Patience pays off for Hamed Haddadi


Eight hundred and twenty-one minutes.

That’s the amount of floor-time Iranian big man Hamed Haddadi saw with the Memphis Grizzlies through his first four-and-a-half years in the NBA. That amounts to approximately 68 minutes per month, 16 minutes per week and 2.3 minutes per day against the best basketball players in the world. Haddadi didn’t exactly log Kobe Bryant minutes, nor Tom Thibodeau-directed ones.

He probably would take either of those situations over the reality, but he never made excuses about it.

Haddadi’s opportunity came with patience and a lot of chance. His contract was needed as a mathematical inclusion for the Grizzlies’ decision to trade Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors. Although he never went to Canada because of visa issues, his contract was again a bargaining chip for the Raptors, who brought on backup point guard Sebastian Telfair from the Suns – they wanted to shed his contract and thus make room for Kendall Marshall’s playing time.

The run of luck for Haddadi didn’t end there. Had it not been for a season-ending injury to Marcin Gortat with 21 games remaining and then Jermaine O’Neal’s various leaves, who knows if Haddadi would’ve gotten a chance with Phoenix?

“I was in Memphis for five years and didn’t get a chance to play,” he said after exit interviews. “The past 15 games (Editor’s note: Haddadi actually logged 17 games played with the Suns) they gave me a chance here. I’m happy to get the time, but I’m not happy with the losing. I’m happy I got to show my skills, show that maybe I can play in this league.”

The big man logged 235 with Phoenix, playing more than a fifth of his career minutes – 22 percent to be exact – over the course of a two-month span after spending the first four-and-a-half years with the Grizzlies riding the pine.

And he proved to be more than a big body.

The 7-foot-2, 265 center averaged 2.8 points, 3.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 10.7 minutes per game. He joined the Suns soon after the trade at the deadline and arrived a bit out of shape having been in Los Angeles as his visa problems failed to be resolved.

First and foremost, Haddadi became a rim-protecting center who could prove to be a bargain for the Suns or otherwise. His 3.2 blocks per 36 minutes would be bettered by only JaVale McGee, Larry Sanders, Serge Ibaka, Roy Hibbert and Tim Duncan in terms of rotations players, and Haddadi’s defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) of 102 was the best of any Suns play during 2012-13, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

Haddadi was also an effective rebounder, grabbing 21 percent of the available rebounds while on the court – for perspective, the next-best rebounder for Phoenix was Jermaine O’Neal, who snatched an estimated 16.2 percent of missed shots. More impressively, Haddadi was a freakish offensive rebounder.

In his 30 games played for both Memphis and Phoenix this year, he ranked 10th in the league among players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game with an offensive rebounding rate of 14.3 percent, according to the NBA.com Stats tool.

As the season wore on, Haddadi’s body showed more agility and a leaner look than it ever did in Memphis – tip of the hat to the Suns’ training staff. He displayed more skillfulness than expected as well, throwing a pocket-pass here and launching a 15-footer to Lindsey Hunter’s dismay there – though he joked about it, he never did let one fly from three-point range.

Haddadi became more than a marketing ploy, but it shouldn’t be discounted that his influence in international circles goes deeper than many might believe. He wore No. 98 as a reference to Iran’s telephone code and despite Phoenix’s previous proclamations of having a social-media savvy locker room, it was the Iranian – not Jared Dudley or Channing Frye – who leads the Suns with more than 345,000 Twitter followers.

He was also accepted into the locker room. The Suns distributed “Who’s your Haddadi?” t-shirts after the last home game of the year.

As is the case for most of the Suns, the future is uncertain. Haddadi, 27, might have earned himself another NBA contract. He has one year left on his deal at an unguaranteed $1,397,500 and from his arrival said he enjoyed Phoenix; he felt at home because of the large Persian population.

“I’m waiting to hear what will happen in the future,” he said. “I’d be happy with the Suns. They have good fans, they have good people and it’s a good situation here.

“I’m going to go home, get a coach and work on my conditioning. If I focus on that this summer, I think I’ll be a better player next season.”

  • Nathan

    Haddadi….big body, sets good screens, protects the rim, great chemistry guy, and is still only 27….you could do much worse for a third string center. PHX doesn’t have much to lose by guaranteeing the final year of his contract and seeing if he can play his way into a larger role or increase his trade value by the deadline. With the Mcdonough hire, it doesn’t seem like we’re diving head-first into free-agency this offseason anyway, so keeping a 7’2 rim protecter in his prime at 1.4 mil seems like a no-brainer, right?

  • Hesam

    The only reason Hamed’s stats are not 17points/10Rebs/3Blocks is because his leadership role and starter-center position (of Iran’s National Team) got assasinated by Hollins in Memphis and he got demoted to a practicing partner for Marc-Gasol and the team’s cheer-leader.
    This fact was proven time after time in Phoenix when playtimes of 25+ minutes produced nice point/Rebs/blocks results and ended with the Denver game where he made quick 14points/7Rebs/2Blocks in only 19.55 minutes.
    It was proven that when the guards, specially Marshall and Forward Dudley passed the ball to him in the paint it produced points, faster than any other gameplan.
    His size makes the opponent players just stand and stare because they know they can’t reach his height to block him so they just hope that he misses the shot.
    He clearly made a sudden improvement when Ralph-Sampson started coaching him. I think he hit a jackpot to get such a chance and get coached by one of the best 7′+ centers in history.
    I’m willing to bet $1000 that if guards keep passing to him in the paint and if he gets 25+ minutes playtime average, some as a starter-center, his season average will endup over 12points/7Rebounds/2blocks and we’ll soon start seeing 20+ point games.
    PS. Barkley or Tom Chambers for Coach position.

  • Scott

    I think it is more likely Haddadi will be with the Suns at the end of next season than Gortat.

    Haddadi is technically a veteran, however at 27 he’s also at the upper age range for a player to be included in a rebuild, so there’s always the possibility he could stick.

    If the Suns – somehow – go into the season with too many centers, I could see a trade of Haddadi to a team like Miami, where they could use an inexpensive big at C.

    If that should happen, they should trade him for a future first rounder, because Heat first rounders are just like 2nd rounders. :p

  • Hesam

    The problem with those in the management who might not know him is that they look at the stats and stats are cooked in Memphis under no playtime condition. So unless someone familiar with him makes the decision he might get traded but most within Suns franchise seem to like him and I personally think he’ll be signed for 2 years for $3mil or so per year. He has blocked and defended the best centers in the league including Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Brook Lopez, Andrew Bynum effectively and he adds defensive power to the team, what Suns lacked for the last season. For now he’s in Ahvaz visiting his parents.

  • http://valleyofthesuns.com hawki

    Haddadi looks like a solid backup Center.

    My latest upside player for the 30th pick is Grant Jarrett, the 6’10″ kid from Arizona.
    Had to share PT with other freshman Ashley and Tarczewski but has great shooting range for a player his size.
    Is not ready for the NBA yet but could develop into a great stretch 4 at the next level.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    I am of the opinion that the Suns should keep this guy.

    I mean, if you’re looking to draft a center at the end of the first, (basically into the 2nd round), the contributions are probably going to be on par with what this guy will bring.

    The only way I’d move it takes us back to something I said in an article not too long ago about rebuilding. If he can be added to a package that brings us another 1st pick or something like that, then move him.

    Otherwise, keep him. I didn’t mind him when he was on the court. If you get rid of him, you’ll have to replace him with size anyway.

  • Hesam

    Guts, defense and hustling aside, he has 7’2″ height which makes him about 5″ longer than most 7-footers as far as reach because with height usually comes wider shoulders, longer arms and longer fingers that result in wider wingspan. He can rebound and reach the basket by just standing on his toes while centers just 2-3″ shorter have to jump. I always thought about how unstoppable someone his height can become only if he can make 50%-60% of his 10-15foot jumpshots. Reminds me of Wilt-Chamberlain’s 100-point game. I remember back in Memphis OJ Mayo used to make 2-14 of his shots. If I were the coach I would tell the 7’2″ center to take a straight 12-15footer shot under more or less open defense instead of a 6’5″ guard under heavy defense.
    Regarding the Draft, we’ll soon know if we get the 1st spot or not, then Suns has free hand to pick the best. I would take Forward Arsalan Kazemi of Oregon Ducks, he’s a top rebounder, tough, strong, athletic and a great defender. Also a 6’5″ accurate, tough, shooting guard.

  • Ty-Sun

    If the Suns get lucky in the lottery and wind up being able to draft Noel, then Haddadi’s future with the Suns becomes very questionable. While I think he’s earned a spot on the roster, his contract could also be used as a salary equalizer in a potential trade so that adds to the possibility that he might not be back.

    With a new GM in place, no head coach named and to lottery still up in the air, there’s very little to judge which direction the Suns are going to move in the future.

    At this point, I don’t think Haddadi has earned a 2 year contract at $3 mil a season but if he stays with the Suns this season and does well then it wouldn’t be out of the question to offer him that the following season after his present contract runs out.

  • Ty-Sun

    Kazemi has been a good rebounder in college but he’s also already 23 and is a 6′ 8′ PF instead of a 6’5″ SG. He scored only 9.4 ppg this season and made zero 3 point attempts. Add that to 67.5% free throw shooting and you have to conclude that his outside shooting is weak at best. Draft Express rates him as #86 in the top 100 draft prospects this year… and this is already considered a weak draft.

    If he wants to make it in the NBA, his best bet is probably to wow everyone in the summer league games this year because I just don’t see anyone drafting him even with a very late 2nd round draft pick based on his play in college.

  • Ty-Sun

    I must rephrase what I said in my last post. Kazemi has been a great rebounder in college, not just good. His offensive game is limited because he hasn’t developed an outside shot but he has a good motor and plays above average defense. He could very well find a spot for himself on an NBA team but I still doubt he will be drafted.

  • Hesam

    If you mean Noel Nerlens he is more of a Forward than Center. At 6’10″ he’s about 6″-7″ below Haddadi as far as reach and wingspan and he’s only 228 which means he’ll get pushed back by heavy NBA centers and forwards. His scoring: In 765 minutes: 227 Rebounds vs. college teams.
    Haddadi: ( 557 minutes adjusted to 765): 272 Rebounds vs. NBA teams and under few minutes per game cold-body playtimes.
    I think for a draft-player to replace Haddadi he must be at least 7′ tall, athletic, accurate from 15feet and most important of all, to be a tough, aggressive hustler and defender. I still don’t know such a candidate, specially one who can perform against NBA teams not college teams.
    Regarding the contract, Robin Lopez was getting near $4mil and his rebounding and defense performance compared to Hamed’s was none-existent. Or Andrew Bogut of GSW who gets $13 Mil with 5.8PPG/7.7Rebs/1.7Blks in 24.6Min playtime.
    Adjusted for 24.6min time Hamed’s Phoenix stats equal:
    7.3 PPG/9 Rebs/ 2.14 Blks clearly better than Bogut, so I take that back, he should get $15mil/year not $3mil :))
    Regarding Kazemi, he has 9.4PPG average but add 10 Rebounds and nearly 60% FG% to that plus great defense, athleticism and hustling in the paint. I’ve noticed that it’s not points that win the games in NBA it’s actually defense and prevention of scoring by the opponents that bring wins. That’s what took Memphis and Indiana to Semi-finals. He’s a 6’8″ who can dribble and run across the court as fast as a guard and dunk at the same speed while his body strength puts him in the Zach-Randolph or Staudamire category for rebounding. Websites like Draft-Express are run by individuls who only use their own opinions not the facts and the fact is that Oregon Ducks reached Conference championship and Sweet-16 right after Kazemi joined the team. He’s actually an accurate shooter only he doesn’t attempt long shots. Bill-Walton of Celtics loved Kazemi and talked alot about how smart and tough he is during NCAA tournaments. We’ll see what happens soon.

  • Scott

    I’m pretty sure Kazemi won’t get drafted, but he was on my list of players for the Suns to invite to Summer League to see what he can do. If trades leave an opening at forward on the Suns roster, a good Summer League performance would give him a shot.

    Other players on my SL list were G Dexter Strickland, F James Southerland, and maybe one or two other guys I’m not thinking of right now.

    @Hesam -

    Suns fans haven’t seen what Haddadi is like when he’s in shape, so it’s hard to evaluate him. If he’s able to run faster and is more confident with his scoring next season, IMO he’s not too old for the Suns to keep and even start.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    If the Suns draft Noel, I don’t see how that affects Hamed.

    Noel is probably a 4 in the NBA, and the Suns are probably going to lose all of their size this off season, (Gortat, Scola, ONeal, Frye)

  • foreveris2long

    Just prior to the NCAA tournament I said keep an eye on Snell out of University of New Mexico. despite his lackluster performance in their loss to Harvard, he is moving up the draft board. some now have him going in the 1st round when prior to the tournament most did not have him being drafted. He can stroke it and is a good athlete at 6’7″ who can defend. Keep an eye on him in the combine. Speaking of which I need to tune in right now or catch up on the NBA channel.

  • Hesam

    @Scott: Kazemi was already invited to Lakers practice a few days ago.
    That’s correct Haddadi is still not known here, I followed his NBA start and games in Memphis for 5 years. His speed is pretty good for a 7’2″/265 player, he’s usually across the court before the guard gets there. He should take 12-15footer shots and guards should pass to him more often.
    @Rich
    True, Noel is a tall Forward. Suns may trade Gortat but possibly keep Scola unless a faster, taller , more aggressive Forward is signed.

  • Scott

    @forever -

    The scouting on Snell on DX is from November. He looks like he’s an average defender with the ability to catch and shoot, shooting 39% from 3.

    However, DX has him currently at 3rd from the bottom of the draft, when he was near the top of the 2nd round months ago, so I gather something happened to sink his stock (probably more than a loss at Harvard).

  • sajjad

    HamedHadadi isthe best player in phonix suns he is very good

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