If you’ve watched the joke of a preseason game that the December 22nd game was, you should’ve noticed one thing: Phoenix wasn’t able to mount a consistent attack against a Nene-less Nuggets team. Phoenix! With Nash! What the hell happened there?
Only one explanation came to mind. It wasn’t Gentry’s bad system, after all it worked for so long without a hiccup last season. It wasn’t Denver’s suffocating defence, they’ve left a lot of room too. It was Robin Lopez’s sloppy pick-and-roll offence.
Look, let’s make this clear, Lopez is a solid young player and one day he might become what the current starter for the Suns once was. Codename: Best Backup Center in the League. But in this Phoenix system, even with his improvements, even with his post game, he shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a pick and roll. He’s one of those old-school big guys without a lot of mobility, who use their size advantage to score points, rather than the Dwight Howard mold that uses athleticism to make up for the few inches they lose to the slow footed guys.
In comes Marcin, Marcin with his athleticism, speed and toughness that makes him so much better than the sizeable-albeit-soft Lopez. Gortat can kill a man with a strong (and legal) screen just by standing ground, stand his ground in the low post, and then destroy everything on a pick and roll. Gortat’s ability to wreak havoc inside was one of the main features of the Phoenix offence last year. So much, that it seems Steve Nash has nearly forgotten how it was to have a less-than-competent big running the pick and roll.
Sure, I’m drawing big-time conclusions from a single game. But that single game exposed what the Suns are really about.
You all know by now, that I’m a Gortat fanatic. Not just because he’s Polish, but mostly because he’s a hard working guy who plays with a backup’s mentality. And that mentality shows every time he steps on the court. I noted many times how Gortat was the only other consistent piece to the Suns puzzle beside Nash. You knew he’s going to get into double digits and come close to a double double every game he played 25+ minutes in. Why does it work that way? He knows what to do on offence. When to shoot, when to go into the post and when to roll to the rim on an unsuspecting defender. Lopez doesn’t have that, he forces shots, he panics. He can have all the skill in the world, but he limits himself by panicking any time he gets the ball. Sometimes he scores, sometimes he ends up hurting the team by a forced shot. And that has to stop.
Today, the Suns start a new season, and Lopez should be an afterthought. He’s a solid enough backup, but he’s not a franchise centerpiece, Gortat however… Gortat just might be what the Suns need if he plays to his All-Star potential, broken thumb or not.