With news today of Amare's eye injury and his forced 8 week "vacation," the Suns will need to immediately plan their next steps.
As we learned during all the Amare trade discussion, you don't replace an Amare Stoudemire, but there's no choice now. Someone is going to have to step up. Here's the options:
Lightning Lou Amundson - Lou has been getting the
majority some of big man minutes and has been the first guy off the bench on the front line for several months now. He is averaging about 5 points and 5 rebounds in 16 minutes per game since January. He's a game changer with his energy and he's clearly a high flyer who gets blocks and dunks.
What he can't do is shoot the ball. At all. He's 44% from the free throw line, which makes it difficult to play him significant minutes with Shaq or Robin.
His minutes will certainly increase but I don't see how he's a good choice to start and get more than 20-25 mpg.
Matt Barnes and Jared Dudley - Both of these guys, in theory, can play the power forward, but both are very small for the position at 6'7" and about 230lbs. Both can step out and shoot (although Barnes has been absolutely pathetic from range for the past 6 weeks) and both are good hustle and energy guys.
Barnes is averaging 25mpg and Dudley is just starting to get a look in some blow out games. Of the two, Dudley is the better rebounder and perimeter defender, while Barnes is more experienced and a much better post player.
My guess is that Barnes will get the starting nod at the four and see his minutes go up to about 30 per game. This will give more minutes for Dudley backing up Hill at the small forward position, where he's a solid option for his defense.
Robin Lopez - Robin, of course, is a center, but will now have to pick up some minutes. Amare can no longer slide over to cover the pivot when Shaq sits.
As we all know, Robin has not had a great season. His brother Brook (of course) thinks it's just a matter of time and with increased minutes that he will deliver.
Brook's teammate Devin Harris thinks that Robin is the more athletic of the two, with better lateral quickness.
I've always thought since seeing him excel in the Vegas Summer league that the kid could play. Well, we should learn a bit more about Robin now as he's going to be forced to step up.
None of these guys, though, has anything close to a traditional face-up power forward game. But someone on the Suns roster does.
Courtney was signed to his second 10-day contract with the Suns on February 13th and almost certainly will get a chance to play now.
Sims was the Co-MVP of the D-League All-Star game -- which I covered -- and now he's going to get his opportunity in Phoenix.
Aside from being a nice kid who is described by his coach as a great teammate, Courtney has a very nice all-around game. While still raw, he has the size, athleticism and touch to potentially provide immediate impact for the Suns.
He has the type of game that will let him play the center in a faster-paced offense or play a face-up four next to Shaq or Robin.
That's not likely to happen any time soon unless he really starts out on fire, but he should get some minutes as a reserve behind the other guys and he has the potential to be in that role by the end of the season.
Steve Kerr told me this about him:
"He's a really good player. Somebody we feel strongly about and we are looking forward to seeing him again over the next couple of weeks.
He's active and a really good shooter for a big man with good touch. He covers the pick and roll well out on the perimeter.
The D-League has been really good for him. He's made dramatic improvement over the last couple of years."
Sims is 6'11" and has been a leader in the D-League in points, rebounding and blocked shots. He's a very good pick and roll defender and he can score inside and has range out to the three point line.
Here's a bit more on Sims from Scott at Ridiculous Upside who makes his "living" covering the D-league.
We've talked millions of times about Sims here, but if you need a refresher, I'll tell you this: He's really good. He's currently averaging 22.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, shooting 61% from the field!
Here's some other recent excerpts from RU:
Courtney Sims is a big I've been hyping all season, and with good reason. The 6'11" Sims has great size, nice touch, solid athleticism, and he can create his own shot off the dribble. Problem is, if you take away his left shoulder, he's not really shown he can do much else in the post, as he's just not really strong enough to back NBA-sized guys down. He could also use some work defensively, as he's been getting backed down without putting up much of a fight. Nonetheless, he's already had a 10-day with the Iowa Energy's affiliate, the Phoenix Suns, and is averaging two blocks a game, so he must be doing something right. On the season, Sims is averaging 22 points and 11 boards, shooting 60% from the field.
You can even hear my interview with Courtney from last week here.
Sims is still raw. There's questions about his strength and speed at this level and it is unclear how he will do. He will almost certainly get a chance now and it is highly likely he will be signed for the rest of the season.
I am looking forward to Courtney proving me right and making the most of this opportunity.
Don't, however, expect him to come in and be the next LaMarcus Aldridge by next week. Like all young players, he's going to need some time to ease into it. I think he fully understands that his roll will be to defend, rebound and finish on clean up opportunities.
He's a smart player and shouldn't be putting up quick and ill-advised shots. If anything, he might be too willing to defer and not look for his shot enough.