When the Suns signed Hakim Warrick to a free agent contract this past July, the decision was met with a good dose of optimism by many Suns fans here at BSOTS. A man with much greater basketball acumen than mine called it "a smart, decisive move" and a guy with roughly the same basketball acumen as mine (me) had visions of Warrick pulling a Channing Frye and having a career rejuvenation playing for a team that seemed a perfect fit for him in Phoenix. So far, now that he's buried out of the rotation with memories of his early success fading, it hasn't quite worked out that way.
Some of the optimism was undoubtedy a device to calm our nerves upon the departure of the apostrophe'd one. But there were also valid reasons to expect Warrick to provide a reasonable facsimile for Amar'e Stoudemire due to his athleticism and finishing ability. He'd bounced around bad teams in Memphis and Milwaukee before landing in Chicago to end last season. The Bulls made the playoffs last year, but barely used him there while getting eliminated quickly by the Cavs. None of those teams were good, and none had a player like Nash to set Warrick up, or a team with a style that suited him. Surely, Warrick's finishing ability would make him a great partner for Nash on the pick and roll, right?
Warrick has had a roller coaster of a season through his first couple of months with the Suns. He started as an exciting bench player who seemed to fit better playing with the starters than erstwhile starting PF Hedo Turkoglu, making a few "wow, OMG, did you see that?" dunks along the way. Fans clamored for him to become a starter, which he did, for one game. He bombed on 3-12 shooting in starting against the Nuggets on November 28th and hasn't sniffed the starting lineup since. When the Suns felt the need for more size, they inserted Earl Barron into the starting lineup and moved Channing Frye over to PF, pushing Warrick nearly or totally (depending on the game) out of the rotation. To illustrate how big of a demotion this was, Earl Barron was one of the worst shooters in NBA history in his time with us, and he essentially took Warrick's minutes. Ouch.
So, what happened? Shouldn't "Amare lite" be able to give us a fraction of Amare's production for a small fraction of the price? Solid concept, no? That is, until the Suns learned what Warrick's previous teams had learned: the occasional pretty dunks aren't worth the tradeoff since you are also stuck with his below average defense, rebounding and mid-range jumper. At some point, each of these teams decided they had reached the tipping point with Warrick, where his negatives outweighed his positives when he was on the floor, and they decided they couldn't play him but for maybe a few minutes at a time.
Warrick is now on a team that fits his skill set. He's asked to finish hard to the hole and hit a jumper from time to time, receiving assists from great passers. The Suns and their fans are used to, and tend to be forgiving of, players who lack defense and toughness. This current Suns team needs a PF badly, he is one, and yet he has still been relegated to the Earl Clark section of the bench. If we are looking to trade him, how much value do we think he has? Sure, his raw numbers look pretty good. He's scoring 11 points and pulling down 4 rebounds per game, on .538 shooting. His per 36 minute numbers are a respectable 18 pts, 7 boards and his PER is an above average 18. But, when you watch the games, it's easy to tell that he is usually a liability. He seems to be in the absolute best place for him, and even the Suns have grown tired of his shortcomings.
The title of this post refers to the song "New York, New York". "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." If I can make it in a place that is foreign and difficult like NYC, I can make it anywhere. With Hakim Warrick, it's turned around. He's in a place that is set up for him to succeed and he's not succeeding. If he can't make it here, can he make it anywhere? If you're another team watching what he has done for us, are you anxious to trade for him? His contract isn't so big (4 years, $18M), but is he even worth that if he can't stay in a rotation who needs his skill set? If we're going to trade him, as many here advocate, will he be a guy to be dumped on another team as a liability? Or a guy who other teams really want?