Hakim Warrick one of the answers Phoenix’s offensive woes

Even Alvin Gentry admitted that Hakim Warrick is the key to a productive Suns offense.

PHOENIX —  For the Phoenix Suns’ offense to work effectively, spacing has to be near perfect.

Over the past six years, the Suns’ pick-and-roll offense created that spacing as Amare Stoudemire sucked in the defense with his ferocious dives, which in turn led to a barrage of three-pointers.

If STAT wasn’t making posters, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley or Jason Richardson were drilling threes.

But without that consistent pick-and-roll threat this season, the Suns’ offense is a shell of its former self.

Before the ugly Cavaliers win they went four straight games without cracking the century mark — for the first time since December 2005 — and Steve Nash had little room to operate as the Suns jacked up contested jump shots.

That lack of spacing and success offensively led Alvin Gentry back to the film room to see how the Suns were successful offensively in the first quarter of the season. He came up with one answer: Hakim Warrick.

“I went back and looked at all the games when we’ve been successful and played pretty good and he’s had pretty good numbers,” Gentry said of Warrick. “I think we’ve got to get him back in the rotation and as I said play some consistent minutes with people and not have it go up and down and fluctuate.”

Early in the season Warrick appeared to be the answer to Phoenix’s pick-and-roll problems. He tore down the rim a la Amare and proved to possess a true knack for knifing into the lane and punishing defenders. He scored 18 points and grabbed 11 boards in his second game as a Sun, posterizing Paul Millsap along the way.

Warrick went on to average 13.4 points per game on 55.0 percent shooting in 26.4 minutes in November, including games with 25, 23, 21, 19, 18, 15 and 16. The 6-foot-9 forward was playing so well that he earned a start against the Nuggets on Nov. 28. The Suns lost 138-133, however, and Warrick found his way to the bench due to concerns with energy, defense and rebounding.

Since his one and only start of the season, he’s averaging only 15.3 minutes per game (12.7 in January) including two DNP-CDs. When Robin Lopez was out with a knee injury, the Suns needed defense and rebounding, not a one-dimensional pick-and-roll specialist.

“I think just at times we probably needed a little more defense, rebounding, hustle at that position, and we find a way to score we just need a little bit more of a presence at times,” Nash said of why Warrick fell out of the rotation.

But now that the Suns have Lopez healthy, and a defense and rebounding specialist behind him in Marcin Gortat, Warrick should see more time at the power forward spot. As he showed early in the season, he’s clearly capable of thriving out of the pick and roll while opening avenues for Nash and triples for spot-up shooters.

“I just think that, that presence of being able to suck the weak side in, that leaves our shooters open and just to have somebody that can finish at the basket,” Gentry said after he inserted Warrick into the lineup with 3:38 left in the Cavs game and the Suns up 95-94 in hopes of doing just that.

Warrick scored four points as the Suns went on a 13-6 run to close out the game. Although he’s bad defensively and an incapable rebounder, Warrick needs to be on the floor more often to give the Suns’ offense a threat inside.

“Well we don’t have any fours, so if Hakim plays well it gives us a four and it gives our team balance,” Nash said. “When he comes and plays with energy, he makes up for his lack of size and can really be a huge factor.”

In wins, Warrick averages 12.8 points per game in 22.1 minutes, while in losses he scores only 9.1 points per game in 20.5 minutes. He brings that ability to finish that Gentry talked about as he ranks sixth in the NBA in field goal percentage at the rim (76.0 percent) for players who attempt two or more shots at the rim per game.

To put that in perspective, the numbers say he’s a better finisher than Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Carlos Boozer, Lamar Odom, Paul Milsap and other notable big men. He also ranks No. 1 in the NBA in points per possession out of the pick and roll, with 1.38 PPP and a 72.5 field goal percentage.

Warrick said Sunday night that it’s been tough for him over the past few months moving in and out of the rotation, but he remains confident in what he can bring to the table. He admitted that it was a lack of consistency, energy and defense and rebounding that kept him out of the lineup for so long.

But Gentry vowed to find him more minutes, and if he can stay energized and at least be decent defensively, the Suns can return to form offensively.

A Warrick/Stoudemire comparison from earlier in the season

Tags: Hakim Warrick

  • Zak

    What the hell… give Warrick a chance. Could his playing more minutes actually make things worse? I doubt it.

  • Mel.

    The irony being that Warrick’s minutes–lost due to his “lack of energy, rebounding and defense”–pretty much went to Hedo.

    Talk about beating the cart to spare the mule.

  • Dj327

    When the suns are scoring less than 100 somethings wrong. Surround warrick with good defensive players to hide his weakness, we need his scoring. Try pairing warrick with frye and lopez, since frye has size, but can still spread the floor. Especially since grant is hurt right now.

  • Zak

    My first comment was rather flippant but I think giving Warrick more minutes is just another reach… a hopeful gamble. Defense will turn this team around rather than the 3.7 more points per game that giving Warrick more minutes. IF Warrick can establish himself as an inside threat to other teams, only then will they start to pull in and give the 3 point shooters some open shots. But that’s going back to the live-or-die by the 3 pointer mentality! Maybe this season all we can hope for is to just outscore other teams but DEFENSE is what brings championships. Defense that frustrates the other team into doing stupid things which causes them to loose games. Do you want a championship, Phoenix? Or are you satisfied with a string of high scoring teams who occasionally loose games by scores of 145-144 to teams that average scoring 88 points per game until they play the Suns?

  • Tony B

    The fundamental problem with Warrick, speaking strictly of his offense, is that his midrange jumper is very weak. Thus, defenses know he’s strictly a one-dimensional offensive player, that of a pick-and-roll specialist. With that being the case, defenses play off him clog the paint when he rolls to the basket. The end result is that Warrick has very little room to manuever and is forced to take tough shots in the paint or draws charges.

  • Ryan

    Good article and a lot of good points on what Warrick can bring to the team offensively. If he can play as a roamer defensibly and try to limit himself posting up and just box out his man he should be good on the D.

    Also, I think playing him a lot with Gortat on the floor will take pressure off him to defend and rebound as Gortat can swallow up all those boards. If both Hakim and Gortat can box out there mans they can eat a lot of defensive rebounds.

  • Auggie5000

    Hakim Warrick might just be the worst defender that I have ever seen. I’ve never seen such poor awareness. I have caught him too many times on the OPPOSITE side of the lane than his defensive assignment.
    He looks like a 4th grader out there.

  • KJ Loyalist

    Auggie5k: If he can be what the Suns need to bring the zen-like balance back to the offensive end, then they will look the other way on his mental lapses.

    Need proof? Look no further than Two-Time.

    He is the engine that makes the offense go, but he is a revolving door in terms of on-ball guard defense, which means that most of our defensive assignments are compromised as soon as the guard, (whoever he is), attacks Nash.

  • Auggie5000

    @KJL I guess you have to work with what you have. You might be able to hide him by playing him in 2 minute spurts.
    I would rather him ride the bench because Gortat has proven to be competent in the 1-dimension they see Warrick as so fluent in. Or maybe we should show him off as trade bait. Good idea Coach Gentry.

  • KJ Loyalist

    I think, for the most part, a lot of guys are being put out there as trade bait.

    I’d put Carter in that position as well. Really though, I liked how Gentry used Warrick in the first half of this season so far. I actually like him and Gortat as a starting combination with RoLo coming off of the bench with Dragon.

  • Kevin B

    Great article Mike, I have been saying this for the last two months!!!! Doesn’t anyone remember during the beginning of the season Warrick looked like baby Amare…not sure how he lost favor, but he is the only player that can work the pick in roll with Nash, so why wouldn’t he be in there with him. He has great hands and excellent finishing ability, originally I thought paired with Nash he would have a career year, but that isn’t going to happen coming off the bench.