With Dwight Howard’s decision to join the Houston Rockets, last year’s starting center Omer Asik looks to be heading to the bench. It’s a role he’s familiar with as he transitioned his last reserve role as Joakim Noah’s backup in Chicago to a 3-year, $25 million dollar contract with the Rockets. Evidently, however, Asik has no interest returning to his bench roots and has reportedly requested a trade, which the Rockets are reluctant to perform.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has watched Asik last season. While his offensive game quietly improved (raised his field goal percentage to 54% while raising his usage rate to a career-high 16.3%), his defense was the story. He rebounded the ball and protected the paint almost as well as any big in the league.

Howard, meanwhile, struggled on the defensive end to start the season, as I highlighted about 35 games into the season. At that point, opposing offenses were shooting 2.6% better at the rim with Howard on the floor than with him off of it. A far cry from the 2.6% drop in shooting percentage opponents averaged with Dwight on the floor over the previous 3 seasons. In fact, an advanced comparison of Howard and Asik’s on court-off court opponent exPPS tells an interesting story. exPPS, concept and formula introduced here, is the expected points scored per shot attempt given a team’s shot selection, their proficiency from that area and the point value of that attempt. Shockingly, Asik and Howard had almost identical value as defensive anchors last season.