2. Is Omer Asik a Most Improved Player candidate?
How quickly can a player be perceived as underpaid to overpaid and back to underpaid again? We could find out with Asik this season. The former Chicago Bulls center, who signed a three-year, $25 million deal with the Houston Rockets in the offseason, could be a Most Improved Player candidate merely on per-game stats alone. Anchoring the "Bench Mob" of the Bulls' second unit last season, Asik averaged 3.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, and the Rockets thought that was worth approximately $8.3 million per season.
The hand-wringing over the contract was almost as prevalent as Asik has been on the boards this preseason. The 26-year-old is leading the NBA in rebounding with 11.5 boards a game, and the remarkable part is that he's managing to pull that off in just 25.5 minutes per game. On a per-36-minute basis, Asik is averaging a whopping 11.3 points and 16.2 rebounds, up from his 7.6-point, 13-rebound pace last season. Yes, it's preseason, but don't discount the value of coach Kevin McHale's work with Asik's raw talent. Throw in Asik's role as a defensive straitjacket and we could be looking at the early favorite to take Ryan Anderson's crown as MIP.