Position Breakdown: Suns Power Forwards
Posted: Sept. 19, 2010
During the summer of 2009, Hedo Turkoglu was one of the hottest names on the market free agent. A summer later, he’s the most exciting addition to the Suns’ franchise.
The 6-10 forward arrived in Phoenix via a trade that sent guard Leandro Barbosa and forward/center Dwayne Jones to Toronto. The Suns are hoping that Turkoglu helps fill the scoring void created by Amar’e Stoudemire’s departure.
Not only can he score, but he can also distribute the ball to others. In particular, Suns point guard Steve Nash, a career 43-percent three-point shooter, could benefit from Turkoglu’s playmaking.
“He can create his own shot and he can facilitate shots with everybody else,” Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry said. “I like the fact that we can take Steve off the ball some and make Steve (Nash) a shooter.
"We need to utilize that some and now we can with Hedo out on the floor.”
Turkoglu captured the 2007-08 Most Improved Player Award by averaging a career-best 19.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and five assists a game for Orlando. A go-to-guy in the clutch, Turkey’s national team captain possesses a renowned reputation for hitting pressure shots.
“Everybody knows that Hedo is a special guy in the league,” Suns assistant coach Bill Cartwright said. “For one thing, he’s a 6-10-ballhandler, similar to a Toni Kukoc-type of player. Anytime you can add a guy that can make other people better, you know you added a special guy.”
Besides Kukoc, Cartwright compares Turkoglu’s versatility to the Lakers’ Lamar Odom because of his ability to guard and play multiple positions. When a team needs him to score, he can post up a smaller defender, or he can dribble around taller opponents.
If Nash is in need of a rest or wants to play off the ball, Turkoglu can facilitate. The possibilities are limitless in how they use him.
“He wants the ball at the end of the game, he’s not scared and he can make shots,” Cartwright added. “It’s going to be fun to have him this year and see where we can put other teams in distress and see how valuable we can make him.”
Although he averaged 11.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists a game last season in Toronto, it was considered a sub-par season for the 10-year veteran. Therefore, the fact that Turkoglu took less money to come to Phoenix should be a clear sign that he’s committed to proving last season was an aberration.
Playing in an offense that is conducive for his talents, one gets the feeling that proof will be arriving shortly.
If you’ve seen Hakim Warrick play before, then you know that he was destined to be a Sun.
Warrick's game is very similar to Stoudemire's.
(Randy Belice/NBAE/Getty Images)
Long, athletic and enthusiastic about running the floor, Warrick seems tailor-made to play in an up-tempo system that will see him on the exciting end of a lot of lob passes this season.
The 6-9 power forward was acquired in a sign-and-trade deal with the Bulls this summer that sent the Suns’ second-round pick in 2011 to Chicago. With career averages of 10.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 21.4 minutes a game, Warrick will provide a nice scoring punch in Gentry’s rotation.
“I think that he can do some of the things that Amar’e (Stoudemire) can do,” Gentry said. “He’s a great finisher on the break and a good pick-and-roll guy when he’s rolling to the basket and finishing. So he can duplicate some of the things that Amar’e can do, but we didn’t bring him in to be Amar’e.”
The 2004-05 Big East Player of the Year at Syracuse has already showed flashes of brilliance during offseason pick-up games at US Airways Center. One can expect to see Warrick on a few SportsCenters this season.
“He’ll fit in with us because he’s very athletic and with the way we gets up and down the floor,” Cartwright said. “He’s a really good basketball player in his understanding of how to guard, team defense and what is rotations are. You can’t measure what he does because it’s not flamboyant; he’s always just in the right spot.”
Cartwright said friends of his within the Bulls organization were tremendous admirers of Warrick’s game. Even more than their appreciation for his talent, the staffers gushed about his character and likeability as a teammate.
Throughout his career, the former Orangeman has terrorized Phoenix more than any other team in the league, holding career highs in points (13.3 ppg), minutes (27.5 mpg) and shooting (58.1 percent) against the Suns. Taking full notice of that, the coaching staff figured that if the Suns couldn't beat him, they might as well trade for him.
Now Suns fans will finally get to see what Warrick can do for them, not against them.
At the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry was so impressed with Earl Clark’s development that he said he’d be “surprised” if the 6-10 forward didn’t crack the rotation the following year.
When Clark was assigned to the D-League, he averaged 20.7 points and nine rebounds in three wins.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
Although the former McDonald’s All-American was hard-pressed to find minutes in his inaugural season, Clark made his presence felt when he appeared on the court. Long, quick and athletic, the Suns’ coaching staff believes Clark has the tools to be a lockdown defender in the league.
“I think he will crack the rotation,” Gentry said. “I think we’ll give him every chance that we can to do that this year and see how he goes. He’s a great athlete, a good basketball player and has great size.
“He’ll have to defend and then have to have a good understanding of what we’re going to do, but the understanding is there.”
The 14th overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, Clark led Louisville in scoring and rebounding his junior season. While earning both All-Big East Third Team and All-Big East Tournament honors, he propelled Louisville to the school’s first Big East Tournament title.
In order to get more consistent playing time last season, Clark was sent to the Suns’ D-league affiliate, the Iowa Energy in March. The rookie forward responded by averaging 20.7 points and nine rebounds on 50 percent shooting during his three-game stint.
“We’re just very hopeful that he’ll continue to improve every day and get better,” Cartwright said. “He just has to be one thing: just solid. If he can be just solid throughout the course of the year and take good shots, play solid D - which I think he can be very, very good defender - I think he can crack the rotation."
Although Clark can play both the small forward and power forward spots, expect to see most of his time spent at the 4. Due to his ability to rebound well for his size, like Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw a few years ago, Clark will play more of a “hybrid 4.”
By using his quickness to maneuver past slower power forwards and his length to bother them on defense, the Suns coaching staff believes that he could be most valuable in that role. And now with a year of seasoning under his belt, the Suns are hoping that Clark continual growth on defense and on the glass will allow him to become a consistent reserve.
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Although the Suns will miss fan-favorite Louis Amundson, they might have found similar version in Gani Lawal. The Suns’ second-round pick out of Georgia Tech plays with an unbelievable amount of energy on both ends of the court.
Lawal led the Suns in scoring, rebounding and blocks during summer league.
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
“I think that kid can be pretty good,” Cartwright said. “He’s a bulldog kind of a guy. He’s an aggressive player.”
The 6-9 power forward led the Suns in scoring (15.4 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg) and blocks (1.0 bpg) during the 2010 NBA Las Vegas Summer League. Of all the starters, he also possessed the highest shooting percentage (49 percent) from the field.
“I could see him in a Lou role or something like that,” Gentry said. “But I think it’s going to be a process for him as far as learning. But I like his activity and the aggressiveness that he plays with, which is a good start.”
Lawal led Georgia Tech in scoring and rebounding his junior year, despite playing alongside the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, Derrick Favors. The former McDonald’s All-American does need to work on improving the range on his jumper, but possesses one invaluable NBA skill: rebounding.
Cartwright, like many NBA coaches, believes that rebounding is one skill that almost always transfers from college to the pros.
“He could be a very, very good rebounder for us, probably one of the better rebounders on the team,” Cartwright said. “I’m very excited to see this guy progress because I thought he had a good summer league and since he’s been back he’s been phenomenal.”
Although there are only so many minutes to go around, Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle believes that Lawal might find himself into the rotation.
"I think Gani brings something to the table that we don’t have on this team," Majerle said. "He’s very powerful, tenacious, finishes around the basket and rebounds. If he can continue to develop, he could bring a lot to the team."
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