Omer Asik, Houston Rockets
The entire 2012-13 season felt like a pick-up game between strangers for Houston. For the first two months it was as if Kevin McHale stuck five guys together who’d known each other for only several minutes and gave them a loose directive: “Let Harden shoot.” Put another way, after an insane summer of stockpiling a dozen forwards, the deal for Harden early and another for Thomas Robinson at the deadline, it felt as if Houston was a weigh station for dozens of players last season – a sort of Grand Central terminal for those coming or going – where continuity went to die. Omer Asik was not only a defense-and-rebounding rock despite the noise, he’s on All-Star pace next season because of the roster’s greater familiarity with the top 11 players under contract. As the total rebound leader in the NBA last season and a top-10 ranking in each of the offensive, defensive and total rebounding rates, he held firm to his reputation. Still, he’ll likely improve now that he understands the rigors of being a starter and his offense will gradually get better. Often McHale will use a Mike D’Antoni-esque concept of four shooters and a post running high pick-and-rolls, where Asik’s job is to race to the rim after a screen. He already scored five points more per 36 minutes than ever before last season; give him a summer to improve and that could jump to a 15-and-15 player come the fall.