Hakim Warrick's role was a magic act in the 2011-12 season

Hakim Warrick’s act of “now you see him, now you don’t” could be a fun show in Vegas. But for Warrick and for the Phoenix Suns, his appearance and subsequent vanishing act during the 2011-12 season wasn’t so entertaining.

You know the story.

Warrick led the Suns in scoring through the first four games of the season despite not playing a minute in the season opener and it looked like a team struggling to score was going to need his production to survive.

Then, poof.

It goes to show how wickedly topsy and turvy the Suns’ season went.

That 13.8 point per game average after coach Alvin Gentry threw Warrick into the rotation following the Dec. 26, 2011, opener wouldn’t last, and by early February, he was out of the rotation altogether. He was back on the bench, the place Gentry thought Warrick would be when before the season he mentioned the scarcity of available minutes for the slender forward.

No, it’s not the the brightest of stories. The dependence of Warrick early and his role’s eventual shift back to the pine represented how frustratingly disjointed the team operated early on.

And for Warrick personally, it likely was disappointing.

He finished with averages of 6.4 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, numbers well below his career averages of 9.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, and he only played 35 games in the 66-game season.

His win shares of 3.4 in 2010-11 avalanched to 0.5 this past season, according to BasketballReference.com.

An improved and consistent jump shot that Warrick displayed early in the season eventually faded, but his presence off the bench still gave Gentry the chance to use the 6-foot-9 forward when Markieff Morris or Channing Frye were sick, hurt or in foul trouble.

Still, it couldn’t have been fun for the player who, after his sudden scoring streak, looked as if he’d refined his game enough to give the Suns another consistent shooting big man.

Now, the future ahead looks murky (After writing this, I realized I’d also used the word ‘murky’ when I wrote Warrick’s bio before this season). This offseason, the Suns could use the amnesty clause to cut either Warrick or forward Josh Childress.

If Childress is the choice, then the future of Warrick’s role goes from murky to cyclical.

It would again leave him sitting behind the ever-important Frye, the likely-to-improve Morris and potentially a big man free agent.

There are many moving parts to determine his place in Phoenix, but with Grant Hill’s status up in the air, the investment already clear in regards to Morris and no guarantee the Suns will sign a big-time wing in the offseason, Childress might have a better chance at sticking as an insurance piece.

Like the Suns’ season as a whole, there’s no telling which way things will swing.

And like Warrick’s magic trick at the beginning of the year, there’s the possibility he makes his final vanishing act in Phoenix.

Breaking down the numbers from last season

  • Warrick’s statistics from the year prior dipped as he shot just 41.1 percent from the floor compared to 51.1 percent in 2010-11. It comes as no surprise that his strengths and most effective scoring came off cuts, in transition and off screens — in all three situations, he shot above 57 percent, according to mySynergySports.
  • According to HoopData.com, Warrick was the second-best Suns player at finishing at the rim with an accuracy of 73.7 percent. But from 3-feet out, Warrick couldn’t shoot more than 32 percent.
  • Warrick was the most efficient Suns player at drawing fouls, something that goes along with being a semi-prolific dunker. He took 0.55 free throws for every field goal taken, according to HoopData.com.
  • Overall, Warrick gave up 0.98 points per possession as a defender, according to Synergy. Playing mostly at power forward, his most vulnerable spot came as no surprise. Scoring 1.23 points per possession, opponents toasted Warrick in post-up situations and shot an alarming 61.9 percent. For reference, Channing Frye gave up only 0.78 points per possession in post-up situations, his opponents shooting just 37 percent.

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