Three years after Mike D’Antoni left Phoenix for New York, his run-and-gun style still influences Phoenix’s style under Alvin Gentry. And with two-time MVP Steve Nash still running the point, it’s easy to think of the Suns as a guard’s playground.
But as the Suns open their preseason tonight against Denver ahead of Monday’s season opener at home against New Orleans, the intrigue around Phoenix centers around its emerging frontcourt depth.
With 7-footer Robin Lopez, 6-11 Marcin Gortat and the versatile 6-11 Channing Frye, the Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro wrote today that forward Hakim Warrick could feel the squeeze the most.
Warrick has been a career sixth man, with his career high of 43 starts coming in 2006-07. He had just six for the Suns last year while playing 17.7 minutes per game. During training camp this week, Warrick has been tried at the three by Gentry to find him more opportunities, something Warrick’s taken to knowing the fatigue of a 66-game season will open playing time.
“I like it,” the seventh-year pro said. “That’s something I’ve been working on in the summer, working on my ball-handling and to be able to go out there against smaller threes in the post. Being more consistent with my outside shot will allow me to play the three some more. It opens up everything else for me when I knock that shot down.
“We’ve got a lot of bigs. That’s why I worked so hard. For me, the biggest thing is for me to be able to go out and guard three-men. Hopefully, we don’t play a bunch of Rip Hamiltons at the three, running off a bunch of screens. The more positions you play, the better chance you have to stay on the floor.”
Phoenix won’t overwhelm with its bigs this season but with the addition of Kansas rookie Markieff Morris, the Suns could have a contending frontline to make the playoffs. The Suns were six games back of the West’s eighth playoff spot last year at 40-42, in 10th position.
Much of Phoenix’s promise can be traced back to Gortat, who was overshadowed while playing in Orlando behind Dwight Howard, and in his escape, as part of a trade package with Vince Carter. As a Sun, his minutes nearly doubled to 29.7 per game and his scoring more than tripled to 13 (he added 9.3 boards per game) in his last 55 games.
Finally, add in Lopez, who Gentry says in a Republic story is an “almost completely different person.”
Lopez echoed his coach’s belief.
“There were also mental problems (last season). Having this break, it gave me time to myself.”
What do you think is Phoenix’s potential this season?
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