For Omer Asik of the Houston Rockets, this has not been a fun year. When he signed with the Rockets two offseasons ago, he believed he would be the team’s long-term answer at the center position.
Then the Rockets signed Dwight Howard in free agency.
It was not Asik’s play that warranted the Rockets to go after Howard. Asik was outstanding last season as he averaged 10.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
Rumors started swirling almost immediately after the signing of Howard that Asik had demanded a trade. The Rockets were unwilling to give in at first as coach Kevin McHale and his staff had a vision of pairing Asik and Howard together to form an unbeatable front line.
Then the season started and the team’s offense struggled a bit while the duo would be on the court together. Neither player has any outside range and both are better closer to the basket, thus congesting the lane for the likes of teammates James Harden, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin.
Realizing that Asik was never going to be fully happy with his new role and that the big duo was not working out nearly as well as they had hoped, the Rockets then started to look for trade partners to accept Asik. Houston held out initially in hopes that it would get a deal that it likes.
Then in early December after a game against the Utah Jazz, Asik was diagnosed with a knee injury. He has not returned to the court since.
What has happened since is that Terrence Jones has emerged into a legitimate starter. His athleticism and offensive skills have made for a much better compliment to Howard’s interior presence.
So, what should the Rockets do once Asik finally returns to the court?
Asik could very well still be of importance to the Rockets’ success this season as long as he fully commits to his role.
When he does return, it is highly likely that he will be coming off the bench in relief minutes for Jones and Howard. With Jones, Howard, Donatas Motiejunas and Asik, the Rockets have one of the biggest frontcourts in the NBA. The presence of Asik with his rebounding skills and shot-altering ability (he did average 1.1 blocks per game last season) will undoubtedly give fits to opponents. In addition, the drop off in talent from when Howard goes to the bench and Asik comes in will not be nearly as steep as that of other teams when they sit down their best big man.
Asik can also fit well with Jones, as the two are both very good at rebounding and have different offensive skills that compliment each other.
When Howard and Asik will be on the court together, at least one of the two will have to make their presence felt in the post and in screen-and-roll situations with either Harden or Lin. The other will then have to be crashing the offensive boards. If they are not greater threats offensively, the burden may be too much for their perimeter players against some opponents.
There is no certainty as to when Asik will return to the court. However, when he does, the most important thing will be for him to put his displeasure to the side and buy into his new role with Houston. If he does, the sky is the limit with this Rockets team.