Phoenix Suns proposed trade of Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick for Wesley Johnson, pick a brilliant maneuver

Posted by on July 25th, 1:10 am

The proposed Robin Lopez trade is a slam dunk for the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The proposed Robin Lopez trade is a slam dunk for the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/Matt York)

At the beginning of the free agency period, Robin Lopez was a priority for the Phoenix Suns.

In May, PBO Lon Babby said, “It is quite likely if not certain that we’re going to match because he’s an important asset for us.”

The Suns backed that up by meeting with Lopez on the first day of free agency to convince him that “every hero has a home,” playing off his love of comic books and the roots he has developed in the Valley to pitch him on re-signing.

Yet even when Babby made that first comment it seemed to me more like a statement meant to scare off other teams from throwing a fat offer sheet at Robin than a genuine desire to match at almost any cost. Now the way the offseason has gone, the Suns would be crazy to lock him up to anything past this season.

After all, the Suns have already committed over $42 million in 2013-14 salary and if they keep Shannon Brown and their two first-rounders it could be closer to $47 mil for 11 players. Add $5 million for Lopez and you are essentially locking in this core for two years.

On top of that, the Suns already possess a crowded frontcourt wtih Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, Luis Scola and Markieff Morris (not to mention the possibility of Michael Beasley playing the four), which makes it questionable how Lopez would ever find more than a few minutes of playing time. That’s especially true since Frye almost must play backup center minutes to get everybody close to the minutes they deserve, and head coach Alvin Gentry said Scola could be used there as well.

In comparison to what the rest of the young 7-footers received, $5 mil a year for Lopez isn’t terrible on a three-year deal. When considering how it would lock the Suns into this roster for two years with a squad loaded (depth-wise at least) upfront, bringing back Robin Lopez for more than one season just does not make sense.

And even then, with no intention of signing him long term, he would largely be brought back as trade bait, at least if I were the general manager of the Phoenix Suns.

This is why I love the proposed three-team trade between the Suns, New Orleans Hornets and Minnesota Timberwolves. Signing Lopez long term makes no sense for the Suns and he was never going to sign for one year realistically, so any asset obtained for him should be seen as a bonus. Instead the Suns received two and shipped out a useless expiring contract to boot.

Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, who first broke the news, is reporting that the Suns will trade Lopez and Hakim Warrick and receive former No. 4 overall pick Wesley Johnson, a lottery-protected first-rounder and the retiring Brad Miller’s contract for cap purposes.

The Hornets will get Lopez and sign him to a three-year, $15 million deal as well as Warrick’s expiring $4 mil deal (with the 2013-14 team option that will be declined). Minnesota will get two future second-rounders from New Orleans, giving them the cap space to sign Andrei Kirilenko.

Nothing is official yet, and if the Kirilenko deal falls through it’s doubtful Minnesota would be willing to take the short end of this stick just to clear cap space, so AK is the key to the Suns getting this much out of a Lopez trade.

As for how this would affect the Suns’ cap situation, Johnson ($4,285,560) makes slightly more than Warrick this season ($4 mil even), and the retiring Miller will count for the $848K guaranteed portion of his salary.

Overall, by my calculations (which might be slightly off), the Suns’ cap number for 2012-13 would be a hair over $50 mil for 12 players, which would give them just under $8 mil to fill out their final roster spot and then take on money in lopsided trades for either a talent upgrade or more picks. Presumably they will be looking for a true center with that final roster spot as Gortat insurance, especially with Frye expected to miss the beginning of the season.

In 2013-14 when Warrick comes off the books, the Suns would be looking at a $5,421,233 team option for Johnson. As stated previously with Lopez in the equation, keeping Johnson at that price would essentially lock in this roster for two seasons as they would be at $52.5 mil for 12 players or $51 for 11 without Brown.

Johnson has yet to do a thing to justify such a salary, and considering how valuable that cap space could be the Suns would be wise to decline it and make this a one-year trial for Johnson.

Unfortunately, the Suns only have until Oct. 31 to exercise Johnson’s 2013-14 option, and there’s really nothing he can do in preseason that would justify tying up that much cap space in a player who has been a bust thus far. Of course, the Suns could always re-sign him next summer once he becomes an unrestricted free agent if they so choose even after declining the option.

As for the potential protected pick, Minnesota did trade its first-rounder to New Orleans via the Clippers last season, but the Wolves can deal a first-rounder this season because they are owed a lottery-protected Memphis pick. That pick from the Grizzlies via Houston is top-14 protected in each of the next four drafts, but considering how good Memphis is that should be out of the lottery this season. That pick would seem to make sense for the purpose of this trade.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that the Suns pulled out of a four-team deal with New Orleans involving Lopez that also included Boston and Houston before finding Minnesota as a potentially willing trade facilitator.

Of course, this isn’t the move that will bring the Suns back to glory, but like the Scola acquisition it’s a smart, savvy move in which the Suns are turning an asset they no longer need into more valuable future assets.

Johnson has been bad thus far in his NBA career, but with just two years on his resume he still could be a valuable NBA rotation player even if he never lives up to the hype of a player drafted ahead of DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe and Paul George.

The Suns badly needed another wing, particularly one with the length and athleticism to defend small forwards, and thus Johnson becomes a needed rotation player. I see him as the backup three behind Beasley in a role whereby he will no longer feel the pressure of being a top-five pick.

Assuming the Suns decline his option before the season begins, 2012-13 will be a year for Johnson to rebuild value and for the Suns to take a long look at whether he could be part of their future. They could even trade him if such a deal makes sense.

With the draft pick the Suns will own six first-rounders in the next three drafts and potentially three firsts next season. They could have five picks overall next year and 11 in the next three. That should give them plenty of ammo to eventually trade for that next star they so desperately need and/or continue to replenish the organization’s youth.

Yes, this Suns team is starting to feel an awful lot like the Rockets of the past few years, and eventually they will need to make a big move if they want to be anything better than one of the final playoff teams in.

But if this trade comes to fruition rather than clogging their cap with an underachieving big man they don’t really need, the Suns will have flipped him for assets that could come in handy this season and beyond.

And 1

Woj’s original report included the Hornets sending Miller’s contract back to Minnesota, but that is not possible because a team cannot reacquire a player it dealt that season (meaning until the next July 1).

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Hakim Warrick · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis · Robin Lopez · Trades

66 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Paul // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:40 am

    It’s sad because Lopez at some points showed flashes of potential but he just seems to lack drive and has never got back to that level of potential.

  • 2 HoopsNerdUK // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:29 am

    Weird. I had a comment drafted up and ready to go on the first RoLo/Hornets post, before this deal came to light, but when things got silly (114 comments, seriously?!) I didn’t bother. The basic gist was that I don’t like Lopez but he’s worth a top 10/lottery protected 1st round pick, just because young 7-footers don’t grow on trees. NO don’t have a 1st rounder to give so a 3rd team would be needed.
    Think I’ll play the lotto this week!

    Didn’t see this trade though – Johnson for Warrick? Not exactly a game changer, but I like. Warrick wouldn’t have played at all, Johnson fills a positional gap and won’t get his team option picked up so will have to play for his next contract – how many players have shown increased productivity in a contract year?
    Apparently he had a good summer league. This article was an interesting read:

    Johnson’s another Pelinka/Landmark client. After all the talks over Gordon and Mayo (not to mention Channing already being here) I hope he’s on the Suns friends and family plan, or whatever the US equivalent phone deal is! It means nothing, but Harden is a Landmark client too, as is Igoudala.

    Lots of assets now for a big trade. Otherwise would be good to clear a little space for next year’s free agency – shouldn’t be difficult, as there aren’t any real BAD bad contracts there and some team will want something at the trade deadline.

    In the mean time, despite the fact we’ll still only be fighting for 8th spot (I don’t think we’ll quite make it, maybe 10th place?) and I’ll still shout at the screen due to lack of defense/rebounding, I’m quite looking forward to watching the Phoenix TimberRockets.

  • 3 bk // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:40 am

    It’s very bad move to trade Lopez unless he wants out. Center is the hardest position to fill up. I would rather have fewer wing players. Given that if Lopez has Frye’s minutes, his production is better than Frye and for less money.

  • 4 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Jul 25, 2012 at 3:33 am

    This trade is about the future; nothing more. I applaud the Suns FO for organizing / executing it.

    Whether Lopez needs a different system, (because he STILL can’t pivot and dive on a pick and roll even after years of coaching), or a different city, his time in Phoenix was up.

    I know some still see him as young and fairly athletic, but any athleticism he had left him and hasn’t fully returned. As a backup center, he doesn’t block shots and he doesn’t rebound. He isn’t very good in the pick and roll for reasons I’ve stated above. Opposing defenses can adjust easily to any PnR he’s involved in. Really, he was a bad fit in Phoenix because with all of those shortcomings within Gentry’s offense, he also can’t shoot so he can’t space the floor either. No good at all.

    Wes Johnson is protected cap space at this point; nothing more. He will [maybe] have a full season to prove himself valuable to the Valley and get re-signed after the coming season to a brand new deal because his options will not be picked up.

    He’s going to have every opportunity to shine, because his skill set **should** mesh perfectly with Marshall, especially on the break.

    You can see a plan there. A model if you will.

    Phoenix couldn’t land any starting shooting guard in the first year of the rebuild, so instead they brought one in for the second unit. As [cough] bad as I think [VOMIT] Shannon Brown is, he can sprint end to end in the blink of an eye and is a vicious finisher.

    Wes J can sprint end to end in the blink of an eye and is a vicious finisher. Morris can outrun most bigs he’s in there with – I’m sure you can see the theme.

    The second unit is going to run. Constantly, endlessly. After misses; after makes. Their half-court offense might be close to watching a four-car collision with 3D goggles, but Marshall is being fitted with athletes out on the wings and a crop of big men who can set picks and retreat to the perimeter keeping lanes open.

    So from that standpoint, I’m happy and I know what to expect.

    Moving forward, though, cap space has been protected. A lot of players currently on the team have chances to shine and, in turn, increase their trade value with the end game being true-blue studs.

    Shannon Brown, Wes J, P.J. Tucker, future draft picks; a retiring contract.

    All short-term deals, and plentiful resources for replenishing the roster with cheap rookie contracts.

    This team, the 001-BN[ash] team, may win a max of 41 games, but they all figure to be entertaining and fast paced. I’m fine with that because the plan is in place and is being executed.

  • 5 Red // Jul 25, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Lopez AND Warrick for Johnson? I like Johnson – I think he’ll fit well and has played with Beasley before, but I’m not sure trading two players for a (so far) average player is ideal…

  • 6 Andrew M // Jul 25, 2012 at 3:43 am

    Getting Wesley johnson and a draft pick for Lopez is a good deal.Losing Lopez and Warrick along with Channing Frye missing sometime to start the season will give the suns little depth in the middle behind Gortat, Beasley and Morris and Wesley johnson can compete with Dudley for backup SF minutes or compete with Shannon Bown for the 2-guard spot. i Would rather see Wesley johnson compete with dudley for back up Sf minutes and bring back Michael Redd to compete with Shannon Brown for the the starting 2 guard spot. if given the minutes i would like to see Michael Redd return to form being one of the best shooters and scorers in the league and win comeback player of the year and help return the Suns back to prominence.

  • 7 bk // Jul 25, 2012 at 4:28 am

    According to, Warrick last year is team option too. So, it is basically a swap of 1-year rental of Warrick and Johnson plus Lopez for mid first round. The trade isn’t as good as most guys think of.

  • 8 Ty-Sun // Jul 25, 2012 at 4:38 am

    As Michael said though, if the Kirilenko deal falls through for Minn then this trade probably won’t happen. If it does happen I’ll be happy with it. I think Lopez is worth the salary that he wants but it just doesn’t make that much sense for the Suns to lock up that much salary over 3 years on a backup center… at least not now.

  • 9 Ash // Jul 25, 2012 at 4:40 am

    Warrick would have been out of the rotation, bringing back Lopez on a 3 year deal would have been a bad move because it stops the Suns from being players in 2013 free agency.

    Wes Johnson will be in a contract year presuming we decline his option so he will be motivated, and even if he plays well and the Suns want to keep him, he won’t cost a lot.

    The Suns have 5 picks in the draft now, and we can presume they won’t use them all so they will be looking to bring in a star pretty soon, Bynum anyone? Gortat and some of our future picks could land the 2nd best center in the NBA in a 3 team trade, it’s just a thought. Anyway, great trade, I love the direction the FO is taking the Suns.

  • 10 bk // Jul 25, 2012 at 4:52 am

    The first round picks will also tie up your salaries as the Lopez contract. Unless you are planning to sell or trade the pick. The difference is $5M-$2M = $3M.

  • 11 Majestic // Jul 25, 2012 at 4:59 am

    ESPN mentioned NO would be sending Brad Miller to the Suns. I like the idea of stock piling picks :-)

  • 12 Russell // Jul 25, 2012 at 7:01 am

    @Majestic only if Brad Miller has officially retired. Miller’s salary is only 800k guaranteed if he is retired. If he is not retired, then their is a 5.1 million $ team option on Miller which will not be picked up.

    Either way, Miller will not be on the Suns.

  • 13 Jason A. // Jul 25, 2012 at 7:02 am

    Another good move by the FO if it goes through. I was giddy when I saw we were getting rid of Warrick and getting something in return for Lopez. I guess this trade kills PJ Brown’s career again.

  • 14 Greg // Jul 25, 2012 at 7:08 am

    Lopez is not that good. 7 foot centers are gold in the NBA, but Lopez is not a great finisher at the rim (an important factor considering the Suns will maintain a high volume of pNr), and he doesnt rebound. He boxes out well, and is a big body to deal with on the boards, but there comes a point where grabbing less then 9 rebounds per 40 mins is not going to cut it for a 7 footer. (Frye and Lopez were both near the very bottom in all center rebounding per 40 mins).

    Lopez is a pretty decent shot blocker though, he had 2.68 per 40, which was 11th amongst centers.

    I dont think it would be smart to add 3 years of cap space clogging salary for a guy who doesnt do well in the offense, doesnt rebound.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like Lopez and I wouldnt mind seeing him as our back up center again, it just doesnt fit.

    I dont see how trading a likeable guy that isnt that good (and would have cost some money) for a first round pick.

    Warrick and Johnson are both bad. However, 2 years removed as the 4th overall pick, and at 6-7 he can play both wing spots…He offers you value that Warrick didnt have.

    So since we werent really “that interested” in bringing back Lopez at the price he wanted, we are basically losing a free agent, dumping a worthless Warrick, and picking up a trade asset and team option contract for a guy who still “might” round out to being a decent role player in the league.

    If it happens I dont see how anyone can even begin to complain.

  • 15 nashty // Jul 25, 2012 at 7:26 am

    Unfortunately, the Suns only have until Oct. 31 to exercise Johnson’s 2013-14 option, and there’s really nothing he can do in preseason that would justify tying up that much cap space in a player who has been a bust thus far. Of course, the Suns could always re-sign him next summer once he becomes an unrestricted free agent if they so choose even after declining the option.

  • 16 nashty // Jul 25, 2012 at 7:28 am

    we will risk with de TO over Wesley?

  • 17 Scott // Jul 25, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Things to not like about this trade are that …

    1) The Suns are trading big for small.

    2) The Suns are trading talent for possibly no talent (as indicated by PER).

    3) The Suns are trading 2 for 1.

    4) The Suns are also taking on a retiring contract.

    5) The Suns aren’t really being forced into this move by cap / tax considerations.

    6) The pick the Suns are getting for Lopez doesn’t even replace him, as the pick is lottery protected.

    7) There’s little evidence Lopez would be able to sign anywhere else for the money he’s asking for, as by this point everyone’s close to the cap and looking for trades.

    On the face of it, this looks pretty horrible.

    On the positive side …

    1) The Suns get something (a pick) for Lopez, though there’s little evidence he would be signing anywhere else and leaving the Suns without some value in return.

    2) The Suns get something for Warrick, with modest potential to work positively and the downside limited to being a lateral move.

    3) The Suns cut 2 players who didn’t fit into Gentry’s system and get 1 player who might.

    4) The Suns trim fat in the roster and get very lean, in that there’s no longer any surplus players on midlevel contracts.

    @Majestic -

    As it states in the article above, Brad Miller IS part of the trade, but not to play. He’s a $1m retiring contract.

  • 18 Jason A. // Jul 25, 2012 at 8:15 am


    This is a reasonable analysis but I don’t think you’re giving enough weight to the positives. Regarding the negatives:

    1. Who cares because he has had every opportunity here but he always plays small. Lopez will never start above Gortat and he isn’t needed here.

    2. I’ll concede Lopez has talent but you have to agree Johnson does as well. I’d bet my last dollar WJ’s PER will go up as the backup SF on the Suns, and will compare favorably to Lopez’ on the Hornets.

    3. We’re sort of trading 2 for 1 except in reality we’re trading 1 for 1. Warrick would be gone next year as will WJ (likely). So basically we’re punting on Lopez for a future first round pick.

    4. This is a negative how?

    5. This is a negative how?

    6. It will be a lower pick than where Lopez was selected but what difference does it make if Lopez didn’t pan out?

    7. Good point, no retort.

  • 19 Russell // Jul 25, 2012 at 8:23 am

    “6) The pick the Suns are getting for Lopez doesn’t even replace him, as the pick is lottery protected”

    Lopez is a back up Center who has never come close to double digit rebounds or points, in fact his production has gone down every year.

    “3) The Suns are trading 2 for 1.”

    Actually it’s not that simple. It’s Lopez for pick. which is one for one. And it’s Warrick for WJ which is one for one. Warrick wasn’t going to see any time on the court with Scola, Morris, Frye ahead of him.

    1) The Suns are trading big for small.

    With Gortat, Frye, Lopez on the team there isn’t enough minutes for all. Trading Frye would have been more ideal but he is injured and has 3 years 20 mil left, hard to trade that deal.

    “4) The Suns are also taking on a retiring contract.”

    Yep a retiring contract that is worth 800k, and will not be on the roster, meaning there is no cap space being locked up for next year. This is an absolute positive.

    7) There’s little evidence Lopez would be able to sign anywhere else for the money he’s asking for, as by this point everyone’s close to the cap and looking for trades.

    There’s actaully about 5 or 6 other teams that have cap space to sign Lopez. NOLA wants Lopez at 5mil per a year for 3 years, we only offered one year at 4mil. Why let him walk out on us for free next year when we can get a pick now?

    5) The Suns aren’t really being forced into this move by cap / tax considerations.

    Yes on this point I agree. It seems that the team has made up it’s mind that they would only keep Lopez for one more year, and unless he is willing to take the deal he is offered, they decided to get what they can for him and move one. The FO is building for next year stock piling picks and young talent (Marshall & Morris) in an effort to land Harden and Josh Smith.

  • 20 Scott // Jul 25, 2012 at 8:27 am

    What about … the future?

    With the trade of Lopez, the Suns will have to go shopping for another 7-footer either this season or next year. While the draft might provide an opportunity, an alternative might appear if an inexpensive young big becomes available from another team due to shrinking caps. (I’m looking at you, Nikola Vucevic.)

    Looking ahead to next year’s draft, and the paucity of quality Cs there, it seems likely the Suns would try to scoop up a surplus young big who is already in the league. I can see where the Suns might trade a pick or two (one 1st and one 2nd) to get a young surplus big who fits their system.

    The Suns have a lot of picks coming up. The problem with picks are that they have due dates, so you have to use them in trade or they spoil, and if you actually take the picks, you have to pick well from what in some years is a rich field of talent and in other years is poor. If you don’t pick well, the pick was for nothing.

    The Suns are unlikely to be getting a lot of studs with their picks, if they use them. Most likely they’ll be getting smaller players with liabilities. (Wes Johnson, who went as a #4, really should have been a late first rounder.)

    Don’t look at this last year’s draft as a guide to the talent likely to be available. This past draft was unusually rich in big men and talent due to several high picks skipping the draft in the year before.

    Anyway, the Suns will likely need replenishment at PG, SG, and SF, so those late picks could come in handy.

    Telfair will be rotating out of the roster after next season, so ideally the Suns would use one of their late draft picks on a combo guard to replace him. Looking ahead, a possibility at #26 (according to Draft Express) could be Michael Carter-Williams.

    Alternatively (or additionally), the Suns could pick a SF like Dario Saric, currently projected to go at #21. He would replace Wesley Johnson.

    There should also be possibilities in the 2nd round, where the Suns should draft more for potential than need, possibly looking at foreign players who wouldn’t come to the Suns till the following year.

    A final note on the future … I don’t think the Suns are really locked into any of the current players, aside from maybe Dragic and Marshall. There’s the potential that the whole roster could be remade aside from those two in the next two seasons.

  • 21 Scott // Jul 25, 2012 at 8:36 am

    @Jason A and Russell -

    I was just playing the game of pros and cons, to illustrate the trade-offs. People can decide how they feel about it, so no problems with your responses.

    IMO, pros #3 and #4 are significant, and they are the real basis of the trade.

  • 22 sun also rises // Jul 25, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I needed to click the link just to make sure that I was reading it right. Suns actually trading FOR draft picks this year? What the hell is the world coming to!

  • 23 nashty // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:05 am

    This is correct?:

    Unfortunately, the Suns only have until Oct. 31 to exercise Johnson’s 2013-14 option, and there’s really nothing he can do in preseason that would justify tying up that much cap space in a player who has been a bust thus far. Of course, the Suns could always re-sign him next summer once he becomes an unrestricted free agent if they so choose even after declining the option.

    This October 31?? We will risk?

  • 24 Jason A. // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:09 am


    The Suns FO would almost assuredly decline the option on WJ. He is set to make around $5 mil next year and there’s no justification for paying a backup SF that kind of money. They could just use a draft pick next year to likely get similar production but at a cost of around $1.5 mil.

    If the guy plays his ass off, and he will because he’ll be a FA next year, maybe we’ll resign him at $3-4 mil a year. He’s supposed to be a great locker room guy and his game should be a good fit here. But with Dudley in the fold I’m not sure how he fits in long term.

  • 25 nashty // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Many thanks jason!!!

  • 26 Jeremiah // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

    Not a big fan of PER when the player being mentioned only played 14 minutes a game. If he had that PER in 25+ minutes per game then we can talk.

  • 27 Andy // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:20 am

    @Jeremiah – PER is a ratio stat, per minute, essentially. While you can definitely say that getting relatively few minutes per game prevents you from getting in rythym, or something, and thus you won’t do as well in limited minutes, per minute, as you would at higher minutes, Hollinger claims its relatively resistant to increases in minutes. (ie – limited minutes tend to be a decent indicator of performance in increased minutes)

  • 28 Jeremiah // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:28 am

    @Andy it is also a stat that leans more towards offense. Anthony Randolph has a 17.6 PER in 15 MPG with Minnesota last year. Are you seriously going to tell me that he is a solid second option for a team?

  • 29 Scott // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Where PER skews badly is when a player has only a few minutes in a season. Like Telfair, at the start of last season, was rating something like 32 PER. That’s when he was playing behind Price and just getting a minute here and there. The more he played, though, as he got into regular rotation, the more that rating fell.

    When a player has regular minutes in many games played, PER becomes a fairly accurate stat. If you watched Telfair’s PER last year, it stabilized around 13 once he got regular minutes.

    Naturally, PER is not a universal stat. It’s just a benchmark. There are player intangibles, systems, injuries, other players on the roster, and so forth that need to be taken into account in evaluating any player.

  • 30 Jeremiah // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:37 am

    My point is only that pointing at Lopez’s stats like PER and WS48 doesn’t change the fact that he isn’t all that good. If you have seen him play at least a fair amount you would see that he is not all that good of a player which a PER of 15 would suggest that he is.

  • 31 steve // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:48 am

    PER isn’t great for players who get scattered minutes, I’ll agree. However, nobody who is any good ever gets a PER of 8 under any circumstances.

  • 32 Andy // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:52 am

    I think that’s fair, but a PER of 15 is only league average. Even if we took it as gospel, I don’t think anyone would make the argument that it should totally alter our opinion of Lopez as, at least far in his career, much closer to competent backup than long-term answer. I think most of us are with you.

    In re. this potential trade, at the risk of endangering my position as biggest cynic on this board, I really don’t see how people are down on it. Maybe I wouldn’t call it brilliant, persay, but it sure seems good. Echoing what everyone else has said, if you weren’t going to match Lopez anyway, getting paid a first round pick, even outside of the lottery, for your trouble of doing what you were already going to do is a nice little perk. Another way to think about – if you weren’t going to resign Lopez, even if Johnson never gets off the bench, you just bought a non-lottery first round pick for the difference between Hak and Johnson’s contract plus what you’re paying Brad Miller, roughly a million dollars. On the open market, they usually go for 2.5-3 million dollars. That’s a win. Getting someone who could maybe help where we’re really shallow this year is just a bonus.

    Also, I’m not sure I’m so worried about replacing Lopez this year. Lopez allowed an 18.4 PER to opposing centers last season, Scola allowed an 18.3. Scola certainly isn’t as good offensively at center as at PF, but I imagine he’d be on the court with guys like Beasley or Brown anyway, at that point, so he won’t be seeing the ball anyway. Long story short, I don’t think the gap between15 minutes of Lopez and 15 minutes of Scola at center (which opens more time for Beasley at PF) is going to make or break the team. It’ll hurt if Gortat gets hurt, but if that happens, we’re screwed anyway, I think.

  • 33 steve // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:54 am

    @Jeremiah – PER suggest Lopez is a pretty good player because he is a pretty good player.

    Even by the eye test, he’s a decent player. His rebounding is sub-par for his size, but it’s not so absurdly bad that he’s a liability, but his shot-blocking ability is actually fairly good. He can score in a decent variety of ways, his footwork is half-way decent, his FG% is respectable, he doesn’t take dumb shots very often, his TOV% is fairly low…

    There’s nothing to really like about Lopez’s game, but there’s nothing to hate very badly about it either. He’s a solid backup center. He’s the type of guy you can throw into a game and expect him to manage it while your starter gets his rest, and every once in a while he’ll break out for 20/12. That has value in the NBA.

  • 34 Jason A. // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:55 am


    Nice post.

  • 35 Andy // Jul 25, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Also, let me put on my totally unrealistic fan hat:
    If this trade DOES go through, I hope we do a due diligence call on Dwight Howard. Doing quick glances at the math, it seems like we could offer Telfair for Duhon and Glen Davis, which would put us at the cap. We could then trade for Jason Richardson into our TPE from the Nash deal. Johnson, Marshall, Morris, Dudley, and Gortat would let us take back Howard. Throw in all three firsts we’ve gotten this summer, plus our own (We’d probably offer 2013, Magic would probably want 2014 to bet on Howard not resigning.) and it sure seems like our offer is more than competitive with the stuff we’re hearing about. Granted, it’s a complete and total roll of the dice. But it’s the kind of move I think we’re all hoping to make sooner or later anyway.

  • 36 Michael Schwartz // Jul 25, 2012 at 10:10 am

    @Andy Only part of that equation that doesn’t work is Suns don’t have a TPE from the Nash deal. You only receive a trade exception when you’re over the cap (you need to renounce any such exceptions to spend your cap space).

    Otherwise, interesting thought, although I can’t imagine the Suns every pushing all their chips to the middle without him re-signing.

  • 37 Shane // Jul 25, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Brilliant maneuver? We are giving up a pretty good player in Lopez for a below average player in Johnson and a mid range first round pick which probably won’t turn into anything special.

  • 38 Andy // Jul 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Ok, with slightly more thought. Better proposal: Telfair for Richardson and Duhon. Cap. Howard and Davis for Gortat, Johnson, Marshall, Morris, Brown, and Miller. Season with three to four firsts. Given that we can offer more money, I’d take the chance we could get him to resign to a line-up of:
    Dragic, Duhon
    Richardson, Redd?
    Dudley, Beasley
    Scola, Davis
    Howard, Frye

    Does that work? Crazy homer hat off. Maybe.

  • 39 Cuso // Jul 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

    I think the plan is to use all these draft picks in an effort to move up in the draft to pick a star or to use them to trade for someone ho may be a star player. In that case each of these are valueable

  • 40 Antwuan // Jul 25, 2012 at 10:53 am

    I don’t understand why the Suns were so high on Lopez to begin with. Outside of 2010 Lopez has only had a couple of games where he was given good minutes that he played well, he did has couple good games down the stretch. But I don’t mind this trade. And Hakim Warrick has a bad contract.

  • 41 PennyAnd1 // Jul 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Labby again with his lies. Labby is really losing credibility with all the empty talks. As much as I like the moves this off-season, old bastard shouldn’t lie to us Suns fans. I DON’T TRUST ANY WORD THAT COMES OUT OF THAT OLD BASTARD’S MOUTH.

  • 42 Jeremiah // Jul 25, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    This trade would allow the Suns to get something for Lopez in a first round pick. Also they will be essentially swapping Warrick for Johnson, neither of which are good players. Warrick might be better, but has nowhere to play in the Suns rotation and is under contract until the 2014 off season. With Johnson they have a guy that plays a position of more need and a guy that they won’t have to pay or amnesty after this season. This also frees up the possibility for the Suns to use their amnesty next year on Frye instead of Warrick.

  • 43 Matt // Jul 25, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Suns already used amnesty on Childress.

  • 44 Tony // Jul 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm


    a brilliant move? This is the second day in a row you are suggesting this deal would be great for the Suns and for the second day in a row, I couldn’t disagree more with you. I’ll explain why I think so and I would appreciate your thoughts if you get a chance.

    Firstly, you are claiming that the team has a plethora of centers when in fact, they really only have one good center in Gortat and a below average other in Frye. Furthermore, unless I’ve missed an updated report, the last indication on Frye was that he would not be ready to go come start of the season. And whenever he does come back, it’s going to take time for him to get back into game shape and regain a good rhythm. So, With Frye’s absence, who becomes the team’s backup center? Scola is only 6-9, Morris is nowhere near his listed height of 6-10, and obviously Beasley can’t play center. So, in letting Lopez go for a bench player whom happens to be a wing player, the Suns become small in the paint and that’s something that has been to this franchise’s detriment for many many years.

    Secondly, although Lopez has been largely inconsistent, according to many reports from last season, Lopez only fully regained his health and athleticism towards the latter part of the previous season and that timeframe corresponds with his improved play. Furthermore, because Lopez showed an ability not to become overwhelmed in critical games/situations, his ability to be effective in the clutch was in dire contrast to Gortat, whom struggled in most of the important moments of the season. To suddenly expect Gortat to become a clutch player, when he’s already going on 28, is probably nothing more than wishful thinking.

    The other element that Lopez brings that no other Sun brings is an intimidation factor and make no mistake about it, just his presence on the floor gives the Suns a level of toughness they would miss without him. The Suns need his intensity and intimidation to bolster the team’s overall confidence level. IF the FO lets him go and brings in Johnson, well then which Suns players will provide that “fear” factor which makes opposing teams’ players’ feel more cautious about taking the ball in the paint?

    Lastly, just because WJ was the 4th pick in the draft doesn’t prove his ability is commensurate with that of a typical 4th pick. You do realize that although his NBA career was a bust, Kwame Brown was the number 1 pick, right? Or that Adam Morrison was the 3rd overall pick too. Clearly those two players didn’t come close to measuring up with where they were selected in the draft and Wesley Johnson is another player fitting into that category.

  • 45 bk // Jul 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Lopez Block per game is 0.9 in 14 MPG.
    Frye is 1.1 in 26 MPG.
    Scola is 0.4 in 31 MPG.
    Gortat is 1.5 in 32 MPG
    Morris is 0.7 in 19 MPG

  • 46 Michael Schwartz // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Lopez intimidating? Maybe his haircut, but I’d hardly call him intimidating (the flagrant on Blake notwithstanding).

    I do agree that the key with him has always been his athleticism. He didn’t have it in 2010-11 and it did start to come back last season but he was hardly the athletic center he was supposed to be on draft day in 2008.

    Aside from that great stretch in 2009-10, I really haven’t seen anything out of Lopez that screams anything better than solid backup center. He’s big, he developed a jumper (although it isn’t particularly accurate), his PnR efficiency actually has been decent in small samples as awkward as it looks and again he’s 7 feet tall. He’s serviceable but nothing more.

    To summarize what I explained in the article, basically it would not make sense for the Suns to pay Robin $5 mil a year when that essentially boxes them into this roster. Yes, he would be helpful for the month or whatever Frye misses, but after that the Suns will need that backup five time to play their four bigs, and the opportunity cost of Robin means not having much cap space next offseason. In a vacuum $5 mil for Robin sounds OK, but not when it would cut into their already diminishing cap space.

    Yes, they could still use a backup five as insurance for Gortat and to soak up some minutes while Frye is hurt. But not at a cost that will take a decent chunk out of their 2013 and 2014 cap space.

    Right WJ has been bad, but the Suns needed a guy who can defend 3s on the bench and he should be able to do at least that even if he never shows any further upside.

    If Lopez regains his athleticism fully I could be wrong, but from what I’ve seen of the guy the last four years and considering the Suns’ future cap and glut in the frontcourt, I would be pleased to get anything for Robin (because I don’t think it would be smart to match 3/15). Adding a needed bench player PLUS a pick qualifies as a great deal to me.

  • 47 Matt // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Suns’ fans! Please check out:

    this is a site that exclusively covers the Phoenix Suns’ I’m the editor for the site so it’d be great if you guys can take some time out, and check it out, share comments, thoughts, advice or topics you’d like for me cover. Thanks !

  • 48 Jeremiah // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    @Matt – I’m talking about next years amnesty.

  • 49 The Real Shane // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Completely agree with this article, good job Suns FO!

  • 50 cha cha cha // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    @Jeremiah, it’s one and done: “One player can be waived prior to the start of any season from 2011–12 through 2015–16 . . . Each team is restricted to one ‘amnestied’ player during that time.”

  • 51 Jason A. // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:38 pm


    There’s only one amnesty per team


    It seems like you like to argue no matter what. 43 comments in and you unleash a diatribe that makes few points, and even fewer that haven’t already been mentioned. But to debunk your stale takes:

    1. We only have one good center. True, but do you want to tie up valuable cap space on a center that plays 15 min a game against backups? We can bring in a cheap guy or switch Scola to the center position. I don’t care if he’s only 6’9″. If he can hold his own against Tyson Chandler he can hold his own for 10 min a night against backups.

    2. Lopez just got healthy. I call BS on this one. Assuming you’re as big a fan as me and have watched as many games as I have since Lopez was drafted (literally 75%+ over the years), you’d know he was given every opportunity here and he did jack shit with it. He had a good stretch in 09-10 but that was his only really meaningful play in his career. If he only “just now” got back his athleticism, how long will it be without the Suns’ training staff that he’ll lose it again. No thanks.

    3. The intimidation factor. I’m sorry, but this is just plain ridiculous. A player has the be GOOD before he intimidates anyone. Nobody who has watched Lopez hunched over as he struggles to move as being intimidating. Intimidating? Lopez? REALLY? It’s true he would scare the shit out of me on the floor but I’m a short nobody.

    4. Draft position. I’ll give you the thought that draft position means nothing, but then you have to start coming around to the idea that late 1st round picks aren’t always worthless. Besides, I’ll take a useful player like WJ over a benchwarmer (Warrick) and an overpaid stiff (Lopez) any day of the week.

    That is all for now.

  • 52 Tim in BC // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    I will miss Lopez’s hair and infectious enthusiasm…

  • 53 PennyAnd1 // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    @Michael Schwartz

    Lopez is way more intimidating compared to Gortat. Gortat is way too soft for a center, and has a weak mentality. He gets pushed around too much and puts his head down alot.

    I remember when he made a mistake at the offense end, Gentry called a time-out. All the players went right to bench to huddle while Gortat just stood near the basket with hands on hips shaking his head taking too long to move. Gentry was so pissed he freakin’ yelled at him to move his a$$. If you don’t know what that meant, it means Gortat just let his opponent showed him off and he was an embarassment to the Suns by showing it that he got beat. Lopez atleast won’t back down or get intimated.

    We all saw how productive Lopez really is when paired with a goof PF (like in Amare). With Scola on board, Lopez would’ve been a good fit, especially now that we have better scoring option.

  • 54 Tony // Jul 25, 2012 at 1:46 pm


    thanks for the response. While I agree that Lopez hasn’t been great or even really good since that stretch run in 2010, I do think you’re underestimating his play in the 2nd half of last season and yes, the guy has an intensity about him that does intimidate opposing guards.

    To add another reason why I believe this trade would be bad news for the Suns is that by getting rid of Lopez and bringing in a wing player, the Suns essentionally take away one of their strengths of which most teams don’t have, that of two effective centers. The Suns marginally improving their perimeter defense will not offset their other wing players lack of perimeter defense in Brown and Beasley, nor willl it add offensive firepower. Lopez’s absence will have a far more appreciable effect in terms of lack of any interior presence in the 2nd unit. It would be one thing to trade him for an already proven quality sg who could off-set the Suns lack of quality depth from their wing positions, but WJ is hardly that.

    Finally, and I know you and probably several others will disagree, but in my opinion, all this talk about having cap space is so overrated in importance. Look at the overwhelming number of teams that are title contending teams, amongst other similar attributes such as having star players, these teams are also regularly well into the luxury cap. Creating cap space just for the sake of doing so or in hopes of landing one star player at some uncertain timeframe, is not a usual recipe for success. The best free agents next season are James Harden and Josh Smith and in all reality, how likely is it that the Suns land either of them? There’s also Chris Paul but reports have so far indicated he declined his option primarily because by doing so he will make more money when the Clippers are forced to offer him a 5-yr max deal.

  • 55 Josh // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Warrick and Lopez suck big time, great off season for the Suns.

  • 56 Keith // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    There is only one amnesty, Jeremiah. It’s not every year.

  • 57 bk // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    The future of this team is whether Beasley, Dragic, Morris becoming allstar. If not, we will need to reset at 2015 again. This Cap space of 2013 is a joke. keeping Lopez at $5M allow Gortat trade or injury. Scola, Morris, Beasley, Frye are not centers.

  • 58 Jeremiah // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:18 pm

    Alright so there is only an amnesty this year, but they will have the option to waive one player before each season between 2011-12 to 2015-16? If so then my original statement still works, but with “waived” instead of “amnestied”.

  • 59 Ty-Sun // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    There is a big difference between being waived and being amnestied. If a player is waived and not claimed on waivers or after he clears waivers then the team that waived him not only still has to pay his salary but that amount still counts against their salary cap! An amnestied player still gets payed but the salary does not count against the cap. Amnesty and being put on waivers are not the same thing. There’s more to it than that but that’s the gist of why they’re not the same.

  • 60 Yohance // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Source say trade is in its final stages pending any set backs.
    This is great let’s go suns. While I will miss Lopez and Warrick, not so much I think it gives the suns more asset and another draft pick. If everyone lives up to their potential we can be very scary in the west.

  • 61 Michael Schwartz // Jul 25, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    One more thought. Here’s how I grade the different elements of the deal:
    Losing Lopez – Plus in that it’s better than signing him to a long-term deal and he never would go one year. A positive since it prevents a negative
    Losing Warrick – Neutral, expiring but wasn’t going to play.
    Adding Johnson – Slight positive in that he’s needed for depth and could always exceed expectations but based on prior performance nothing special.
    Adding a pick – Always a positive.

    This is why I’m high on this move. Obviously those of you who disagree on particular elements of that analysis will have a different perspective.

    Tony the best teams don’t need cap space because they already have great players. The Suns obviously don’t. Cap space doesn’t guarantee great players but not having cap space guarantees not signing great players.

  • 62 Jeremiah // Jul 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Good info, think I’ve heard all this at one point. At least the Suns will be down to just one bad contract on their roster after this season.

  • 63 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Jul 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Why are we still trying to say that ROBIN LOPEZ was valuable in Phoenix?


    The FO managed to get a first round pick for Warrick and ROBIN LOPEZ.

    The bench center position will be fine. If Scola starts, Morris will be that stretch 5 until Frye returns. Any center brought in will be for practicing purposes. I don’t see them getting much game time.

    Also, we have DRAFT PICKS.

    The Suns will just draft another one in the future. Almost any center coming out of college would be an upgrade or at worst, even with RoLo’s output.

  • 64 Jacob // Jul 25, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Are you all stupid. Lopez is like the worst center ever. He couldn’t do anything for the suns. Sure in the last 10 or 15 games he did about 20% better than the rest of the year, but he still sucked. I don’t care who we get as long as we get rid of that ape. And for warrick who cares we need to get rid of some people. I mean the suns have beasley as Sf, brown as Sg, scola as Pf, gortat as C (also his performance at the end of the season last year really sucked.) and for starting Pg I don’t know if it’s gonna be dragic or telfar. My last words are GET RID OF LOPEZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 65 Greg // Jul 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    lol jacob….how do you not know who is gonna start between goran and telfair? did you just tune into the Suns off-season?

  • 66 PennyAnd1 // Jul 26, 2012 at 10:11 am


    Take some chill Pill

    I’d rather have a combo of Gortat & Lopez rather than Gortat & Frye. Lopez has good defense, it’s his consistency that sucked.

    No way Brown makes it into the starting rotation, he has inconsistency & shot selection issues. Brown likes to shoot, tag him in there with the 2 unit along side the pass-first Marshall and give him the green light. Dudley belongs in the starting line-up as the shooting guard. Goran is a scorer himself anyways.

    Last but not least, Telfair over Dragon? are you freakin’ serious?! Telfair also lacks consistency although he was pretty consistent during the 2nd half of last season. But what’s keeping Telfair from being a starter is not his inconsistent plays, he has great defense that’s for sure, but he ain’t fit to lead the team. He yells too much and let his emotions get the best of him affecting him & the team.

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