averages 3 points/5.3 rebounds/0 blocks in 23 minutes and 20 seconds or so of floor time per game. Let’s put that in perspective.
Per 36 Dwight is averaging 17.3p/20.6r/2.3 blocks. That places Dwight at his third lowest total in points per 36 production, outdoes his best per 36 rebounding totals by a whopping 6.5 rebounds per 36, and slots him in at third for blocks per 36. The numbers on Omer… are bleak. 4.7p/8.3r/0 blocks per game. These numbers would all be career lows for Omer in the per 36 analysis. What makes matters even more worse for the Rockets is that Omer Asik is an 8 million dollar player (against the cap) and one of the better centers in the NBA.
Further, the Rockets game plan revolves around the pick and roll. In fact, 85.65% of Dwight’s offense was generated at the rim in the preseason. Exactly where Kevin McHale wants to see Dwight operating. Consequently, 85.6% of Omer Asik’s offense, if you can call it that, was right at the rim as well. Asik’s efficiency is the reason for concern here. Asik was a combined 26% from the field, (4/15 overall) with 1.3 turnovers per game. Dwight, on the other hand, was 58% from the field while averaging 2.7 turnovers per game. Compare that to Asik’s 56% efficiency around the rim last season and Howard’s 64% efficiency around the rim and the Rockets have a problem. The Asik/Howard duo has cost Asik 30% from the field and Dwight became 6% less effective.
Now, on the floor, opponents shot 3-11 at the rim when Asik and Howard were on the floor together. With Asik, Howard, and Lin in the lineup the Rockets posted a 115.4 offensive rating (115.4 points per 100 possessions) and a 67.3 defensive rating (Giving up 67.3 points per 100 possessions) in their 26 minutes on the court. That is impressive work in a small sample size. Exactly what Rockets fans should expect coming into the season, really. With Dwight surrounded by a floor-spacing four like Omri Casspi the Rockets produced a 124.4 offensive efficiency rating and a 90.3 defensive efficiency rating. The numbers, albeit cultivated from a small sample size, reflect that the Rockets will be able to weather whatever offensive stunting Asik does to the line up. However, the numbers also reveal that Houston is still capable of defending well against teams with Casspi or Francisco Garcia in at the four as well.
For the Rockets fan left wondering what to do with the Dwight Howard/Omer Asik pairing, if they want a fully functional team that maximizes its investment, the answer should be relatively clear. No. It’s not trading Asik. It’s intelligently combining minutes and ensuring 48 minutes of rim protection a night. The efficiency and devastating impact of Beverley/Howard/Asik has its worth. There will necessarily be minutes bleeding into each other between Howard and Asik and McHale’s task is to make sure those minutes run together effectively. That being said, running Howard and Asik together and hoping it works out is not the way to do it.