Die hard fans have not forgotten about Omer Asik, the Turkish center the Bulls effectively grabbed by using three second round selections in the 2008 draft. At the time, Asik was hailed as a lottery talent who fell due to contract issues. Immediately following the draft it was erroneously reported that he signed a five year deal and wouldn't come to the NBA for quite some time. As it stands, the Bulls can negotiate with Asik next summer, whether they do or not may end up being a function of how much cap space they have left after the 2010 free agency class though. So what will Omer Asik bring to the table? When I watched his game film from 2008, which caused his rise into draft prospect status, I wasn't impressed much. He seemed to offer little offensively, and his defense, his main hyping point, seemed quite a bit overrated to me. I thought "just another big white stiff".
Asik didn't help his cause much by immediately suffering a torn ACL (I think, though my quick google search powers just said severe knee injury requiring surgery) wiping out all of last season. Thus enters Eurobasket where he's competing with Turkey giving us our first chance to see him in action.
While I watched a good chunk of all four of his games, most of this report is based on his games against Poland and Spain. Due to the fact that he went up against NBA players in both games, they were his most recent games, and he played more minutes in them.
Asik was described as "the hero" in the game summery of both games on the official eurobasket website, so clearly he was a huge difference maker in both games.
Hero: Turkish center Omer Asik scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in that crucial surge. He finished 10 of 11 (91% ) shooting from the floor.
Hero: Turkey's big men. Omar Asik attacked Pau Gasol time and time again in the first half, outscoring him 13-8 and posterising him several times. Asik actually seemed quieter when guarded by Marc Gasol. The Turkish center seemed to give his team-mates the confidence to go at the Los Angeles Lakers star player and the other Spanish big guys who, Marc Gasol notwithstanding looked out of sorts on the day. Turkey's other center, Semih Erden, manhandled Pau down the stretch.
My impressions of Asik in Eurobasket was that I may have been a bit harsh on him before. Especially seeing him matched up against NBA caliber players and holding his own made me feel quite a bit better. He definitely has legit size, and he was much more athletic than I remember him being from earlier viewings. The athleticism really surprising me because he's also coming back from that injury.
He did a nice job on the pick and roll (in limited attempts) and basket cuts where he catches, goes up, and dunks quickly and smoothly. He looked much more coordinated than I remembered before. All the more impressive for how long his layoff has been and the level of competition he went up against. He has a knack for finding himself in the right place around the hoop, and the Turkish perimeter players did a great job finding him and delivering the ball to him in positions to succeed.
On the downside, his offense definitely didn't look refined. He almost never tried to create his own shot or work in the post as an offensive player. Everything was on a cut, roll, offensive rebound, or transition play. I didn't see him shoot any jumpers, but his dismal free throw shooting (5/14 in the tournament) suggests that he has no range away from the basket. I got a feel of a poor man's Joakim Noah when watching him (though bare in mind I think Joakim is awesome, so a poor man's version to me is still pretty good). Probably not quite as athletic nor the same caliber ball handler, but similar otherwise.
He was a decent, but not exceptional rebounder over the few games I saw, but the sample size was really too small to get a good feel for his rebounding. His shot blocking, the primary feature that put him on the map, wasn't that big a factor yet with four blocks across four games.
Defensively, I want to watch more film on the guy before committing. While getting a ton of credit for going 10/11 against Gortat, I don't know if anyone noticed or mentioned that Gortat went 10/14 against him. At least two of those four misses were on uncontested jumpers that were just out of his range as well.
That being said, Asik did a solid job contesting most of Gortat's shot. In the words of Antawn Jamison, it was his birthday that day. Asik also did a solid job contesting Pau Gasol most of the day against Spain. That team is loaded with Rubio, Fernandez, and the Gasol brothers, so no help was coming for Asik on Pau as the other players are too good to leave as well.
I can think of two occasions where he got caught watching the ball and Pau made a nice cut to the basket to score on him, but outside of that he did an excellent job making Pau work hard for every shot attempt, not biting on his fakes, and contesting everything.
On the other side of the court, Asik did his own damage against Pau, in one play taking him off the dribble from the three point line and dunking on him. Something which I hadn't seen any hint of before or after out of Asik. It was nice to see him take an opening given to him even though I doubt a perimeter slashing game is something we'll ever see again, it made a great highlight.
Overall, Asik's greatest strength outside of his legit NBA caliber body seemed to be his feel for where to be on the court on both ends. He's finds ways to get open under the hoop when his teammates draw defenders and makes nice cuts to allow the guards an opening to pass to him. He also does a nice job staying with his man on defense while still trying to watch the ball to play help defense as well.
His skill level definitely needs considerable improvement in order to become an offensive creator on the next level. Like all young big men, he'll also need to add some strength as well to battle on the boards in the NBA. Based on this very small sample, I think he's someone who can stick on the roster and give us more than Aaron Gray, something I wouldn't have said after watching him in 2008. He's still young enough and earlier enough on the learning curve to provide significant upside potential if he can develop as well.
Speaking with sources within the Bulls organization they feel good about his size, athleticism, character, and ability to play the pick and roll. They think he'll fit well with Derrick and like his defense and rebounding.
My guess is that Asik becomes a nice backup center for us. Maybe playing 10-15 minutees a night behind Joakim Noah in the 2010-11 season if he makes it over with upside to improve upon that over time. While the sample size of games (80 minutes total floor time) was too small to draw definitive conclusions, the most important thing is that he looks fully recovered from the leg injury and doesn't seem to have lost a step.