Rockets center Omer Asik is a chain-wire fence. Behind defensive rotations that are regularly seamless, he gobbles up every loose ball within reasonable length of his giraffe-neck arms, protecting the paint as if it were covering a mound of solid gold.
This is what he’s best at, and this is what he prefers to do. Defense is why Asik was brought to Houston; he contributes vital skills at a consistently elite level, helping elevate the play of those around him.
Very few centers can corral a pick-and-roll, win a pure strength battle for position against a 290-plus pound man, and, without picking up a foul, convince a guard that finishing at the rim isn’t such a bright idea.
More than a few times this season Asik did all three on the same possession. But when taking stock of Asik’s value, a question must be asked: How do you grade a player who looks so dominant on one side of the ball, and so inept on the other?
There’s much more to offense than scoring, but those factors ultimately exist as a necessary means to putting the ball in the basket. Asik makes himself useful by setting some of the best ball screens in basketball and grabbing a high number of offensive rebounds (he’s snatching 13.7% of all available balls to him on the offensive glass).
But Houston’s up-tempo, pick-and-roll heavy offense calls for a big man who can do a little more. The Rockets need someone with quick feet who can consistently catch a pass while moving towards the basket, then either finish through traffic or get to the free-throw line. Omer Asik is not this player, yet. But he’s getting there.
Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey announced today that the team has recalled forward/center Donatas Motiejunas from Houston’s single-affiliation NBA D-League partner Rio Grande Valley.
Motiejunas (7-0, 222, Lithuania), who was assigned to Rio Grande Valley on Nov. 13, averaged 24.0 points and 9.5 rebounds in two starts with the Vipers. In Friday’s season opener against Bakersfield, Motiejunas led the team with 31 points and eight boards in 36 minutes. Last night, he posted a double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds against the Jam.
I think this is more a case of D-Mo having nothing left to gain down in the Valley, after destroying the competition, than it is of him being needed in the rotation. He doesn’t really have any skills left that need to be honed against the underlings – he just has to get reps against the big boys, at this point.
At the same time, with Terrence Jones somewhat fizzling off, and with the staff perhaps feeling reaffirmed in the importance of a stretch shooting-4 for this offense, maybe a case could be made that ‘Mo will get some burn. We’ll find out on Tuesday.
Recently I’ve been reflecting on how much our opinions of the game are tied up with how well the players are shooting. The margins between a made basket and a missed one are so small that there will always be an element of randomness in the result. The upshot is that it is very difficult to disentangle a player or team’s shooting performance with how good they actually are. If you make them all, you look like champions, if you miss them all, you look like last year’s Bobcats.
In this game, we saw what happens when all the shots go in. The Rockets looked near invincible and racked up an incredible 72 (!!) points by half time, led by supernova-hot Chandler Parsons. Try out this line for size from half time: 22 minutes played, 26 points on 11-13 shooting (3-4 on threes), 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists 1 block. And they didn’t stop coming after that either.