With playoff seeding still up in the air, Asik showed why he has been one of the top offseason signings of last year as the Rockets stayed within a game of the Golden State Warriors for the Western Conference sixth seed.
Asik tied a career high 22 points and grabbed 18 rebounds against the lowly Magic, helping Houston overcome the absence of two of the team’s top players. James Harden missed his second straight game with an injured right foot while Chandler Parsons sat out due to illness.
Asik registered his double-double before halftime and was instrumental in the Rockets establishing a 22-point break at the half and shooting 53 percent on 26-49 attempts from the field.
After wasting away on Chicago’s bench for much of the early part of his career, Asik has brought defense and an interior presence that Houston so badly required. Asik probably won’t win Defensive Player of the Year, but his name should be mentioned among the candidates including Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol and Tyson Chandler.
Houston’s defense is remarkably better with Asik on the court–the Rockets give up six points less per 100 possessions and despite his size he’s also significantly better than many of his NBA counterparts at defending the pick-and-roll, while his lateral movement makes him good on rotations.
Asik is more than justifying the $25 million contract Houston gave him last summer and the 26-year-old should continue to improve as he becomes more accustomed to life as a full-time NBA starter.