Breaking Down Omer Asik’s Defensive Game Winners

Published: March 4, 2015

Earlier in the season I broke down the game winning shot Tyreke Evans had against the Toronto Raptors. Last week Omer Asik decided he wanted to win the Pelicans a game against the Raptors as well. Except this time he did it on the defensive end. Asik wasn’t content with just one game winning defensive play that week and did it again, two games later, against the Miami Heat. Both times it came down to him individually and he delivered. But before I break down those plays I want to touch on his defense this year.

Fans often seem torn on Asik. His offense is rough to watch at times (I want to make a gif of him getting the ball stuck between the backboard and rim) and people lament about his stone hands. But we all know he wasn’t brought in for his offense. Dell Demps brought him to New Orleans to grab rebounds and defend the rim.

However his numbers this year are down compared to the year before. During the 2013-14 season Asik allowed a defensive field of 45.2%. This season that number is up to 49.5%. Specifically look at shots against at the rim, 2013-14 Asik allowed opponents to make 46.8% of their shots. This year it’s up to 50.1%. Not what Pelicans’ fans want to see.

But those numbers only tell part of the truth. Last season Asik defended 5.8 shots at the rim per game. This year it’s up to 8.2. It’s no secret the Pelicans perimeter defense has been porous this year. They are allowing Asik to get blitzed by quick guards and wings without providing him a ton of help. If the Pelicans were able to slow down some of those opponents on the perimeter Asik’s stats would look much better. He’s one player on the team and he can only do so much.

But there are times when he’s the only man the Pelicans need. Such as this possession against Toronto.

Toronto runs a high pick and roll to try and have the Pelicans switch Asik onto Kyle Lowry, which they do successfully. The goal here is to have Lowry use his quickness to get by Asik and score on a layup. Except Asik is such a good defender that it doesn’t work. When Asik switches, look how he keeps his hips open and pointed at Lowry. It allows him to shuffle his feet and keep up with the quicker guard. And when Lowry stops and pulls the ball back inside, Asik doesn’t fall over because of this. He maintains good positioning and it’s what allows him to get the stop.

Another thing to note is that Asik never steps out of the paint. He realizes that it would be tough for the shorter guard to shoot over him, and it allows him to avoid more contact and a potential foul.

Now let’s take a look at his game winning block against Hassan Whiteside and the Miami Heat.

Actually, I don’t really have much to say on this one. It’s just a tremendous individual play, and I wanted you all to see it again. It’s worth noting that Asik realized Wade was far out and had no need to switch off Whiteside. He sticks close and times his jump perfectly. Asik doesn’t block a lot of shots, and this was his only one during the game, but, wow, did the Pelicans need it.

It remains to be seen if Asik is the bigman the Pelicans need playing with Davis. But I think we can all say for certain that this Pelicans defense would be ranked even lower without him.


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