James Harden has propelled the Houston Rockets to new heights in 2012-13, but Omer Asik is one Rocket that does not receive the credit he deserves.
Asik was signed this past offseason to a three-year, $25 million contract by general manager Daryl Morey. Asik was offered this deal after starting just two games in his first two seasons with the Chicago Bulls, leaving many criticizing Morey's thinking.
The big man has proved all doubters wrong this season, yet he still doesn't receive enough credit. He's averaging a double-double (10.2 points, 11.7 rebounds), shooting 53.6 percent from the floor and blocking a career-high 1.1 shots per game.
His numbers may not be the flashiest, but it's obvious that he gets the job done. The statistics aren't why he's been an unsung hero, though. Asik provides the Rockets more than just points and rebounds.
Houston shoots 46.3 percent from the floor as a team, with Asik's mark bringing that up slightly. James Harden (17.0 per game) and Jeremy Lin (10.8 per game) attempt the first and third-most shots on the team, respectively. Each shoots less than the team's overall average.
This is where Asik comes in.
Of Asik's 11.7 rebounds per contest, 3.4 of those are offensive boards. This puts him in a three-way tie with Dwight Howard and Nikola Vucevic for fifth in the NBA amongst centers. On a team that shoots an exorbitant numbers of jump shots—many of which are taken by two relatively inefficient shooters—having someone like Asik is crucial.
Asik is a big contributor to the second-best offense in the NBA (albeit by less than .25 points per game). His ability to keep possessions alive by grabbing offensive boards is something that should not go unnoticed. With him underneath the basket, the Rockets frequently get second chance opportunities.
His rebounding skills become even more important when you consider that he is the team's lone rebounding threat. Chandler Parsons is the team's next best rebounder with just 5.4 per game. Greg Smith is Houston's next-best offensive rebounder with 1.4, though he plays just less than 14.0 minutes per contest.
Without Asik's work on the glass, the Rockets would not be where they are in the standings at this point in the season.
Asik's post game is another invaluable member of the Rockets' offensive attack.
With perimeter/mid-range guys like Harden, Lin and Parsons commanding most of the attention on defense, Asik represents a great safety net inside. When Harden and Parsons (and sometimes Lin) command double teams, Asik is but an entry pass away.
Asik has shown this season that he is pretty versatile when he gets the ball in his hands under the basket. There have been many times this season where he has passed the ball back out to the perimeter to set up the shooter left open by the double team. There have also been many times when he's benefitted from less congestion near the basket and scored.
The Rockets would not be an above .500 team without a capable scorer underneath. Both Terrence Jones and Thomas Robinson have shown flashes of their potential in their rookie seasons, but neither have established themselves are reliable options just yet.
I'm convinced that the Rockets would not be in contention for the playoffs if they did not have Asik starting at center every game. The addition of Harden worked wonders for the team as well, but it's not easy for a team to succeed without an at least semi-capable big man down below.
Asik has been more than just semi-capable. Saying that he's capable can even be construed as an understatement. Asik has played remarkably well this season, and Morey should be very pleased with himself for possibly one of the biggest steals of the offseason.