It took a while, but the Phoenix Suns' Hakim Warrick seems to have found some long-desired consistency in the Suns' rotation as a scorer and energy guy. Warrick's season is only 6 games old (he sat out the first game), but this has been the most consistent 6 game stretch of his Suns' career - both in terms of energy and production.
When Warrick signed in the wake on another player's departure 18 months ago, he thought he'd hit the jackpot.
"I was going to try to wait it (free agency) out but it's like a dream job," said Warrick, in an article posted last July on azcentral.com. "I've always sat there and watched the Suns, thinking, 'If I could play with Steve Nash, that'd be great.' I got that opportunity and I jumped on it."
Suns fans set the bar very high for Warrick on day one, constantly comparing him to a former Suns player and judging him based on those expectations. Suns coaches set the bar a bit lower, yet still expected him to exceed his career averages (10 pts, 4 rebs on 20-22 minutes) by a wide margin in the Suns' system. He disappointed everyone on both fronts.
But Warrick is his own player. He is not a long-term NBA starter, and should not be expected to produce like one. His best offensive skill - pick-and-roll dunker - profiles as a power player, yet his body more resembles that of a small forward. He runs like a gazelle, but gazelles are not known for their lateral movement. Thus, you can't expect Warrick to hold up physically at either PF or SF for 35 minutes every game.
He can, however, be more consistent with his effort and production when he is on the floor. And he knows that. A year ago, I interviewed Warrick for BSotS (though I can't find any BSotS articles before this season anymore -_-). His mantra, repeated over and over, was that he wanted to find consistency in Phoenix - both from the Suns and from himself.
A year later, it looks as if he is getting it and giving it. He knows the system now. He knows the offensive game plan. He knows where he fits and how to get on the floor. And he's finally producing as best he can.
You might be surprised to hear that this 6 game stretch is the "best" 6 game stretch of his Suns career. Or, if you watched Warrick last season, you might not.
He would pour in 20+ points in 20 minutes one night, and then 2 points in 10 minutes the next. And beyond the box score, you could just watch his body language change from game to game. He was either "there" or he wasn't.
Simply put, Hakim Warrick was not predictable last season. And when you're not predictable, then you're not going to get predictable minutes. Which becomes its own vicious cycle.
One big difference between last year and this year, at first glance, appears to be his jumpshot. It seems he is making a high percentage from 15-22 feet, which is never a good long-term sign. On the whole, the 15-22 foot jump shot is the worst shot in the NBA because it's only worth 2 points and has the lowest % of 2-pt makes on the floor.
But is Warrick really exceeding his own expectations from that range? A look at hoopdata.com says no.
(click on the table to make it bigger and readable)
In fact, Warrick is taking more but converting a lower percentage of jumpshots than at any point in his career. Yet the big difference is that he LOOKS like he's going to make those shots. His body language screams confidence. And that is as big a threat as any.
Where is Warrick excelling then? Around the rim.
In the first 6 games of the season - again Warrick's most consistent 6 games of his Suns career - Warrick has been not only good but also self-sufficient around basket.
If you look at the stats over time (the pretty picture above), you can conclude that Warrick is not playing over his head. Rather, he's finding a better balance between his pre-Suns game and his with-Suns game. Last year, he relied on Nash and the p-n-r game more most of his offense. Thusly, when opponents focused on stopping that one play, Warrick would disappear. Now, he is making his own magic happen. He is converting his own plays close to the basket, and that is a very welcome sight.
The key to his season, and his Suns future, is still consistency. When Warrick is consistent, then he is predictable. When he is predictable, then he will get consistent minutes as a primary backup SF/PF.
A consistent Warrick is a huge bargain at $4 million a year for two (or three, at the Suns' discretion) more years.
Just don't expect him to be something he's not. Enjoy what he brings - hustle, finishing at the rim, and 10 points and 4 rebounds a game on 20-22 minutes.
Make excuses about the Portland Trail Blazers being tired if you must, but there was no mistaking the fact that the Phoenix Suns came to play tonight. They came out with tons of energy from the very beginning and never let up or looked back. The Suns got out to an early lead and increased it throughout the game to finish with a blowout win over the Blazers 102-77
Tonight was a return to the ways of old with the run-and-gun offense back in full effect. However, they also managed to do this while still playing effective defense on the other end of the floor to hold the Blazers to under 33% shooting on the night.
This new change in tempo and offensive philosophy was likely something that head coach Alvin Gentry implemented to get the Suns back to playing like themselves again. And man, did it work. This was Suns' basketball, and when they are playing fast and furious everything else seems to fall in place...well, at least it did tonight.
Read on after the jump for more sunshine and roses.
Make no mistake about it...tonight's victory was an impressive one against a very good Portland team who (had) the best record in the West coming into tonight's game (5-1). Sure, they may have been tired after a late game against the Lakers last night, but take nothing away from the Suns either. They earned this win with energy, hustle, tempo, and very good defense...period.
Steve Nash led the team in awesomeness with 17 points, 9 assists, and a +22 for the night. Jared Dudley led the team in scoring with his 18 points, and it was his infectious passion and will that helped get the team out of a short-lived slump to start the second half. The twin towers of Gortat and Lopez also had a very nice night on the boards with 8 and 12 respectively. And last but not least, Markieff Morris put on a clinic from behind the arc and also on the glass notching 13 points and 9 rebounds on the night. Everyone was feeling good and feeling loose tonight...even Shannon Brown had 14 points!
The Suns did almost everything well, that is, as long as Nash was on the court. There's really very little to critique tonight, and I couldn't be happier!
Are there still issues with this Suns' team? Sure. But we've had enough doom and gloom around these parts recently. So for now I would recommend enjoying the heck out of an impressive, quality win...I know I am.
Suns running-and-gunning again trying to get their offense going…and it’s working
Suns playing with great hustle and energy so far…Let’s see if they can keep it up!
Nash juked Felton so bad he fell backwards and out of bounds…He’s still got it
BAMF showed Crash who’s still boss with a stuff at the rim!
Suns out to their best start of the season, and leading Portland by 10 points midway through the first quarter
Nash going to the bench…let’s see if the offense can keep up the pace
Suns scored 30 points in a quarter…Just like old times!
Suns lead 30-19 at the end of the first quarter
Bench play has been good on defense, but still a significant drop off when Nash leaves the floor
Scratch that…Suns bench is now playing very poorly as Shannon Brown continues to shoot shot after shot
Nash is coming back in!
Nash hits the side fade-away jumper without missing a beat
Also, say what you want about Lopez’s rebounding, but he has 6 boards already midway through the 2nd quarter…Now Gortat is coming back in
Suns defense playing very well, and without affecting their offense for once! They are currently holding Portland to 28% shooting!
Suns still playing well, but Portland is still sticking around…mostly due to some wide open missed shots by Phoenix
Suns slowed down a little in the second quarter, but still maintain a nice lead going into the half up 49-34.
Offense struggling at the start of the 2nd half.
Gentry calls a time out to talk it over before the Suns let a very dangerous team back in it
Dudley with a nice drive, then a fast break and-one…Looks like he’s trying to set the tone
Suns seemed to have fixed their offensive woes behind the play of Nash and Dudley
Suns now up by more than 20…Where has this team been?
Nash now with 17 points, 8 assists, and 3 TOs
Gortat now leading with 8 rbs to go along with his 12 points
Suns up 74-55 at the end of the 3rd quarter
All starters are on the bench with more than 8min left in the 4th quarter…Let’s hope they don’t have to come back in
Shannon Brown with a three and then a fast-break dunk…Everyone is feeling good!
Brown now has 14 points
Morris is awesome…that is all
Suns win!!! 102-77