In a rather unanticipated move yesterday, we learned that the Phoenix Suns had placed the highest contract bid on Luis Scola-- the recently amnestied ex-Houston Rocket--and would therefore be awarded his rights for the duration of the contract; which in this case is three years.
Usually when an NBA player is signed during free agency, there are plenty of rumors floating around prior to the actual deal happening in which fans come to familiarize themselves with their newest member. However, this wasn't the case with Scola as Phoenix moved quickly and stealthily to claim him off waivers catching many fans and analysts by surprise.
The Suns already had at least three power forwards on the roster prior to this acquisition, so it's no wonder hardly anyone saw this coming. But it did...and perhaps that in and of itself could give us a clue as to what the Suns' plan on doing this season in regards to their rotation and their plans moving forward.
So who exactly is Luis Scola? What can he bring to the Suns, and what can we expect from him this season? Some possible answers to those questions and more after the jump
Luis Alberto Scola is a 6'9", 245 lb, 32 year old power forward originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Scola has played his entire NBA career with the Houston Rockets after initially being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs with the 56th pick in the 2002 draft. Scola was originally left to continue developing overseas in the Euro League with Baskonia until 2005 when the Spurs tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a buyout on his contract. The Spurs eventually gave up and traded his rights to the Rockets in 2007 who were finally able to resolve the contract and bring him to Houston as a 27 year old rookie for the 2007-2008 season.
Since then, Scola has had a very productive, successful career in the NBA. He is known for his relentless hustle, crafty style of play, and unique skill-set. Scola has the ability to stretch the defense by knocking down jump shots, and can also bang inside to score down low by using his excellent footwork/fundamentals and hard-nosed style of play.
Here are Scola's stats throughout his five year NBA career:
Looking at these stats you can see that Scola has been fairly consistent in what he does for his team. There's nothing flashy about Scola, and he doesn't particularly excel in any one area, but he is a very effective starting-caliber player who the Suns can rely on to help them on both ends of the court.
Scola was a fan favorite in Houston because of his hard play and toughness, and those are traits the Suns' team is certainly looking for. Not to mention, Scola built up a great repoire with Goran Dragic while in Houston together, so this should help both of them make a smooth transition.
Scola seemed excited about the opportunity to play for Phoenix, if not a little sad to leave the only NBA team he's never known in the Rockets behind. Here's what he had to say on Twitter:
Now I'm a Sun, let's see what I can do for them :) I'm very excited.
— Luis Scola (@LScola4) July 16, 2012
Scola was amnestied by the Rockets to clear his three-year/$21 million contract off the books so they could make a run at Dwight Howard. There's little question that the Suns got a great deal by acquiring a productive, proven starter at power forward for only $4.1 million for the first year, $4.5 million the second year, and $4.9 million with only $440,000 guaranteed in the third year. Now that's a great value!
But what does this say about the other power forwards the Suns currently have on the roster, and the direction the Suns are moving in?
Two words: Flexibility and versatility.
Right now, the Suns have five players who can play the four: Channing Frye, Markieff Morris, Hakim Warrick, Michael Beasley, and Luis Scola.
This doesn't mean that all of these players will actually play the four on a consistent basis; many of these players will probably see time primarily at a different position...But that's actually the point.
Of these five players only two of them are strictly power forwards; Morris and Scola.
Acquiring Scola gives the Suns the flexibility to move Frye back to center to relieve Gortat if the Suns can't agree to terms with Robin Lopez. Likewise, Hakim Warrick saw time at small forward last season where he seemed to be a better fit...With the loss of Josh Childress and (most likely) Grant Hill, Warrick could be third on the depth chart at both forward spots now. Beasley will be used primarily as a small forward in the Suns' system but he has also had experience playing power forward...giving the Suns yet another option to use at either forward position
Increasing the Suns' versatility and flexibility seems to be one of the major themes of this off-season, along with getting younger. A look at our roster shows that the majority of our players are able to fill in at multiple positions.
With Scola now in the fold, the recent trend of increased roster versatility will be even more potent. Alvin Gentry will have the freedom to move even more players between different positions depending on match-ups or sudden changes in the line-up.
The Suns may not have the star power of other playoff caliber teams...but they will be more prepared to deal with unforeseen circumstances like injuries, and in keeping their line-up dynamic to maximize their effectiveness against various opponents. It will be up to Gentry to find a way to make it all work.
But what about Markieff Morris? Does signing Scola mean the Suns don't have faith in his ability to start this season? Maybe, maybe not.
It's hard to say what the Suns may be thinking about Morris's progression and readiness to take over the starting role. But what I do know is if Gentry believes Markieff deserves to be the starter, he will be. Signing Scola won't change that at all. Again, it gives the Suns' more flexibility to change the line-ups if need be.
This is why I fully support this signing, and believe it will help make the Suns a better team. The Suns still need to address the shooting guard position, but signing Scola shouldn't affect that either. The Suns were able to amnesty Childress to make up for that. If anything it may make the decision to re-sign Lopez a little tougher, or make it easier to let him walk, depending on how you look at it (more on the salary cap stuff coming soon). But all-in-all, I believe this signing will help the Suns, and it's yet another step in the right direction.