Luis Scola is the oddball pickup of the 2012 offseason


PHOENIX — The oddball of the Phoenix Suns’ offseason haul, Luis Scola doesn’t fit the mold of the franchise’s new model that embraces youth and flash. This isn’t Goran Dragic dropping 20-plus in a quarter or the untapped potential of Michael Beasley.

This is the 32-year-old Argentinian who got amnestied by a Houston Rockets team that — much like Phoenix — was looking to rebuild. Joining a Suns team that’s younger and likely faster than the last few versions might add to the questions. But nobody in Phoenix is believing that Scola won’t fit in just fine.

“I think you’ll see the same player,” Scola said at Media Day of how he’ll fit in. “I’ll try to get better, but what I am is what I am. I’m 32 now. There’s not going to be a substantial change in the way I play.”

The Suns and head coach Alvin Gentry are just fine tinkering with how they can fit the system around the 6-foot-9, 245 pound power forward.

Will it work?

Here’s a look at what we know Scola can immediately bring to the table and what questions must be answered as Gentry takes a roster equipped with an array of skill sets and churns it into a team.

What we know

  • Passing

One of the most interesting comments at Media Day was Jared Dudley’s analysis of how Scola will fit into the Suns’ offense.

“The difference here (this year) is we have someone with Scola who is sort of like a Boris Diaw but is more aggressive offensively,” Dudley said. “So he can pass the ball. We’ve played pickup games, he is like Goran, he is like a point guard. I’m excited with him. I can definitely see us running the offense through him at times.”

[RELATED: Mike Schmitz's video breakdown of Luis Scola's game]

The comparison is definitely a bold one, but it makes sense. Diaw’s best season in the NBA was playing in the post during Amar’e Stoudemire’s missed season due to his microfracture surgery, and Diaw shined in an offense also quite reliant on 3-point shooters.

Last year, both Diaw and Scola were in the top-10 of big men whose assists led to three-pointers, according to HoopData.com. They’re in the pretty good company of Dwight Howard, Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Blake Griffin, Josh Smith, LaMarcus Aldridge and David Lee.

  • Mid-range game

Although Scola’s back-to-the basket game is what he’s known for — he is, of course, the master of the old-man scoop shot as Mike Schmitz pointed out this summer — his mid-range game is actually ranked higher in comparison to other NBA power forwards. Last season, he shot 46.8 percent from 10-15 feet, top five among power forwards, and also hit 44 percent of his shots from 16-20 feet.

  • Toughness

There’s no questioning Scola’s toughness on the court. For a team that traditionally has attempted to fight off the image that a high-scoring team might be soft, the infusion of Scola — not to mention guys like P.J. Tucker and Jermaine O’Neal — will help change that culture.

That influence in practice might be most beneficial to Marcin Gortat, who admitted after last season he was too reliant on Dream Shaking opponents for soft hook shots rather than going up strong to draw contact.

The questions to fitting in

  • The post dilemma

In a game continually changing to fit the stretch power forward, Scola’s place with the Suns begs the question of whether he and Gortat can play at the same time. And that’s especially true for a Phoenix team that, in a way, set the trend for the stretch power forward.

After all, the use of pick-and-rolls between Steve Nash and Stoudemire were dependent on the other three players on the court drawing the defense away from the two-man game. That became ever-more-clear in the failed Shaquille O’Neal experiment.

While Scola was taking a more wait-and-see approach, Gortat said at Media Day he was confident Phoenix can make it work.

“I’m sure we can fit two guys under the basket,” Gortat said. “Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol have been doing it the last few years so I’m sure me and Scola can do the same thing. Like I said, his basketball IQ is very high.”

So for a player who admittedly won’t be able to change his game a whole lot, the onus lies on Gentry and the other Phoenix players to feel out how Scola fits in.

“It’s not much of a change for me,” Scola said. “It’s going to be a change for the team as a whole.”

  • Running with the youngins

Here’s the most obvious problem. Scola isn’t exactly known for his fullcourt game. He’s either slow afoot or awkwardly deceiving, but however you see it, Gentry isn’t worried about that hampering Scola’s ability to be effective even though the tempo is expected to be just as fast if not faster than the last few years.

“We want to play in the open court. We have players who are very good at that,” Gentry said. “I think one of the misnomers of that is Luis Scola is not a fullcourt player … he’s played that way in Argentina his whole life.”

  • Defense and rebounding

During the London Olympics, one concerned raised was Scola’s poor rebounding against strong competition. From two seasons ago to last year, Scola saw a significant drop-off in his rebounds per 36 minutes, going from 9.0 to 7.5. That is worse than Channing Frye and Markieff Morris, who last year both averaged 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.

According to HoopData.com, Scola’s defensive rebounding rate from last season was 12.0, the same as Boris Diaw’s.

The good news? Scola had a better defensive rating than either Frye or Morris last season. His 245-pound frame and lack of explosiveness doesn’t make him nearly the shot blocker an NBA power forward should be, but his defensive rating bettered that of both Suns forwards.

Tags: Luis Scola

  • Stephen

    As a Rocket fan who will miss Luis,a couple of observations.

    Running w/the youngins.
    Luis may be slow,but he runs HARD.
    He won’t be leading a fast-break,but he’ll often be the second guy on it. He’s usually good for a couple of fast-break baskets a game,simply because he runs all out.

    He is a determined competitor. Any Rocket teammate would always say Scola has the most competitive fire.
    For a young team,having a steady vet who can play,practice hard and give his all on the court is huge in setting an example of what professionalism is all about.

    If the Suns intend to use the pick-n-roll/pop,Luis will be a staple.

  • Forever is2long

    From day 1 I always questioned what he would bring to a likely non playoff team. It appears the Suns added him because they could, not because it made a lot of basketball sense. Anyway I continue to be excited to see what the younger Suns do this season, especially Wesley, Goran and Mike B.

  • Scott

    When you say “Diaw shined,” shouldn’t it be that “Diaw shone” …?

    Grammarist.com says shine traditionally becomes shone in the past and perfect tenses and as a past participle. Shone should properly be more common than shined.

    The NYT Manual of Style and Usage adds: if there is no direct object, such as a flashlight (“He shined the flashlight”), then the proper usage is “shone.”

  • http://slapdoghoops.blogspot.com Slap Dog Hoops

    I don’t think Scola is an odd ball offseason pick at all as he gives the Suns a reliable contributor in terms of scoring and rebounds. Consider him an anchor to keep this young Suns team steady through rough waters. He’s not going to be there that long. Once Beasley starts get better adjusted on the team, Scola will find his way out.

  • Josh M

    Diaw’s best year was when Amare was out with microfracture, not the eye surgery. He was gone by the time Amare injured his eye, after Porter was fired.

  • PennyAnd1

    @Forever is2long

    Are you kidding me? Adding Scola doesn’t make basketball sense? You got no clue about the game. Scola is every teams preferable PF. He’s the PF version of Pau Gasol. This guy gots smarts plus he can pass. He’s just like Boris Diaw of old but who likes to score.

    AND1
    Gortat wants to change his jersey to #13. Are you out of your mind?! You go on ahead and do that, but don’t expect to last long with the Suns if you do.

  • http://n/a Keith

    Oddball pickup? Come again? It was one of the best steals of the offseason and a slam dunk no-brainer. He is going to be a very good fit, and it was one of the easiest decision Babby ever had to make.

  • Ty-Sun

    Scola is the “oddball” pickup simply because getting him was never in Phoenix’s plans until Houston decided to amnesty him and the Suns saw a chance to pick up a quality player at a bargain price. The plan was to get younger and more athletic but, even though he’s 32, Scola was just too good to pass up at the price. And as others have mentioned, he brings a steady, veteran presence to a young team.

  • Bill_Thomas

    Thanks for thwarting my email post bc I didn’t fill in my “required” email address. I hope you enjoy this post.

  • Bill_Thomas

    Scott, this is not a college grammar class. My thanks to those of you who have run other contributors off the blog with your ticky-tack criticisms.

  • DBreezy

    What’s up Foreveris? Is this where us refugees from AZC Facebook hell regroup? I agree that the Suns added Scola more because they could than anything. I believe it was reported at AZC that Sarver was the main force behind adding him rather than the front office.

    That said, it’s not a big deal as he can still play effectively and they should be able to move him relatively easily after this season if things aren’t working out. It’s not a Hedo situation. My guess is that he stays beyond next season unless Beasley blows up at the 4 instead of the 3. I think we’ll see a more polished and aggressive Morris this season, but not one that’s going to convince the front office that they’re set at the 4. Assuming that they finish outside of the top 5 picks in the draft, they probably won’t be getting a replacement there either and could possibly be looking at a medical retirement for Frye next summer(hope his career doesn’t end that way). So I expect Scola to solider on here.

  • DBreezy

    Speaking of AZC, I see Bickley’s article on the Suns said that Scola might prefer to be elsewhere. I wonder if that’s based off anything or just Bickley talking? Considering that the next line said that he can be traded midseason, when the cba rules say that Luis can’t be moved until Jul 1, 2013, I would guess he’s just blowing smoke.

  • Serek

    @PennyAnd1

    “Gortat wants to change his jersey to #13.”

    Old news is great news. I think I saw it written someplace in early July. I didn’t see any mention of it ever since.

    Gortat did have this number his whole career except in PHX where it was already taken. Now the guy who had it is gone, and it’s not like his jersey is already retired or something. Until it is, it doesn’t hurt anyone to ask, even if it wasn’t tactful.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Hawki here…..what’s up everyone ? Can’t wait to see the Suns play SacTown tonight.

    ps….Coro is talking to himself on AZC.

  • Scott

    @DBreezy -

    I think Bickley is just sowing dissention, as usual. However, there is an obvious truth: Scola could get traded in the future.

    Scola has said he was happy to get picked up by the Suns, and I’m inclined to believe him. He felt a little burned to get amnestied by Houston, but he must have also realized Houston was rebuilding, so he was glad to get a different opportunity.

    I think he realizes Phoenix could be just a stop on the road. He’s guaranteed to be here all year, so there’s at least that much stability. And if he gets moved to another team, he realizes that with the amnesty his contract has shrunk down to a size where he could be an attractive piece for a contending team, like Boston, Chicago, or San Antonio, depending on where they are in a year.

    If he isn’t traded, then he stays with the Suns, which isn’t awful. It’s a good organization, he’ll start (the Suns have been weak at PF since Amare left), they’re not going to try to keep him from playing with his national team, they understand older players and unathletic players, his teammates aren’t a wild and crazy bunch, he knows and likes the PG, and the medical staff is excellent. That’s a lot.

    Scola knows only 1 team is going to win the championship, and maybe only 4 teams are going to seriously contend for it. That leaves a lot of teams on the outside looking in, so once you accept that you’re not on a contending team, the most important thing is to be on an enjoyable team, and historically the Suns are that.

  • DBreezy

    What’s up Hawki! I’m also glad tonight’s game will be televised, and yes Coro is talking to himself although I did see Sue B commented on one article. I’ll miss the occasional Coro reply on the blogs and articles, and hope that the lack of hits over there doesn’t ultimately result in fewer articles due to weak ad revenue. There’s definitely other Suns news spots like this one, but few have the time/resources to devote to covering them as Paul.

  • DBreezy

    @Scott

    I tend to agree with your read on it, it was just an interesting thing to note as the local media is notorious for quietly glossing over such things until said player is on his way out of town. Pietrus is one recent example.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    What’s up DBreezy ?

    Forgive me but does DBreezy = Jey ?….yeah SueB posted twice & was mostly relaying her frustration at having to post via facebook & questioning whether her 20 free posts had been used up.
    I actually subscribed for $10.00 per month but when I found out it was facebook only I cancelled my subscription.

    Haven’t looked forward to a Suns game this much in awhile. The last few years we knew what we had & pretty much where we would finish.
    This year, I have no idea where the Suns will finish although they could obviously struggle with so many new faces coming together…..tonight will at least give us an inkling.

    ps….good to see you on here Forever.

  • DBreezy

    Hawki,

    No I’m the artist formerly known as David1787.

  • ShanMan

    “After all, the use of pick-and-rolls between Steve Nash and Stoudemire were dependent on the other three players on the court drawing the defense away from the two-man game. That became ever-more-clear in the failed Shaquille O’Neal experiment.”

    When Amare was healthy and actually had the oppurtunity to play with Shaq in D’Antoni’s and Gentry’s system, Shaq played on the baseline. This allowed the entire lane for a pick and roll, and players had to choose whether to play Amare straight up on the roll and risk a drop pass to Shaq moving in on the baseline, or stay back on Shaq and let Amare dunk 1 on 1. Plus you have a guy there for the board if the guard decides to take a jumpshot. This worked very well, and I believe Amare averaged something like 30+ ppg after the trade happened. Shaq finished with around 10 and 10. Porter came in the next year and ruined it, playing with Shaq in the post instead of on the baseline and then Amare lost his eyeball for the rest of the season when Gentry took over. That offensive setup does work well, it’s not an experiment, and it didn’t truly fail. We just weren’t getting by the Spurs that year regardless. I believe the Suns would have been dangerous when Gentry took over if Amare had stayed healthy because he moved Shaq back to the baseline before the injury.