Welcome to the eighth piece of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations. We here at Bright Side of the Sun have assembled somewhat of an All-Star cast of writers to put together alternative views on the players, front office, and coaches. Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the compliments or criticism they deserve.
It's easy to like Garret Siler. The undrafted rookie from Augusta State, by way of Shanghai, fits the profile of the lovable underdog who is making the most of his chance to play in the NBA through hard work, commitment and coachability. He has a handsome smile. He sings. By all accounts, including his Twitter feed, he's a sincere, down to earth, nice young man and a hard-working, solid teammate. On the court, he's a big 6'11" body with a long wingspan and, in the NBA, there are few substitutes for size. He has raw power and a few nifty low post moves. Sounds like just what you want out of a backup big man prospect, doesn't it? So, how much can be expected of the player given the nicknames "Silo" and "Pudgemonster" by fans here, but who refers to himself simply as "Big G"?
The winding road from Augusta, GA to Phoenix, AZ.
Being an All-America 7 footer (Siler's height with shoes) would normally get a player drafted, unless he's from Division II Augusta State University in Georgia and has, as Draft Express put it, "obvious physical limitations." At the conclusion of the 2009 NBA draft, Siler was left undrafted but also undeterred. He participated in the NBA summer league for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then, when no NBA roster spot was offered, played in the Chinese Basketball Association for the Shanghai Sharks, averaging 14.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. In 2010, Siler played in the summer league again, this time for the Nets and Heat. Here, he was so impressive that Scott Schroeder of SB Nation's Ridiculous Upside asserted that Siler has.....ridiculous upside. The Suns were intrigued as well, inviting him to training camp and eventually signing him to a 2-year contract. Except for the 4 games he spent with the Iowa Energy of the NBDL, Siler was on the Suns roster all season, earning playing time in 21 games. He's signed with the Suns for a $789K salary for next season, according to Hoopshype.
His strengths and weaknesses
NBA statistics won't tell us much about a player who scored only 45 points in 101 minutes of play for the Suns in 2010-2011. Obviously, there's not much game film to watch either, and when Siler did play it was in garbage time. Nevertheless, there are scouting reports galore, and we can judge the validity of what they say based on what we've seen from Siler. His biggest strength is his size, not just his height and girth, but also his wingspan, which measures 7' 6.5". That size allows him to work well in the post, despite possessing only basic post moves. His jump shot is a work in progress, but isn't close to being effective yet. He shot a spectacularly high .745% from the field in his college career, but that was mainly the result of using his size to gain superior position against much smaller opponents, and then making easy, short shots. That works in Division II college basketball against teams like Flagler and Francis Marion (schools in the same Peach Belt Conference as Augusta St), not so much in the NBA.
On defense, Siler is prone to committing fouls, as he lacks the quickness and experience against more skilled players to be able to keep up. He can guard the post, but has trouble when he has to step out to cover a shooter. His foot speed running the floor is surprisingly decent for a man his size, more so late in the season after he lost weight and worked himself into shape. Siler was clearly overweight when he joined the Suns in September, but worked the weight off and by season's end actually had the build of a legitimate NBA player. Check out the progress he made.
(For those Siler fanboys and girls out there who would like to judge his weight loss by how he looks shirtless, I'm sorry to report I have no such pictures.)
His weight loss was impressive. It showed he's serious about earning an NBA career, and is willing to put in the work and commitment that is necessary. However, being in shape vs. out of shape and being athletic vs. unathletic are two different issues. While Siler now appears to be in shape, he still doesn't look athletic. As one contributor here noted upon watching him in late season action, "he still runs like a fat guy." Siler can run wind sprints and eat salads with lean protein every day, but it still won't give him quickness, agility or leaping ability.
Will he get the chance to make the rotation next year?
Suns' brass seems to like Siler's potential, and he even moved ahead of Lopez for a couple of games late in the season when Lopez' struggles hit a boiling point. Lopez' status is uncertain due to his poor season; the coaching staff sounds willing to continue to work with him and give him another chance, but he might be a valuable trade chip in the quest to upgrade other parts of the roster. Or, the Suns might think they've simply seen enough of Lopez and want to move on without him, getting back whatever they can. While I think this would be a mistake, it could give a fit, more polished ("less unpolished" might be more precise) Siler a chance to get some regular rotation minutes.
You don't have to look far to find holes in Garret Siler's game, but a big man with a long wingspan who is willing to work, learn and improve should never be counted out. It would be risky to depend on Siler to be a contributing member of a winning team's rotation next year, but if he shows that he's making strides in summer league and preseason, it might be a risk the Suns are willing to take. My position is that Siler isn't ready for significant minutes next year. He might never be, but I think he's worth keeping around as a developmental project 3rd center. What say you?