Hakim Warrick: Not Amare, but not a bad deal either

Let’s start off by saying what Hakim Warrick is not.

He is not Amare Stoudemire. He is not a five-time All-Star, he is not an All-NBA-caliber player, he won’t ever face defenses loading up to stop him and he won’t rip off 44 points on 16 shots.

So while Hakim Warrick will be replacing Amare Stoudemire on the roster and maybe even in the starting lineup, let’s not for a second think he’s going to actually replace Amare.

What Warrick is is an uber-athletic, long, agile, 27-year-old power forward who can knock down a mid-range jumper and finish in the lane with authority. Kind of like the old 27-year-old power forward, but then again not really. He’s also not the world’s greatest defender (although I will always remember him for the block on Michael Lee in the 2003 title game), just like the old No. 1.

When Suns fans look at Warrick’s four-year deal worth between $16-18 million pending incentives, they should not be thinking about Amare at all despite the similarities between their games. They should be thinking of this as another quality piece at an affordable rate that fits the system.

Warrick is the kind of player who has never gotten a chance in a situation that suits him. He bounced between Milwaukee and Chicago last year, teams that weren’t a perfect fit, and before that he spent four years in the mess of a situation known as Memphis. Here’s what John Hollinger wrote about Warrick after the 2008-09 season:

The Grizzlies made so many strange moves over the past few years that Warrick’s bizarre internment on the bench last year didn’t even register a blip on the radar. It should have, though. He played only 24 minutes a game off the bench while obviously inferior players started ahead of him. Memphis seemed unusually determined to keep him in a limited role as an off-the-bench scorer.

Warrick led the team in PER and averaged 18.7 points per 40 minutes for a team that finished 28th in offensive efficiency. But Memphis refused to stray from the plan. In fact, his situation worsened as the year wore on, with Warrick playing only 20 minutes a game in March. This was insane, of course, but that’s life with the Grizzlies.

Warrick generated free throws by the bushel, ranking third among power forwards in free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt. He posted middling results in the other categories, but they were entirely consistent with what he’d achieved the previous two seasons — making Memphis’ decision to keep him as a reserve all the more baffling.

Warrick has finally found a perfect situation, a place with minutes to spare at the four where the team will run, use his length and athleticism defensively (he starred in Jim Boeheim’s zone in college) and oh yeah — he will get fed easy looks by Steve Nash.

“It’s like a dream job,” Warrick told The Arizona Republic. “I’ve always sat there and watched the Suns, thinking, ‘If I could play with Steve Nash, that’d be great.’ I got that opportunity and I jumped on it.”

Fit is so important in the NBA, and this appears to be another great mutual fit (then again, how many players seem to fit in with the Suns?) A year ago the Suns signed a big man coming off a 4.2 and 2.3 season and somehow he was the missing piece, propelling the Suns to the West Finals and himself to a five-year, $30 million deal.

Although Frye and Warrick are very different, they both fit the system. Warrick is a moderately young player who will now be able to grow with the Dragic-Dudley-Clark-Lopez-Frye core, and he should improve his offensive numbers drastically now that, like Frye last season, he will be getting time and touches.

That’s something Warrick has never gotten playing in systems considerably slower than Phoenix’s (he is a big man who can beat his guy down the floor) and in always averaging mid-20s minutes as a guy off the bench.

Taking out his rookie season, Warrick has averaged 22.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per 48 minutes in his overall pedestrian career. By comparison (I know, I promised I wouldn’t), Amare has averaged 31.6 and 12.7 per 48 when taking out his rookie season and microfracture year.

So no, he isn’t Amare, but even while playing in less offensive systems, he put up some solid if not spectacular stats.

Really the best part of the deal is that the Suns are getting value. Compared to the bloated deals on the market, this is a steal. Hell, the Suns signed Warrick for less dough than the Wolves gave Darko Milicic, who has done nothing in his career aside from becoming the decade’s biggest bust (maybe that says more about David Kahn than anything).

I’d call this signing a savvy move, with the Suns finding an undervalued asset that could be a real steal when thrown together with Steve Nash and the Suns’ system.

When Warrick signed, Amare was already gone. You could argue that the Suns should have thrown themselves into the David Lee chase, but is Lee at $13 million really better than Warrick at $4 million?

This move keeps the Suns a playoff team now and preserves their cap space for next summer when J-Rich’s $14.4 million deal is up. If they could find a taker for LB’s then-expiring deal (or if he opts out next summer), the Suns could make their big splash then when there will likely be less competition anyway.

As it stands, the Suns will essentially be replacing Amare Stoudemire with Hakim Warrick (and likely having Earl Clark move into Lou Amundson’s spot). Thus it doesn’t take Professor Hollinger to tell you the Suns will be fielding a less talented basketball team next season.

But don’t blame that on Hakim Warrick. He’s not the reason that Amare is leaving.

Instead he’s a player who could wind up being one of the biggest bargains of this gluttonous offseason even if he’s not exactly Amare Stoudemire.

Tags: Amar'e Stoudemire Hakim Warrick

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