One of the hottest debates recently has been the quality of Asik’s play. How will Asik:
a) hold up with the rigors of a full season?
b) produce offensively?
c) perform as a shot-blocker?
d) lead a new stout defense?
e) improve his free throws? Hacka-sik?
He is somewhat of an unknown but was always highly thought of under Tom Thibodeau in Chicago. Will the fact that he is no longer working under one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA slow his progression defensively?
With no real backup or other big of note on the roster (other than the recently acquired Cole Aldrich), Asik should play big minutes for the Rockets. However, we need to be realistic when judging his statistics, especially his blocks.
Blocks is one defensive category that is based largely on energy, timing and effort. Asik had 68 blocks in 66 games (1.03 blocks per game) last season with an average playing time of 14:41. In 25 games where he played more than 15 minutes he had 43 blocks (1.72 blocks per game). Lastly in games where he played more than 22 minutes per game (seven games) he had 18 blocks (2.57 blocks per game).
Asik has shown the ability to be a solid defensive player, and he still shot over 50 percent from the field. The biggest issue with Asik going forward (in my humble opinion) is likely to be foul trouble. Being a larger, slower big man, he will often play against smaller ‘centers’ that are quicker and could get him into foul trouble. If he can keep his foul trouble in check then Asik has the chance to be worth every penny.
With newly-acquired James Harden and incumbent point guard Jeremy Lin, Asik will have many opportunities to work a pick-and-roll as well as be in great position for a quick dump off on a drive or a quick put-back on a miss. With such quick perimeter players, Asik’s job will come easy. He should be able to score in double digits and post a high field-goal percentage.
So after all of this what can we expect from Asik?
Well, in the preseason, Asik averaged 23.8 minutes, 7.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. That being said, the whole structure of the team changes dramatically with Harden and I think that only increases his production.
One of the bright spots this preseason for Asik has been his improvement at the free throw line. Last season Asik shot a despicable 47-of-103 (45.6 percent) from the free-throw line. This preseason he has shot 14-of-21 (66 percent). Here is to hoping Asik can keep this up!
I expect big things from Asik, and my forecast is as follows (per game basis):
2.2 blocks per game
I look forward to you telling me how wrong (or right! :) I am!
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