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Omer Asik Is the Answer for the Houston Rockets at Center

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Omer Asik Is the Answer for the Houston Rockets at Center
Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

The Chicago Bulls valued Omer Asik so much that they offered him the most they could under the collective bargaining agreement. 

As reported by the Chicago Tribune, it was $24 million over four years, including a rare player option at the fourth year.  However, the prospect of starting, while having a shorter contract with the Houston Rockets, was too enticing.

Asik told the Tribune: "I'm very thankful the Bulls gave me the opportunity to start my NBA career in Chicago.  It's a great organization in a great city with great fans. It was a great place to be introduced to the NBA because the organization has created a culture of competitiveness and teamwork, good lessons to learn."

The Rockets' offer of $25 million were scoffed at by some.  They look at Asik as an ineffective offensive player and only a backup.  They but don't realize his potential. 

According to the Sun-Times, former Rockets head coach Jeff Van Gundy is an Asik supporter: "You can either focus on a player’s weaknesses or strengths.  Unfortunately, if a guy has limitations offensively, some guys want to stamp him as ineffective. Asik is a very effective player...But the [offer sheet] he signed is reasonable for a player of his stature the way the NBA is."

It is his offense that many point to.  Despite having soft hands and good athleticism, his offense is nothing spectacular.  He scores most of his points at close range, doesn't possess a great mid-range game and, like most centers, lacks a polished free throw, as evidenced by the sixth game of Chicago's playoff run against Philadelphia.

However, Asik seems poised to change that.  He has solid mobility and great footwork. 

During an interview with the AP (via NBA.com), Asik confronted his critics about his offensive game.

13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocked shots against Toronto

"I'm very happy that I'm going to be working with Kevin McHale, a legendary post player.  I know the offense is the missing part of my game, but I believe in myself that I can improve that by working hard every day. I'm sure, if I can get more minutes, I can improve that."

Asik has only two years experience in the NBA, and he's still improving.  He appears to have the desire to get better, not only on the practice court, but also in the gym.  Since being drafted, he's been able to put on 25 pounds, bringing his weight to 255, right in line for a player of his stature in the NBA.

The Rockets are a young team but have scoring options in Jeremy Lin and Kevin Martin, not to mention a plethora of rookies in Jeremy Lamb, Royce White, Terrence Jones and Donatas Motiejunas, any of who can legitimately become an all-star in the future.

What they don't have is a defensive stopper, and that's where Asik fits right into coach McHale's plan.  As a backup to Chicago center Joakim Noah, Asik only managed to play 14.7 minutes per game last season.  But those few minutes suggested something special.

Had Asik played 36 minutes, he would've scored 7.6 points, had 2.5 blocks, and an eyebrow raising 13 rebounds per game, 4.7 of which would've been offensive rebounds.  The blocks and offensive rebounds per game would've been more than enough to lead the league.  His total rebounds would've been second only to Dwight Howard.

Many are impressed, including Sam Hinkie, Rockets executive vice president of basketball operations.

Hinkie told the AP: "He was outstanding as a rookie, and he took big strides even throughout this year.  He's a natural help defender, that when penetrators get to the rim, he's there waiting on them. That's a big, big deal and not so many guys around the league can do it at the level that he's done" (via NBA.com).

Omer Asik blocks Kevin Love

It would've been nice for the Rockets to land Dwight Howard, but the cost to acquire him might've required the Rockets to let go of too many of their future pieces.

And perhaps the need for Dwight wasn't great as many perceived.  Asik is able to screen well and is a tremendous help-defender.  He fills in the void that Houston needs in defense quite well. 

Although the Rockets traded Samuel Dalembert this offseason, ironically someone they acquired by letting go of Jeremy Lin.  Asik will actually be an upgrade to Dalembert.  Asik defends the pick and roll well and plays his man straight all the way on the defense, while Dalembert isn't in defensive position nearly as often.

"It will be a little different for me, I didn't start much there," Asik told the AP. "But I think I will be working very hard and try to adapt."

This statement by Asik shows that the Rockets have something a lot of teams only wish they had: a roster full of players who want to improve.  You can have leaders who "lead" by scoring a lot of points, or you can also have someone like Jeremy Lin who values chemistry and wants to see his teammates improve.

Despite the team being so young, there's a sense of optimism in the Houston organization.  Rockets forward Patrick Patterson echoed the positive feelings.

Patterson told the Associated Press: "The things that are going on right now in the Houston Rockets' organization are definitely positive, positive moves in the right direction.  It's crazy. It's pretty much like a movie right now, just all the guys leaving, all the guys coming in and joining our team. The more guys we can get, it can definitely help this program and push us in the right direction."

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