Pelicans Throughout History: Omer Asik


Welcome to the “Pelicans Throughout History” series.

What I’m going to do in this collection of articles is take the best players from the New Orleans Pelicans, and then dump them in specific historic NBA eras. I will measure for statistical changes, adjust for varying pace, and discuss the non-anylitical differences between the various periods.

To do this, I’ve chosen three NBA seasons to teleport them into: The 1961-1962 NBA season, the 1975-1976 ABA season, and the 1992-1993 NBA season.

The 60’s being a time of legendary stat-lines and unbreakable records, the late 70’s being a time of flashy transition play with little focus on defense, and the early 90’s being a tough and physical era without the advantages of illegal hand-checking and outside shooting.

So, we know how good Omer Asik is today, but how good could he have been in the past?

Teleportation #1: The 61′-62′ NBA Season

In the first episode of this series, we took Anthony Davis back in time and put him on Wilt‘s Warriors, and in the second episode we made Tyreke the go-to guy on Oscar Robertson‘s Royals.

Today, we’re going to take Omer Asik back to that same season, and kick Bill Russell off the Celtics.

In the ’61-’62 season Bill Russell peaked statistically, averaging 18.9 Points, 23.6 Rebounds, and 4.5 Assists a game while shooting 45% from the field, and 59% from the free throw line.

Last season with the Pelicans, Omer Asik averaged 7.3 Points, 9.8 Rebounds, and 0.9 Assists per game while shooting 51% from the field and 58% from the free throw line.

Now, just like we did with Davis and Tyreke, we’re going to calculate what Omer would have averaged if he played the same minutes as Russell.

First though, I need address a counter-argument. Unlike Tyreke and Davis, some people might say “Omer Asik isn’t a fair comparison, because he isn’t athletic enough to play the minutes and pace Russell did.”

This is false, Omer Asik’s best basketball is played at a fast pace. His best season was in Houston, when they were literally first in the entire league in possessions per game. He’s great at defending the rim, collecting the rebound, and immediately throwing it to a sprinting guard.

He could absolutely stick to that role in the fast-paced 60’s, by the time he reaches half court, his team would have already scored and he could back on defense. Basically, he isn’t a great athlete, but he wouldn’t need to be either.

With that said, let’s do some adjustments. Just like with Tyreke and AD, Omer’s stats will inflate under the statistical conditions of the 60’s.

First, let’s adjust for pace. The Pelicans played at a very slow 91.4 possessions/48 minutes this season, while Russell’s Celtics played at an insane pace of 130.8 possessions/48 minutes in ’62. More possessions, means more people for Omer to defend, more rebounds to collect, and more outlet passes to make.

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If Omer played at Russell’s pace his stats would jump to 10.4 Points, 14.0 Rebounds, and 1.2 Assists per game, not a huge difference. The big change comes when we adjust Omer’s minutes.

Russell played 45.2 minutes a game in 1962, If Omer replaces him and becomes the new rim protector, he would need to be relied on for the same amount of time right?

When you adjust for minutes and pace, Omer’s stats jump to 17.9 Points, 24.2 Rebounds, and 2.0 Assists while shooting 51% from the floor and 58% from the line.

Compared to Russell’s 18.9 Points, 23.6 Rebounds, and 4.5 Assists a game while shooting 45% from the field, and 59% from the free throw line. The only glaring difference there, is that Russell was a better distributer, that’s it.

Now, for the NBA history-o-philes out there (I’m one too), I’m not saying Omer Asik is as good as Bill Russell. That’s stupid.

Russell was the greatest champion ever, he did whatever it took to win and understood things about basketball very few people in the world understand.

The Celtics aren’t winning 11 titles with Omer Asik, only Russell could do that. With that said, when you’re just checking the stat-sheet, it’s closer than most NBA fan’s would imagine.

Teleportation #1: The 75′-76′ ABA Season

The 60’s were about mythical stats and records. The glory was in the numbers, averages, and titles the players accumulated under the insane pace and speed of the game.

Conversely, the 70’s, in the ABA specifically, were about the show. They had a flashy colorful ball, a three-point line, and invented the dunk contest all to entertain and amaze the fans.

That’s why this era is by far the worst one for Omer to play.

When you watch Omer play, hardcore fans will recognize all the little things he does (boxing out, setting picks, grabbing boards, rolling to the basket, getting in position, defending the rim) but there’s a certain “WOW” factor that just isn’t there.

Let’s just say that when you watch an Omer Asik highlight reel, there’s a lot of lay-ups. (fast forward about one minute)

Not exactly Julius Erving is he?

That’s why this era doesn’t work of him. Anthony Davis would love catching oops and playing small ball with great wing finishers, and Tyreke would be a master of using his flashy handles to get to the basket, but Omer Asik would be largely under-appreciated.

He might be the best defender in the league, but no one would ever look close enough to realize it.

His rebounding and scoring stats still get a slight bump, but as far as legacies go, Omer Asik in the 60’s is an immense gigantic rebounding monster.

In the 70’s, he’s a tall turkish dude with a boring haircut (If you read the Tyreke piece, I made it clear that ABA Tyreke would have an afro, how cool would that be?).

Teleportation #1: The 92′-93′ NBA Season

The 90s I like a lot more for Omer. The pace and minutes aren’t a huge difference from the modern era, but there are a lot of non-statical differences which would make him more valuable.

First of all, rim protectors and post defenders would be far more valuable in the 90s then today. Hand-checking was legal back then, meaning it was harder for guards to penetrate into the lane, and it was easier for defenders to push them back out to the perimeter.

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The three-point line wasn’t nearly as utilized back then either. On average, team’s today shoot 22.4 three’s a game and make 35% of them, while team’s in ’92-’93 took just 9.0 threes a game and made 33% of them. The result of these two factors? A league filled with post up scorers.

It was too difficult for perimeter players to be go to guys (unless you’re Michael Freaking Jordan), so the big men of the time stepped up as the leagues première players.

Giants like Shaquille O’Neil, Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutumbo, Karl Malone, Shawn Kemp, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and David Robinson emerged as the stars of the league, and if you didn’t have one, you at least needed someone who could defend them.

Jan 9, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) is guarded by New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik (3) during a game at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans defeated the Grizzlies 106-95. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Omer Asik would be that guy. Today, the most important type of defense in the league is pick and roll defense, making the most valuable defenders athletic bigs who can switch into guards in those situations (Serge Ibaka, Anthony Davis, Draymond Green).

Back then, the most important form of defense would be straight up, one on one post defense (arguably the least important form of defense in the modern era), and Omer Asik would fit the description perfectly.

Another thing to note, Hack-a-Shaq hadn’t really become a common strategy, meaning you could play Omer Asik late into the fourth quarter to defend other stars, without needing to worry about him being sent to the free throw line.

Would Omer be valuable in the 90s? Absolutely, but imagine him competing with Wilt Chamberlin to lead the league in rebounds in the 60s, that’s a lot more fun right?

I hope you’ve enjoyed episode three of “Pelicans Throughout History” series. If you did, go back and check out last weeks breakdowns of AD and Tyreke.

Either way, stay close to BigEasyBeliever for constant Pelicans offseason content, and comment below if there are any other players you’d like me to teleport next week.

And try not to show this article to any of your dads, classic NBA fans might put a bounty on my head for even putting Bill Russell and Omer Asik in the same sentence…

Next: Pelicans vs. Warriors Opening Night Recap: A Look Into the Crystal Ball