Who’s the roll man for the Phoenix Suns next season?

Posted by on August 17th, 11:59 pm

With the departure of Amare Stoudemire to the New York Knicks, the Phoenix Suns not only lost an explosive power forward, but also the source of the majority of their offense.

I’m not just talking about the 21.4 points per game he averaged over eight years with the Suns, but rather the actual plays that came as a result of Stoudemire. He quickly solidified himself as one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league, and he and Steve Nash developed a Stockton and Malone-like rapport.

From the Mike D’Antoni days to the current Alvin Gentry clubs, the pick and roll has always been the bread and butter for the Suns. There aren’t many offensive sets in Phoenix — just give it to Nash, send STAT to the perimeter and enjoy a Stoudemire slam, a Nash pull-up jumper or an uncontested three-pointer.

But without Amare, who can the Suns turn to as their roll guy? Who will be the big man to space the floor and keep that balance that allows Nash to do what he does?

With no real conventional power forward on the roster, it’s slim pickings for the Suns. The four players that will play at the four and five spots are Robin Lopez, Hedo Turkoglu, Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye.

Here’s how that quartet, as well as Stoudemire, fared out of the pick-and-roll-man during the 2009-10 season, courtesy of Synergy Sports Technology.

2009-10 Pick and Roll Stats
Player%TimePPPFGMFGAFG%3FGM3FGA%TO%Score
Robin Lopez20.5%1.3466867.6%005.7%67.8%
Hakim Warrick (Bulls/Bucks)(9.8/11.4)(1/1.14)(5/27)(14/50)(35.7/54)(0/0)(0/0)(4.2/1.7)(58.3/59.3)
Channing Frye14%1.134911144.1%30696.7%47%
Hedo Turkoglu0.1%0010%000%0%
Amare Stoudemire17.8%1.2116527659.8%009.1%60.3%

As you can see above, Turkoglu is out of the equation completely. He could be used in pick-and-pop situations, but will operate with the ball out of the pick and roll instead of working as the screener.

Frye is also a notorious pick-and-pop guy, but he could be of some service as he wasn’t awful shooting two-pointers out of the pick-and-roll, as he connected on 19-of-42 inside the arc.

However, it’s easy to see that the two guys that are going to carry the roll-man duties are Lopez and Warrick. I’ve never thought of Lopez as a huge pick-and-roll threat, but his numbers say otherwise.

Although the sample size is smaller, Lopez was actually more effective out of the pick and roll than Stoudemire. He shot a ridiculous 67.6 percent out of the play and was able to score 67.8 percent of the time.

He’s certainly a load barreling down the paint, and if he can catch in traffic he should be the catalyst for the Suns’ pick and roll. Lopez will need to show a ton of activity as the primary screener, as Turkoglu is going to be on the perimeter more often than not.

After watching him out of the screen and roll it was easy to see how great of a screener he is. Few guards can fight through his picks because of his wide base, but one concern I saw was that he actually rolled the wrong way more often than not.

The idea is to pivot off the foot closest to the basket, but Lopez would do the opposite and kind of get turned around before sprinting toward the cup. But with his long strides and athleticism along with a great point guard in Nash, Lopez was able to find holes in the defense and take advantage.

Here are a few shots of Lopez pick and rolls:

Below Lopez makes Ron Artest look small after a punishing screen. He then gets down the lane before help can slide over and grabs a pass from Jason Richardson that he gives a home with the left hand.

The majority of Lopez’s points out of the pick and roll were a lot like this, with the defense not sliding over in time and Nash or a teammate finding the big target for a dunk or easy layup. But even when the defense puts a body on Lopez, he’s such a load that it still is hard to stop.

Below you can see Lopez sets the screen and simply seals off the smaller defender and takes him right into the middle of the paint where they could do nothing but foul the seven-footer.

There’s no doubt he’s a strong finisher, as he shot 68.2 percent at the rim last season according to Hoopdata.com. Lopez does however lack the jump shot necessary for a lot of good pick and roll guys, but with four other shooters on the floor it isn’t an issue.

He does still need to polish off his post moves, because if he is met far out in the paint he needs a go-to move he can count on, which he lacks at this stage of his career. But all in all Lopez could at least partially fill the void STAT left.

Warrick will likely play a similar role for the bench unit. Frye will be like Turkoglu, living on the perimeter as Warrick works as the main pick and roll guy. As I wrote a little less than a month ago, Warrick is a very good screen and roll player because of his ability to finish at the rim along with his athleticism (he shot a ridiculous 73 percent at the rim with the Grizzlies in 2008).

He also has an above-average mid-range jump shot for a big man, which gives the Suns another element out of the pick and roll that Lopez doesn’t offer. But without a real traditional big man outside of Lopez, the Suns don’t exactly need shooters, they are hurting for someone to keep the floor spaced while knifing down the lane.

Lopez has the tools and will get the chance, but the fact of the matter is, none of these guys are Amare Stoudemire, and the Suns’ bread and butter is taking a significant hit. Lopez isn’t exactly comfortable as the lead screen and roll guy, and Warrick most likely won’t play enough minutes to emerge as the go-to roll man.

With that said, I would expect to see some different sets and variations from head coach Alvin Gentry to utilize the talent that he has. More back cuts, flare screens, pick and pops, dribble hand-offs and things of that nature to keep the flow of the offense.

Lopez and Warrick may do a nice job patching up the hole Stoudemire leaves in the pick and roll game, but the offense certainly won’t be the same because of it. Nash won’t have as much freedom to operate and the Suns will be forced onto the perimeter more than ever.

If you think they settled for jump shots too much last year, just wait. But if I’ve learned anything from watching the Suns  the last couple of years, it’s this: With Nash as your point guard, you’re going to thrive offensively. The Nash Effect will certainly run its course, but the fact of the matter is, the Suns are missing a consistent roll man and it should show from time to time next season.

Mike Schmitz

Mike Schmitz is a former ValleyoftheSuns writer who now works as an assistant video coordinator for the D-League\\’s Bakersfield Jam. He specialized in video breakdowns for VotS.

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire · Hakim Warrick · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Robin Lopez

31 responses so far ↓

  • 1 aaeea // Aug 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Once Lopez is injured, the team is done for the season.

    As Bill Simmons said to Steve Kerr in a recent interview – it's like owning a house, selling the house, and the new owners painting it in a weird color.

    Steve Nash deserves better. They do this kind of rotation to him every bloody year. The owner's interest is to have an entertaining team just so it's good enough to be profitable – he has no intentions of winning any sort of championship.

    Pathetic.

  • 2 stevo // Aug 18, 2010 at 12:50 am

    steve nash is the exception not the rule. The suns have spent money trying to upgrade the team without giving away valuable assesets.If the suns arent doin the best in the standings You will not hear a peep out of him..Its not like the suns havent tried to get better and he knows this.There should be a pic of him in dictionaire beside the word class.

  • 3 suns68 // Aug 18, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Martin,

    Please feel free to disagree with others as vehemently as you want, but kindly keep it respectful.

  • 4 Martin // Aug 18, 2010 at 2:43 am

    are you stupid or what?

    steve nahs deserves better than designing the whole system accomodating to his strengts and getting 13 mill for it?

    or, did somebody else sign the contract for steve nash?

    he decided to stay here and he knew what the suns do / are going to do … and HE signed the extension.

    I mean: does you employer make all decisions according the phrase “you deserve better”? or are the decisions more often than not business decisions??????

    comments like that are just a joke. full stop

  • 5 Al // Aug 18, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Suns need a True power forward. I am guessing they're going to go into the season with the roster that they have right now and then make a trade if things don't go too well for the team. The players that will probably be in the trading block are going to be Earl Clark and Hakim Warrick.

  • 6 Mike L // Aug 18, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Lawal is too young to be counted on this year. And RoLo was not a rookie last year.

  • 7 JR // Aug 18, 2010 at 9:19 am

    I agree with Mike :-)

    Lawal will need some seasoning to be effective. I don't think we can count on him offensively yet. Best case this year would be for him to fill the Lou role. A few points, some rebounds, and hustle plays would be great.

    Of course, this is only judging by the summer league. He did fine, but the gulf between him and some other players (Hickson for example) tells me he is not quite ready to be a major rotation player.

  • 8 Richard // Aug 18, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Steve Nash isn’t done yet. If people can shoot or play in an uptempo style, they the Suns play well. Sure we haven’t won the championship, but i would rather have had steve on my team the last 6 years then be known as a boring, slow and dirty team.

  • 9 suns68 // Aug 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

    All things considered, I'd have given Amare the contract he wanted. Fours that good are hard to get.

    That said, I'd rather have a stable of good threes and twos and try to win with speed and shooting rather than trade for a mediocre four just so we can say we have one.

    I have a lot of respect for RoLo, but I suspect those who expect him to take on Amare's load might be disappointed.

    He seems to be lacking Amare's sure hands and ability to score heavily contested points in the paint.

    BTW I'm expecting great things from Amare this year as he seeks to make the case that he belonged in the free-agent conversation with LeBron and D-Wade. Few things are scarier than Amare Stoudemire when he feels he's been dissed.

  • 10 JR // Aug 18, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I agree that I don’t want the suns to become “boring, slow, and dirty”. I think the most exciting part of last season was that the Suns combined Steve’s artistry with a bit more depth, nastiness and defense. Loosing Amare makes them less “nasty” on the offensive side (fondly remembering some killer dunks..).

    I hope the Suns can replace that on the offensive side this coming season – and maybe RoLo is the guy.

  • 11 Steve // Aug 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Turkoglu is going to help out alot. I think the Sun’s will be better off without Amare.

  • 12 Mike L // Aug 18, 2010 at 11:25 am

    I agree with JR (that’s happening a lot lately). It will be interesting to see what develops here, because as much as I love the Suns and want to see this coming season through rose-colored glasses, this part of their game has me very concerned. It seems obvious that they will either suck terribly at this part of the game, or that an unlikely big guy will show up huge this season.

    On another note, I just consulted Berri’s chart of Wins Produced for the league last year to see where Carmelo Anthony is … and he isn’t even on it. Interesting since he seems to be a hot player right now, or will be as part of next season’s FA class. I have to think with the threat of a new CBA and the lower amount of money that could mean for players that he’d be fighting for a trade soon to a team happy to give him a fat contract. Sarver has made it clear that he feels they have the pieces to acquire a big name via trade, but based on Berri’s analysis I don’t know how much good that would do the Suns. Or how much good it would do to add yet another 3 when our glaring weakness is at 4.

    Thoughts anyone?

  • 13 stg63 // Aug 18, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Lopez and Warrick will do great in the two-man game with Nash.

    Warrick was specifically selected for this ability, and the only reason you didn’t see more play with Lopez last year was that Amare demanded the ball.

    What we’ll see this year is Lopez on the floor with Turkoglu, and Warrick on the floor with Frye. So if a perimeter big for the Suns draws coverage away from the basket, you’ll see a “pick and RoLo.” And if the defense stays near the basket, the ball will go to whoever is open on the perimeter.

    As for Lopez “not being comfortable” with the play, didn’t he score 30 points when they decided to use him one night?

    And as for Warrick not getting enough time … the Suns rotate players a lot. I think that basically the only time you won’t see Lopez or Warrick in the game is when Dragic is at point. Unless some other factor in the game dictates otherwise, Nash should almost always have either Warrick or Lopez on the floor with him.

  • 14 Steve // Aug 18, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    @aaeea – I think there is only one team in the league that could still contend for a championship without their second-best player, and that is the Lakers. They would have a shot without Pau, but their chances would diminish from being clear favorites to being an outside shot. Miami couldn’t do it without LeBron (yes, I just said LeBron is the second-best player on the Heat), Boston couldn’t do it without KG (or Pierce, or Allen, or even Rondo, depending on who you consider to be best, second-best, etc.). No one has the depth in this competitive league to lose one of their top two and still compete.

    That said, I believe the Suns have the wrong philosophy when it comes to winning championships. They tend to view the regular season in a very lazy manner, believing that their running and shooting abilities can propel them ahead of their opponents more often than not, then they expect that same formula to work in the playoffs. Game 3 and game 4 of the WCF against the Lakers were perfect examples of how to play basketball (at least in spurts). The Suns need to develop a lock-down game that they can sustain for at least two quarters every single game. Without that, they have no chance whatsoever to win a championship.

  • 15 Metalate // Aug 18, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    I’m not convinced that Turkoglu can’t screen in the pick-and-roll effectively. Just because another team without a top-flight point guard didn’t use him there doesn’t mean he can’t do it with Nash. And I would imagine that incorporating with Nash is a big part of any discussion about bringing in new players.

  • 16 Eagle SUn // Aug 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Have we forgotten Gani Lawal? I think that he will play a good-sized part at the 4. He is good at crashing the boards, has great hustle, and will probably get the opposing team’s 4′s and 5′s in foul trouble.

    For those who say he is a rookie, well, Rolo was a rookie last year, and he would have produced even more if he had not gotten hurt. How about Dragic the rookie?

    Lawal and Warrick will fill the void at the 4, With some minutes from Rolo and Turk at the 4. Turk can then play SF or SG as a back up, and still get enough minutes.

  • 17 KJ Loyalist // Aug 18, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Maybe I’m the “glass half full” guy but seriously, let’s look at the roster we have right now without Stoudemire.

    This has happened before where we had to play a season without him and that team wasn’t nearly as deep off the bench as this one is. Result? WCF – so even without STAT there shouldn’t be so much doom and gloom.

    Lopez progressed well and the trend should continue this season. He doesn’t need to be stoudemire and nobody should want him to be.
    18 / 12 is great because hell bring the blocks as well as effort on all things defense. I will take that trade. Warrick will have advantages vs. The second unit on other teams. Turk and Josh can’t be discussed too much. We just don’t know yet.

    Lawal may command more playing time than we think if he can bring those boards home especially if RoLo / Warrior catch early foul trouble.

  • 18 Mike L // Aug 18, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    Yep, optimism is a good thing. And I also like the sound of the “pick and RoLo” … :)

    Looking forward to next year!

  • 19 DAG // Aug 18, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    KJ L. Love the rose colored glasses outlook but reality is last time Amare wasn’t with the Suns they tanked all the way out of the playoffs.

    Suns have 3 guys who should be in a starting 5:
    Nash
    J Rich
    RoLo

    Everyone else is a bench player. Very good bench players, like Sixth-Man of the Year types, but still bench players.

    When you have bench players starting, you’re in for a long year.

    Hopefully that reality hits Sarver sooner rather than later. He can then let Steve go to a contender like he deserves and start the rebuilding process that should have happened this off season.

  • 20 Michael Schwartz // Aug 18, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    @Mike L Thank you for bringing that up on Carmelo, I couldn’t agree more, and this is the perfect place to address that. I didn’t want to write a whole “Suns shouldn’t trade for Carmelo” post when that’s such a long shot to begin with. The advanced stat guys HATE Carmelo. There was recently a story on ESPN Insider basically saying Carmelo doesn’t deserve the max because he’s too inefficient, and Berry’s system hates inefficient scorers.

    Then you consider the fact that Carmelo is a certifiable 3 and the fact the Suns already have an army of 3s, and he’s just not a guy I would want to make a godfather offer for, especially when it seems like he’s bouncing to New York or somewhere like that after the season.

  • 21 Jim Coughenour // Aug 19, 2010 at 3:26 am

    The year Amare missed (2005-06) because of microfracture knee surgery saw the Suns drop from 62 wins to 54 wins. If the Suns drop 8 games next season, they will only win 46 and will likely be the 8th seed or miss the playoffs entirely.

    Nash was 31 years old and enroute to his second straight MVP. Nash is not an MVP caliber player anymore.

    The NBA also changed the rules based on that postseason. The Spurs won 63 games and Dallas won 60 that year, but the playoff seeding still dictated that the Nuggets be seeded ahead of the Mavericks because they won their division. The Nuggets promptly lost to the Clippers, of all teams! So while the Suns lucked into playing the Clippers for a trip to the WCF, the Spurs and Mavericks had to battle it out in the second round. A similar scenario is no longer possible, because the league felt this was so unfair to the Spurs and Mavericks that they changed the playoff seeding rules.

    Different time. Different team. No comparison.

    There isn't a single person with an ounce of credibility who projects that the Suns will be as good or better without Amare. Not one.

  • 22 KJ Loyalist // Aug 19, 2010 at 4:59 am

    @ DAG – Your thoughts are the exact thoughts of everybody looking at the Suns the year Amare went down. Keep in mind, that season we had no bench to speak of.

    You name 3 people who should be “starters.” One of those 3 guys? RoLo – a guy who, last offseason, was projected to be a bust by many in the league and probably around 70% of Suns fans. Same with Dragon.

    As I’ve said before we just don’t know how Josh and Turk will mesh with this team yet but they do bring some weapons.

    If RoLo is in foul trouble a lot, a baptism by fire for Lawal might not be such a bad thing.

    As far as Carmelo goes, I don’t know if he is what the valley needs to be honest. If we’re going to package some players together I’d like to see a strong 4 come back.

    People keep talking about our glut of SF’s like it’s something unseen in Phoenix forever. It is how we have always operated. As long as the pieces fit together nicely it’ll be another great year in the Valley.

    Everybody knew, going into this offseason, that we wouldn’t have the flexiblity to land a major player even if Amare left. With what we did have I’d say we’ve done very well.

  • 23 Phil // Aug 19, 2010 at 6:00 am

    DAG – the last time Amare wasn’t with the Suns Steve Nash won the MVP and the Suns were two games from the NBA finals – he missed the whole of Steve’s second year.

    Mike – are there any stats for the Suns pick and roll from 2005-6? That would be interesting as we did not have a proper 4 that year either

  • 24 Martin // Aug 19, 2010 at 7:41 am

    DAG probably means t he Shaq season, where stat missed the last 30 games or what … STAT was definetely not the major issue the Suns missed the playoffs in 08/09

  • 25 KeZ // Aug 19, 2010 at 7:44 am

    It will be a strange thing 2 see Amaré in a Knicks uniform this season…….

  • 26 Steve // Aug 19, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    I guess I don’t have an ounce of credibility then.

    There are a number of things that led to this team’s success that go far beyond Amare Stoudemire. I can’t be certain that the Suns will be BETTER without Amare, but I know they won’t be much worse off. The problem is that the West is going to be significantly better this year than it was last year. I know, it seems impossible, but the West is always getting better. The Clips might actually have a decent team, depending on the NBA cred of Griffin. The Hornets get Paul back. The Zombies get a year better. The Grizzlies have tasted winning. The Rockets will probably still suck, like always, and lose Ming halfway through the season, but if they don’t, they will be a contender as well. The improvement of the West would be a greater cause for concern than the loss of Amare. The fact is that Amare did nothing in the playoffs to help the Suns advance that they couldn’t possibly make up. He really didn’t do anything spectacular. He wasn’t awful, but he didn’t do anything to win games. They made it to the WCF because of a weak first- and second-round matchup, not because of their incredible talent, and certainly not because of Amare.

    Even though the Suns won’t be worse without Amare, I still don’t think they’re going to make the WCF just because of that. Other teams will be better, and our extremely lucky run probably won’t happen again.

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