Phoenix Suns offseason to-do list: Big men

Posted by on September 21st, 11:00 pm

Taking an in-depth look at Phoenix Suns guards and swingmen wasn’t too treacherous considering that’s where their strengths lie. But Phoenix’s so-called “big men” are a different story.

This is one of the smallest Suns teams in the last decade, so there are certainly a ton of things these bigs need to improve upon to give Phoenix at least a little hope when it comes to rebounding, post defense and interior scoring.

With that said, here are the offseason to-do lists for Robin Lopez, Earl Clark, Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye:

Robin Lopez

Last season Robin Lopez developed into a player that even former GM Steve Kerr couldn’t have envisioned. He cemented himself as the Suns’ starting center and the closest thing to an interior enforcer Phoenix has seen in a long time.

But Lopez is still only entering his third season, and has really only scratched the surface as far as his potential goes. With that said, here’s Lopez’s to-do list:

Go-to post moves

With Steve Nash on the floor, Lopez should be able to collect at least 10 to 12 points a game solely from being in the right place at the right time. But the Suns have absolutely zero back-to-the-basket scorers, and they are counting on Lopez to possibly fill that void.

The seven-footer flashed some jump hooks against the Lakers in the playoffs last season, but with nowhere near the consistency needed to be an established post player. He needs to be able to develop a right- and left-handed jump hook along with a counter move for each. An up and under or a spin move would do, just something that could give Phoenix a back-to-the-basket threat.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Lopez scored only 0.71 points per play out of post-up plays (which made up 17.2 percent of his total plays) last season. He shot only 41.8 percent out of such plays, which is quite a contrast from the 58.8 percent he shot from the field overall last season.

Lopez doesn’t necessarily have bad moves, he just hasn’t had enough reps and isn’t comfortable enough yet. For example, here he put a nice spin move on David Lee and got deep.

Once he got here he hesitated a bit, but still got up a decent looking lefty hook that you can see below.

The shot barely grazed the rim, however. Again, you can see below that Lopez gains great position and puts up a fairly decent looking hook against Chris Kaman. But the shot wasn’t close.

His numbers out of the post were far lower than any other offensive play type, further proving how Lopez’s post game truly is non-existent and thus the area that needs the most work. With such a wide body he can get great position down low, he just needs more repetitions and to fine tune his moves once he gets the ball.

Rebounding

Lopez is Phoenix’s 0nly true rebounder, so he’s going to need to post double-digit boards next season. Although he’s so wide and tall, Lopez only averaged 4.8 rebounds per game last season.

He’s going to need to amp up his aggression and control the glass for Phoenix every night. As Jared Dudley said, the Suns need him to play on an All-Star level to have a big season, and improving his tenacity on the boards is a top priority.

There’s no reason he shouldn’t grab double-digit boards on a nightly basis, he just needs to stay healthy and make it happen.

Jump shot

Because he’s a seven-foot center, Lopez doesn’t necessarily need a jump shot, but it will make him a much more complete player. He’ll be counted on in the pick and roll a ton this season, and a great way to keep defenses honest is to prove you can knock down the 15-footer with ease.

He doesn’t need to drill threes like Channing Frye, but a decent 15-foot jump shot would do a lot for expanding Lopez’s game. He’s been a five-feet-and-in kind of guy since he broke into the league, as you can see by the chart below. But a decent mid-range set shot could change that.

Hakim Warrick

Hakim Warrick is a bit of a question mark for the Suns. He’s never gotten a chance to play in this type of system and could have a huge year or be a complete bust. But we do know he’s athletic, long and has a decent jump shot as well.

But what does he need to add to his game? Here’s his offseason to-do list:

Defense

Its no secret that at 219 pounds, Warrick gets manhandled a lot down low, which I emphasized in my breakdown of him soon after his acquisition. He’s a below-average defender, but that doesn’t have to be the case with his length and athleticism.

He’s not bad defending on the perimeter, but his post defense is ugly. He allowed 57.5 percent shooting out of post-up situations during his time with the Bucks, proving his weight and lack of strength keep him from being a solid post defender.

He needs to find a way to be serviceable defensively, because most Suns bigs not named Lopez are average or mediocre as well. If Warrick can’t defend, he won’t stay on the floor.

Rebounding

Defense and rebounding are extremely similar, so it’s no wonder Warrick struggles at both. Despite his leaping ability, he hasn’t averaged more than 5.1 boards per game during his five-year career.

The Suns figure to get demolished on the glass next season, as they have no true big man outside of Lopez. But there’s no reason Warrick couldn’t emerge as a savior of sorts on the glass. He’s extremely long and athletic, and if Alvin Gentry can light a fire under him, he has the ability to patrol the boards for Phoenix.

Earl Clark

For Earl Clark, all of the tools are there for him to be a terrific player. He’s big, strong, athletic and multi-skilled, but it just hasn’t come together for the Louisville product. He has more to improve upon than any other Suns player, if he hopes to fulfill that enormous potential. Here’s his offseason to-do list:

Basketball IQ

How many times have you been left scratching your head after Clark makes a questionable play? Far too many times. He is too robotic at times, basically deciding what he’s going to do and then making a move rather than taking what the defense gives him.

Basketball is a game of read and react, and Clark is missing both of those elements. Whether he’s nervous or over-thinking, I don’t know, but he has to nail down the mental aspect of the game before he can make any strides in other areas.

Post game

As for the actual basketball improvements, Clark is going to need to add a post game this season. He’s the definition of a tweener. He has the skills of a guard, but the frame of a big man at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan.

The Suns have an excess of perimeter players, so Clark is going to need to play bigger if he hopes to get some burn. After a full season I haven’t seen Clark do anything out of the post.

He was a porous 3-for-15 out of the post last season, and as you can see from the chart below, he lived on the perimeter far too often last season.

With his size and length he could easily develop a nice turnaround jumper. He’s never going to be Tim Duncan or Pau Gasol, but he could develop a decent post game.

Isolation moves

This may sound contradictory to the last improvement, as I said Clark needs to be a factor in the post. But he does have a speed advantage over most of the players who will be guarding him. He isn’t bad at getting to the rim, but could be a whole lot better.

Clark shot 33.3 percent out of isolations last season, scoring only 0.6 points per play. He also turned the ball over 14 percent of the time.

He’s one of those players that you can tell what he’s going to do depending on the way he drives. If he goes left, he’s taking it all the way to the bucket, and if he goes right, expect a pull-up jumper. He’s too set in his ways and doesn’t react to the defense.

A way to fix this is, one with a better basketball IQ, and two by adding more moves. If he has more moves to choose from it will be easier to react to the defense and say, ‘If he cuts me off when I drive left, I have the ability to go behind the back to my right,’ and things of that nature.

No, Clark doesn’t need to be able to spin into a fadeaway or add an Allen Iverson crossover, but he does need more creative ways to get to the hoop and use that speed advantage.

Channing Frye

Channing Frye is going to do what he does best next season — drill three-pointers. But with the depth up front, he’s going to have to play more of a traditional big man role at times. And he was able to add a long ball to his game in one summer, so who’s to say he can’t make other improvements? Here’s Frye’s offseason to-do list:

Defense

Channing definitely made some strides defensively as the season progressed, but he still fouls too often and doesn’t play with much ferocity on the defensive end. In total Frye allowed 1.07 points per play last season. He wasn’t too bad as a post defender, allowing 0.8 ppp, but that was in a very small sample size (65 plays).

The Suns are counting on him to be able to be a serviceable defender in the paint, and if he can do that he’ll be much more than a streaky three-point shooter.

Rebounding

If Frye’s first improvement wasn’t obvious to Suns fans, this one should be. Channing is known as a soft big man, having never averaged more than 5.7 boards per game in his career.

He showed flashes at times against the Lakers in the playoffs, but the Suns will need more than just an occasional big game on the glass from Frye. If he can rebound and defend, he could very well play 30 minutes a game in this system, without being a liability.

Face-up post game

This isn’t exactly a necessity, but it’s something Frye has the skill-set to accomplish. He has great touch shooting the ball and a high release to go along with it. He isn’t a banger but doesn’t have to be. As long as he can face up and nail a Duncan-esque bank shot, it would do wonders for the Suns’ offense.

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: Channing Frye · Earl Clark · Hakim Warrick · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Robin Lopez

26 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Steve // Sep 21, 2010 at 4:33 pm

    Ugh, this really doesn't give me a lot to look forward to this year, as far as Suns bigs go. I still think this is a team that can win 50-55 games, but they're never gonna beat the Lakers with these bigs.

  • 2 Kyle // Sep 22, 2010 at 2:13 am

    At first the Suns big men don't look promising. But then keep in mind that Lopez/Frye will be getting the majority of the minutes depending on the matchup with the other team. This is a huge bonus for the Suns as they can play big or on the permiter depending on who's hot that night and how Gentry wants to match up.

    Also- Lopez could play center and Frye at PF, though this probably won't happen as much as giving Warrick time at PF to back up Hedo.

    This is an exciting year for the Suns as there is alot of new talent, and even just 1 or 2 of these new guys having a good year could mean alot for a team already stacked with depth and scoring.

  • 3 Bob // Sep 22, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Where's Lawal?

  • 4 Michael Schwartz // Sep 22, 2010 at 3:24 am

    Schmitz decided not to take a look at rookies since this series was about improvements from last year.

  • 5 suns68 // Sep 22, 2010 at 6:18 am

    Agreed that our bigs can’t match up with the Laker bigs. Whose can?
    Doesn’t mean we can’t beat them other ways. Charles said our best option would be the old 7 seconds or less. I concur.

  • 6 JC // Sep 22, 2010 at 7:12 am

    I’m really looking forward to seeing what a Lopez – Frye tandem can do in more conventional lineup situations. I expect Frye to improve his “big man” game a lot next year and I think we will see some interesting defensive schemes and lineups alternatives that are going to give opponents nightmares. How do you prepare for the kind of versatility and bench talent we have? The suns at the least will be a lot of fun to watch and I really don’t think our bigs are going to be that bad.

  • 7 martinez // Sep 22, 2010 at 7:46 am

    i agree with the comment above mine

    GO SUNS!!!!!!

  • 8 sunsfav // Sep 22, 2010 at 10:26 am

    I was wondering if anyone knows something about Phoenix Suns open practices? If anyone knows when one is please let me know. Thanks

  • 9 sunsfavn // Sep 22, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I was wondering if anyone knows something about Phoenix Suns open practices? If anyone knows when one is please tell me :). Thanks

  • 10 Lloyd // Sep 22, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I think that you will see Frye develop into a good all around center.

    Lopez-if healty will be a top notch center.

    Again, don’t be surprised if new G.M. Blanks doesn’t make a deal for a power forward.

    As usual, somehow, someway the Suns will challenge for the best record in the west. People keep overlooking the fact that Kobe is getting old and is slowing down. Bynum will have his usual knee problems, and the Lakers will regret not dealing him while he still has some value.

  • 11 JC // Sep 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    By the way, I guarantee there are a lot of teams out their that would love to add a 40% three point shooter in Dudley to their roster as a way to spread the floor. Especially a guy with Dudley's defensive tenacity. Spurs are a prime example of a team that would love to have a guy like Dudley to make up for what they lost in Bruce Bowen.

  • 12 JC // Sep 22, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    It is unfortunate, but I think Lloyd may be right that we are likely to see a deal get done for a PF. I hate to see Dudley go because he has been so valuable to our team and really such a great player but I think he’s got to be the most likely candidate. I won’t be surprised to see a package involving Dudley, Clark, and maybe Warrick before the trade deadline.

    Honestly I’d like to see them carry a 15 man roster this year and play all 15 (and maybe this is what Gentry wants to do), but it seems more likely that they will try and deal for today’s version of Charles Barkley and try do a 92-93 season remix (remember Barkley with his 20 and 30 plus rebound games, that would help the Suns out next year for sure…lol).

  • 13 Eagle Sun // Sep 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    I would like to trade Clark for a draft pick to some team that could use him (New Jersey, etc.).

    I think that you will see Robin Lopez average about 25 Minutes, 14-16 Pts., 8-10 rebounds a game. This is based on his reported progress on learning Post offense, but also that Nash and Turk will be feeding him the ball more with the pick and roll.

    Warrick will likely have a good year with 20 minutes, 12-14 pts., 4-5 rebounds a game. He will be used in the pick and roll, and will also draw fouls on the opposing Big Men.

    If Jones replaces Lou's Minutes, I see him playing 10-15 minutes, 6 points, 5-6 rebounds a game. Frye will likely be a better defensive rebounder as well.

    Then there is Turk. If he gets 14 pts, 5 rebounds, 5 assists a game, we will win more games than expected.

    Add to that J-rich scoring more by attacking the rim, J-chil also getting 10+ points a game, and Dragic improving, and I don't see the need for a trade for a PF.

    (And Lawal will develop into a solid 12pts., 8 reb, 20 minute a game guy eventually).

    The Suns should sign Jones and Matt Janning, and see if they can get Siler into shape and learn to build a high scoring offense with him on the court in spurts (Siler playing a few minutes at a time).

    Just fix the size issues, and the Suns will surprise everyone.

  • 14 Steve // Sep 22, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Sorry for the double post, but I had to mention one other thing…

    Someone said something about trading for today's Barkley. There is no today's Barkley. Name one guys who is 6'4"-6'5" who can pull down 30 boards and put up 30 points. Barkley was one of the top 20 players of all time. There is no one in this league like him right now.

  • 15 suns68 // Sep 22, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    We love Duds because he has a great attitude, plays well in our system and would jump on a live grenade for a loose ball. But I’m not sure the rest of the league sees him the way we do. (Look at the trouble Lou had finding a new team).

    Clark, well, I can’t see a reason why anyone would give us anything for him since he didn’t prove himself last year and had a lackluster summer league performance.

    We might get some value for Warrick, but we just signed him as a free agent, which assumes we probably paid his market value or a little more.

    Honestly, I don’t know who we could give up for a power forward who could really make a difference.

    That’s why I wanted to keep the one we had.

  • 16 Eagle Sun // Sep 22, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    Folks– This is the largest line-up we have had in the past ten years– Average height is 6’8″.

    Frye will improve, Lopez will improve, Jones will plug many holes and have some decent offense, warrick will be good, Lawal will surprise people, and if Siler can just run enough to cover defend and allow us to create a high-scoring offense with him–

    The Suns can really win 60+ games this regular season.

    I think that Blanks will help the players discover all kinds of hidden talents. I also think that we will go to 15 players this year, as we’re under the salary cap, and the NBA rules allow it.

    We don’t need a new franchise PF, we should just develop what we have.

  • 17 JC // Sep 22, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I agree with Eagle for the most part. I think we definitely should try 2 develop what we have but at the end of the day it is hard 2 see us giving 15 guys enough time 2 be effective and get into any kind of a rhythm. If we can do it, that would be great, and I think we’ll try for sure. But I won’t be surprised if we cut at least one or two people by the time the regular season starts.

    I think Clark is a prime candidate for a trade. He has not prospered so far in our system and so often GM’s think they can better utilize a player’s talents in their system. Diaw is a good example of a guy that wasn’t doing much for one team then turned out really well for the Suns. I’m sure there are some GM’s out there that would like to take on a project like Clark. I don’t have anything against Clark, I just think we have way to many guys who play his position way more effectively than he can. Honestly I won’t be surprised at all if we end up trading him for a 2nd round pick before the season starts.

    I think Dudley is also a trade candidate but hopefully some GM’s are suspect of a guy like Dudley because they see what’s happened with Bell, Diaw, etc. I hope that keeps him on our team. I just think our roster is a little stacked once again at his position, which sucks because Dudley is probably one of my favorite players.

    I think the front office is definitely thinking they want to see what this team can do but I think you just can’t have this many players with this kind of talent without considering a trade…Sarver even kind of slipped and made it pretty obvious he was considering signing free agents and then making trades as a way to rebuild now without Stoudemire.

    Speaking of Stoudemire, I am so glad we didn’t keep him. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Stoudemire fan, but not for the money he wanted. He’s just not worth it. We have had enough time to see what he can do and I remember thinking as we lost game 6 to the Lakers that this is his big chance to go to a championship and he just doesn’t have it in him. He’s just not the franchise player we all thought he would be.

  • 18 Eagle Sun // Sep 22, 2010 at 9:58 pm

    One more point– NBA rules allow only 12 players to play in a game, but allow the coach to choose which 3 players will sit out for each game.

    Janning would sit out, and Gentry would choose 2 of the these 4 (Jones, Lawal, Siler, and Clark) to be on the bench for each game. (assuming no one is injured).

    I think this solves the minutes problem.

  • 19 Steve // Sep 22, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    No way the Suns win 60 games this season. I’m as big a Suns fan as any, but I’m also a realist. The fact that we have to play the 9 other teams that will be pushing 50 wins will make it nearly impossible to win 60 in the West, especially for a team like the Suns. I think 55 is possible, but not 60.

  • 20 JC // Sep 22, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    When I said today's Barkley I don't really care about the height, I meant someone who can run the floor at the 4, be a monster on the boards and score a lot of points in the paint (say out of the post) and bury a decent % jump shot. Honestly the player who is most like that, especially in the fact that he is a defensive liability is probably Stoudemire who I know is 6'10" (I don't care about height as long as they run the floor and play physical). Except for the fact that he was allergic to rebounds. Honestly if Stoudemire played a more complete game and quit worrying about getting the ball so much as being a dominant defensive and rebounding presence and more allowed the offensive game to come to him, the Suns would probably have become a dynasty and won multiple championships. Maybe it was the coaches' fault for always trying to run the offense through him and not emphasizing defense. I hope D'Antoini takes a page out of Gentry's playbook and starts to play a little defense or unfortunately I don't see Stoudemire ever fulfilling his true potential.

  • 21 Lloyd // Sep 23, 2010 at 12:32 am

    A deal could include or may not include Dudley-it doesn't have to. The Suns have a bunch of good players with very attractive contracts (especially with what teams are paying now) for other teams to deal for in our search for a real power forward.

    Because of the surplus of wing players that the Suns have, it may be easier than we think.

    Also, G.M. Blanks is a San Antonio and east coast basketball guy, so he would want to keep the Suns run and gun style, but add a power forward to the mix.

  • 22 Eagle Sun // Sep 23, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    We won't trade for a PF– we don't NEED a PF

    Now, folks, here is an analysis of the Suns' PF situation.

    (NOTE: ALL FIGURES ARE AVERAGES)

    WE lost STAT with 23 P (points), 9 R (reb.), and Lou with 4 P, 4R– a total of 27 P, 13 R, at the PF.

    But, we have 48 minutes to replace this production.

    If we play Warrick 20 minutes, Jones 15 minutes, and Turk 13 minutes at PF (he will play another 10-15 minutes at SF and SG). We can expect to get the following production at the PF:

    Turk: 6-8 P, 2-3 R

    Warrick 12-14 P, 4-5 R

    Jones 5-6 P, 5-6 R

    This totals something from 23 P, 11R to 28 P, 14 R, from the PF Position (vs. 27 P, 13 R from Lou and STAT).

    At worst, we are talking about a loss of 4 P, 2R at the PF (It could reasonably be better than before).

    With Rolo's Improvement, Dragic's Improvement, Turk's versatility, J-rich's increased scoring (more opportunities), J-Chil's offense (he is going to surprise you now), Nash's increased shooting, etc, etc., how can anyone think that the Suns won't makeup MORE THAN 4 P, and 2R at other positions than PF ?????

    STAT's offensive pizazz will simply go to Warrick, Rolo, and J-Rich, with more added by J-Chil and Turk.

    Blanks is seeking to add and find talent, while embracing change (Siler is his idea–the plan being to get Siler into shape and develop a new powerful offense with him on the field.)

    Losing (trading) J-Rich for an Amare-type PF would make the Suns more like the Memphis Grizzlies.

    Besides this, we have a devloping Lawal.

  • 23 Lloyd // Sep 24, 2010 at 12:13 am

    Eagle Sun:

    I put on another post on this website that I am happy to see that we might extend Richardson. I am not in favor of trading him for a PF. He is only 29, and entering his prime.

    I agree, Lawal might be a very good PF in the future.

    You make very good arguments with the current roster (they can still challenge for the best record in the west as currently constructed). But, the Suns could still trade some of their wing players in a deal for a PF until Lawal is ready.

    Lakers watch: The season hasn't even started yet, and Mr. Injury (Bynum) is already having more knee problems. Old man Kobe has had his fourth knee surgery. You will see a drop off with the Lakers this year with an old Kobe and a ton of miles on his body.

  • 24 Eagle Sun // Sep 24, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Yes, the Suns SHOULD win 60+ games this season.

    Notwithstanding that the West is tough, the Suns still should win at least 60 games, barring unusual things.

  • 25 Eagle Sun // Sep 24, 2010 at 11:35 am

    The Suns don't play "run and Gun", now they will play "versatile relay-race basketball Run and Gun" with "12 starters on the bench", which can throw "one weird lineup after another" will be a nightmare to defend for any team. When the opponents figure out one scheme, they will have already been burned by another formation of the Suns.

    Another fact is that the Suns are able to push the pedal to the floor for 48 minutes a night due to the deep bench.

    This team has two major complementary strengths:

    Perimeter shooting and attacking the rim (and drawing lots of fouls).

    I think that Turk, Warrick, and Jones will give opposing teams major headaches at the PF position as the method of attacking the rim will keep changing thoughout the game.

    One final point is that the only reason the Suns did NOT win 60+ games last year was that they blew some big leads against mediocre teams in January and February–And the Dragon and Turkzilla won't let that happen this year.

  • 26 Chris // Sep 24, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Wat the suns have to do is not try to go big and matchup with the lakers, do wat team usa did to win, they have to go small and i would love to see this lineup Dragic, Richardson, Dudley, Turkoglu, Frye

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