How good will Robin Lopez be? We should finally get a chance to find out now that he's been traded from the team that drafted and discounted him to a team that needs him to start next to rookie Anthony Davis on what could be one of the biggest, baddest and hairiest (head and eyebrows combined) front lines in the NBA.
The big guy from Fresno goes to a team that wants him, a coach that respects him and an organization that didn't throw him under the bus in one of the most callous acts of bus-throwing-under I've seen in recent years.
I might be the only one left on the Robin Lopez bandwagon, but that's because I remember just how freaking athletic this kid was before his back injury in March 2010 and how skilled he was on both ends of the floor.
Robin Lopez doesn't rebound, you say? Well, no, actually, he's not a very good rebounder and I don't think he ever will be...if you only measure rebounding by individual rebounds.
In this era of advanced stats, there's still no on-court/ off-court rebounding plus/minus but when we ran those numbers ourselves in 2010 the results were remarkable. The Suns net rebounding rate improved 7.5 points once Robin "got into the game" and that wasn't because Amar'e Stoudemire suddenly started chewing glass and spitting up boards.
What Lopez does is put his wide hips in the other team's biggest guy and gets his long arms on balls. He slows down fast breaks by tipping the rock out of bounds and he opens up rebounding opportunities for wing players that know how to rebound.
During that stretch in his second year, Robin was well on his way to a very respectable career before he blew out a disc in his back that pinched a nerve going down his right leg.
In fact, I have no problem saying that stretch with Robin starting at the five was the best Suns basketball played during the Nash Era. They were incredibly efficient on the offensive end, they were solid defensively and yes, as a team, they rebounded the ball. Oh, and they were super deep with Frye, Dudley, Dragic, Barbosa and Amundson coming off the bench.
Good times. But I digress into fuzzy-headed fits of nostalgia.
Let me interrupt my Suns bashin' and Robin lovin' to say this:
This. Was. A. Great. Trade. For. The. Suns.
(See, Lon, I'm not just about that hatin')
The Suns moved a bad contract and created more cap space. They opened up front court playing time at the four (since Frye can now move to the backup five). Got a first round pick that will probably be roughly equivalent in value to the one they lost in the Dragic / Brooks swap (sorry, Lon, parting shots). And get a clean look at Wesley Johnson, a very talented player who so far hasn't lived up to top-five pick expectations but might just have something special to offer at a position the Suns needed to fill.
It's also a fantastic situation for Robin to go to a new team with a new coach where the fans haven't been poisoned against him by a team that didn't support him through the recovery from an injury that took EIGHT INCHES off his vertical ... a fact only admitted to publicly by his coach at the end of the 2011 season after months of hearing him get killed on talk radio.
Robin's agent, by the way, did a horrible job protecting his client. All season while Robin's getting bashed in the media for his lousy play and the team is untelling the truth regarding his physical status, the agent should be doing something to cover for a guy who did himself no favors when it came to protecting his own image and "brand".
I don't know what the story is now on the nerve damage in his right leg that limited his play for the last two seasons. But as recently as April 2012, Robin said he was still working himself back to where he was before the back injury robbed him of elite-level big man athleticism.
He's shown signs of improvement but it's been slow. Will he ever get back to being this guy who could dunk anything, block shots and converted nearly 70% of his pick and roll finishes with uncanny flair? I don't know.
If he does, look out.
If he does, Robin Lopez will be better than his twin brother Brook and not unlike Tyson Chandler, could become a dominant defensive force later in his career but with far more offensive ability. It was clear that wasn't going to happen in Phoenix so it's best for everybody that he's given the chance to start over somewhere else.
Best of luck, Robin. You are a different dude and that sometimes didn't work well for you in relationships with the media or team. But underneath the gruff exterior and grunted answers is a super smart guy who can play this game at the highest levels. I believe that.
Here's Robin's final media availability as a Sun. Around the 2:05 he talks about working to regain his explosiveness.
Here's a fun story I was told but never verified: That door busting incident in Robin's rookie year came after a spirited post-practice three-on-three game. Jarron Collins of all people, was apparently a knock down shooter on the practice floor. He hit a game-winning J in Robin's face and proceeded to talk some trash. Robin lost his cool, stormed up the stairs and pushed open the door so hard that the glass shattered.
You probably heard the news on Wednesday, Shannon Brown is back and playing for the Phoenix Suns this year. Brown signed with the Suns last year on a one-year deal and after posting career highs in points (11.0), rebounds (2.7) and minutes (23.7), apparently earned his way back into Orange Purple for another two.
Many will say, "well, he was our plan 'C' after Eric Gordon and O.J. Mayo, so meh."
I hear you and "I feel your pain" (#BillClintonVoice). Sure, Eric Gordon would have been the ideal shooting guard acquisition of the off-season, but it didn't happen. There really was never a chance in Hades that the New Orleans Hornets wouldn't match our offer. Our front office went after a star and did everything they could to try and bring him to the desert - he even wanted to come, but the shackles of restricted free-agency pulled back and there he remains.
So then it was on to O.J. Mayo right? The Suns brought him in, courted him a couple of times on a few different occasions... he asked for like a bazillion dollars and we passed while Mark Cuban was all like, "BOOM. How about a Bazillion-Trillion" (#MarkCubanDrEvilVoice) End of story.
So Shannon is option C. Right? Wrong. Shannon should have and is a strong option B and no Suns fan should be disappointed in this re-signing.
It's a foregone conclusion that Eric Gordon would have been the best option, but where the line blurs for me is when by fans and media alike O.J. Mayo was held on a pedestal seemingly so much more elevated than Shannon Brown. I don't get that. I believe there's a reason the Suns didn't offer O.J. Mayo a contract after his multiple visits to the Valley - but maybe our vision was clouded by familiarity.
To me it feels like a case of the proverbial, "The grass is always greener on the other side". We resigned ourselves to the fact last year that there were a lot of guys on the roster who were given short contracts with the idea that we were filling a broken roster due to the lack of an off-season smitten by the lockout and making cap space for big free-agent signings down the road. Telfair, Redd, Brown, Price... it was like, "Oh whatever, it's not like they really even matter... they're on one year contracts." Maybe for some it was true - but obviously Telfair earned his way back and Shannon Brown proved that when given consistent minutes he can produce and provide the youth and a controlled athleticism that everyone believed he could when he first arrived.
But that's the key. Consistent minutes. With the rotations in flux all season last year it wasn't until the second half of the that consistent minutes came for guys like Telfair and Brown. Now with Brown coming back there is little doubt that he will now get those consistent minutes.
"But we could have had O.J. Mayo.."
Right - but would he be better than Brown? I've done a little research and if you ask me - I choose Brown over Mayo hands down. I say that because of 3 conditions. Brown's experience, his offense, and his price.
From SB Nation Arizona's own Kristopher Habbas,
The sixth year veteran seems to have been in the league forever, but is only 26 years and will be only 28 when this two year (7 million dollar) contract ends. The Suns have signed a young, experienced, very athletic guard as he enters his physical prime to be a young veteran on this team.
Brown has been around the block in his six years in the NBA. First he was a part of the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James that lost in the Finals, then as a part of the Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles Lakers that won a championship, and finally to Phoenix where he got went to finishing school with Steve Nash and Grant Hill.
"I am not too big on bragging on myself, but I do know my resume," Brown referencing playing on good teams. "All I can say is that I am going to go out there and give it my all."
You can debate the impact of his contributions - but Shannon Brown is a champion.
When asked about what he's learned from the great players he's been able to play with, especially when he played with Kobe and the Champion Los Angeles Lakers, Shannon Brown alluded to the fact that the mentality was always about the Finals and winning it all. Not just making the Playoffs... and ‘seeing how far we can go'. A mantra that the Suns have touted for... forever.
Like Habbas said - he is in his physical prime and has been sufficiently schooled to provide the winning mentality the Suns will need to groom during this rebuilding process.
Now - I broke down both Shannon Brown and O.J. Mayo's stats last year - but I only took the games in which each received 25 minutes or more of playing time. You might be surprised
Now take a look at the Advanced Statistics.
From the numbers - O.J. Mayo is clearly the better defender and Brown is the better offensive threat. Would you have guessed that? Brown actually has all the tools to be a great defender but where he fails is in his discipline. More often than not Brown will gamble on a pass or on a steal be forced to chase his cover from behind. Things like that are correctible, his athleticism is a huge bonus that will help him to improve his defensive prowess. Another thing to consider is that team defense also plays a factor in what's reflected in an individual player's defensive numbers. We all know the Grizzlies were a far superior defensive team than the Suns last year, so keep that in mind.
Brown's 3-point shooting percentage could certainly be better - but another curious number can be pulled from the stats when you look at the final 17 games of last year. If you remember - those were the games that Shannon was promoted to the starting line-up. In those games to end the season Brown shot a blazing 40.2% from 3. He obviously feels more comfortable shooting when he starts.
Overall - with his finishing ability, his speed and when he's shooting well (or taking smart shots I guess is the key), he is in my mind a very good option to have at SG - better than O.J. Mayo.
Remember when O.J. Mayo was cited for wanting 7M this offseason? Well he finally chose his destination in Dallas where Mark Cuban will pay him 8.5M over two years, the 2nd year being a player option. Not the outrageous price tag he apparently wanted to be purchased for, but more expensive than what the Suns ironed out with Shannon Brown.
The Suns picked up Brown for an awesome price of $7M for two-years but the difference is the second year is a team option and only 1.75M of the 3.5M is guaranteed. That's a great contract for a player with big upside this year and possibly next. Does losing out on O.J. seem that disappointing now?
Shannon Brown is a great pick-up for the Phoenix Suns - and there should be no one who is honestly disappointed in this acquisition given the circumstances of free-agency this year. On the contrary - we should be excited to watch Brown bloom and explode in his new role.
Rick Welts has not even been gone from the Suns for a year and the presidency of the franchise's business side is changing again.
Brad Casper, the former head of Dial Corp., resigned as Suns president after nine months on the job. Chief Operating Officer Jason Rowley will assume the role of president overseeing the Suns' business operations.