Position Breakdown: Power Forwards
When the Suns acquired Luis Scola in the amnesty auction this summer, local authorities in Arizona were definitely informed. That’s because Phoenix stole him.
A crafty forward out of Argentina, Scola’s contract was presumably amnestied by the Houston Rockets to make salary room for other free agent signings. In the process, the Suns were able to pick up one of the league’s most consistent power forwards at a significant discount.
“He’s a really effective player with a good feel for the game,” Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. “He approaches everything with sheer professionalism; whether it’s practice, workouts or taking care of his body.”
During the 2012 Olympic Games in London this past summer, Scola was amongst the tournament’s scoring leaders, averaging nearly 20 points a game for the entire fortnight. Now, Scola will be asked to help ignite the Suns’ attack.
Steering away from the traditional pick-and-roll offense, the Suns will place the ball in the hands of Scola at the high post and ask him to create plays for his teammates. His ability to read defenses will be instrumental for Phoenix this season.
“He’s a very good high-post passer and has a real good feel of where guys are going to be,” Gentry said. “He, himself, is also very good at knowing when to cut and when not to.”
A 6-9, 245-pound forward, Scola is an established low-post scorer who holds career averages of 14.5 points and 7.7 rebounds over five NBA seasons. Last season, the 32-year-old averaged 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds, the third-straight campaign in which he has averaged at least 15.0 points and 6.5 boards.
For his career, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist is a 51-percent shooter and has even shown the ability to knock down shots from long range this preseason. Similar to when Channing Frye arrived in Phoenix, the three-ball wasn’t something that he was known for, but was a weapon in his arsenal all along.
“I think he’s a better three-point shooter than anybody thought,” Gentry noted. “When you see him in practice and see him working on it, he’s a much better three-point shooter than we anticipated.”
Besides acquiring the power forward off of amnesty, now the Suns have discovered he’s been hiding a secret weapon in his repertoire. It looks as if he’s already a steal in more way than one.
Morris is impressing Gentry with his intensity
(Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images)
After a strong rookie season, most skeptics would be waiting for Suns power forward Markieff Morris to suffer from the sophomore jinx.
From what Morris has demonstrated thus far this preseason, it seems as if those skeptics will be waiting a while.
“Markieff has had a really good preseason,” Gentry said. “I think that he’s picked up his level of intensity in practice and how he’s played in the games. I think he’s a skilled guy that’s going to get better, but I’ve been really happy with the effort that he’s playing with.”
Due to extended labor negotiations last season, Morris and the rest of his fellow rookie class were deprived of a summer of acclimating themselves to the NBA.
“He didn’t have the luxury of going through a summer league where you play seven or eight games, going to the camp they have for the NBA guys and spending the summer here,” Gentry said of Morris’ rookie season. “He basically had two exhibition games and started playing in the NBA. But this summer he really improved his game overall.”
Besides summer league and a full preseason, Morris also didn’t have the opportunity to work with the Suns’ training staff like he did this summer. Through his fitness development, he’s now become more astute at exhausting himself during a game and bouncing back for a strong practice a day later.
During the 2011-12 season, the former Kansas Jayhawk averaged 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds a night. That was good enough to rank eighth and fourth on the team, respectively.
Thus far in the preseason, Morris has increased those averages to 12 points and six rebounds a game. He’s also shooting 43 percent from behind the arc.
“I think offensively he’s making much quicker moves when he catches the ball in the post,” Gentry noted. “He’s worked on his footwork, which has been real key too.”
Although Morris and Scola have been two of the team’s top performers this preseason, the duo play the same position where there are only a certain amount of minutes to go around. However, the fact that they can both play inside and on the exterior has given Gentry the opportunity to play them together.
It might be something Suns fans see more of as the season progresses. And all signs say that there is a much greater possibility of seeing that combination than of Morris succumbing to a sophomore jinx.
OTHER POWER FORWARDS
With Channing Frye out indefinitely this season with an enlarged heart, the Suns were fortunate to have grabbed Scola off of amnesty waivers. Now they have two legitimate rotaton players at that position.
Besides Scola and Morris, the Suns could also slide the 6-10 Michael Beasley over from small forward to play power forward. Quicker than the typical 4-man, Beasley has the ability to maneuver around other power forwards and make them play him on the perimeter.
The Suns may also add another power forward to the roster at some point this season.
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