The free agent bonanza continues in Phoenix as the Suns have won the amnesty auction for Luis Scola. The 6-foot-9 power forward was amnestied on Friday by the Houston Rockets as part of GM Daryl Morey’s plan to land Dwight Howard.
Scola spent all of his first five NBA seasons with the Rockets after being drafted in 2002 by the San Antonio Spurs. The Argentinian has averaged 15 points per game or more over his last three seasons and has averaged 7.7 rebounds a game for his career. At the time of this post, it is unclear how much the Suns winning bid for Scola was. It was at least $3.3 million.
“We are excited to have won the bid for Luis Scola and to add a player of his caliber to our roster,” Suns PBO Lon Babby said in a release. “We greatly value the production he will bring and the leadership he will provide to our younger players.”
As part of this move, the Suns chose to amnesty the contract of Josh Childress in order to preserve their cap space. With Childress off the books, Phoenix has freed up $6.5 million in cap room this year and $21 million over the next three years. The Suns will still pay Childress his full salary, but that money will no longer count against their cap.
Childress will enter an amnesty auction like the one Scola just went through. All teams under the cap will have a chance to bid on the former Stanford player. If no team bids on Childress, he will become an unrestricted free agent. If a team does place a bid, the Suns will pay Childress his full salary minus the winning team’s bid.
“We thank Josh Childress for his contributions,” Babby said. “He is a consummate professional.”
As I talked about yesterday, the Suns’ front office will use the team’s remaining cap space to pursue O.J. Mayo. If Mayo signs else where or wants more than the Suns are offering, Phoenix could go after Courtney Lee. Signing Lee, however, would give the Suns three guys who played prominent roles on the Houston Rockets last season – a team which finished only one game better than the Suns in the Western Conference. That’s not exactly a recipe for success. Phoenix will also look to re-sign Robin Lopez.
By acquiring Scola, the Suns’ front office has added some legitimacy to its offseason rebuilding project. In the wake of Steve Nash’s departure, Phoenix has brought in a host of new faces, including Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley, and draft pick Kendall Marshall. While all of those players have potential and have shown flashes of true talent, Scola is a proven contributor. He is efficient, has great rebounding ability, can score with his back to the basket, and knows how to play with a talented center (Scola spent the first two years of his career playing next Yao Ming while Yao was still somewhat healthy.)
In 342 post up possessions last season, Scola averaged 0.82 points per play according to mySynergysports (79th in the league). Contrast that with starting center Marcin Gortat, who averaged just 0.75 points per play in the post (111th in the league). On the flip side, Gortat is one of the best pick-and-roll scorers in the league, according to Synergy, while PnR is definitely not Scola’s strong suit.
So instead of two big men getting in each other’s way on the offensive end, the Suns will have two front court players who actually complement each other quite nicely. Plus Phoenix still has Channing Frye to stretch the floor and rookie Markieff Morris, who is asserting himself quite well in the Vegas Summer League. If Phoenix can re-sign back up center Robin Lopez, they’ll have a very decent if not very good front court rotation.
How next season will play out is uncertain. Coach Alvin Gentry will have to fit a lot of new pieces into a rapidly changing puzzle before the season starts. Order from chaos does seem to be one of Gentry’s strengths, though. Just look at how the Suns gelled down the stretch last year after an awful first half. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure: Even with Steve Nash wearing purple and gold next season, the Suns will still be a team that everyone is watching.