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Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations: '10-'11: Trade Lopez!

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Welcome to the fourth piece of the 2010-11 Phoenix Suns Player Evaluations. We here at Bright Side of the Sun have assembled an opinionated and seemingly educated cast of writers to put together alternative views on the players, front office, and coaches. Your favorite and least favorite Suns will no doubt get plenty of attention, and the fuzzy compliments or scathing criticism they deserve. Unless we're talking Garrett SIler. Nothing but love for the purest example of the effects of gravity...Onward, playas:

I'm going to be blunt. Robin Lopez was a major disappointment this season. He sucked. Big time. We all know this, so I'm not going to go into depth on his player evaluation for the 2010-11 season. He got an F, we know that. Besides, with the exception of a few games, there was nothing exciting about Lopez's season anyway.

Instead, I'm going to determine why it is he regressed, his true potential, if he has what it takes to reach it, if he can reach it and why the Phoenix Suns should trade him.

Regression, oppression, depression...

"I can't put a finger on why it is he regressed this season."-Gentry

Well G, I can. He regressed due to injury, lack of confidence, team chemistry and high expectations.

First off, let's not forget that Robin was putting up around 12 and 7 for about 30 games as a starter last season, while providing good defense and average rebounding. It was pretty much his break-out year. I'd also like to note that the Phoenix Suns were a top 5 rebounding team in the league during that stretch all thanks to Lopez and his boxing-out abilities. I'm not one for stats, but here's a good one;

The Impact and Development of Robin Lopez

"The Suns "pre-Robin" were -2.29 in rebounding differential, which ranks around 26th in the league.

Since Robin has entered the starting lineup, the Suns have a +3.68 rebound differential which ranks 2nd in the league. That's a swing of +5.98 in rebound differential. THAT'S HUGE!!!" -Seth Pollack

Yes, that was quite the impact and it's also something that needs to be kept in mind when evaluating and determining Lopez's worth and potential.

Although, as we know, Robin took quite a fall this season due to the injuries and to the loss of Amare Stoudemire which East Bay Ray has already expounded upon.

However, I would like to add that Lopez, throughout most of his career (including college) has enjoyed the luxury of playing besides an inside-scorer who took pressure off him, so I have to ask the question, can Robin Lopez be an intimidating factor in this league without Amar'e Stoudemire, Brook Lopez...? When he played his best basketball it was next to a scoring big-man, so I also have to ask, is Robin one of those guys that needs to have certain players around him in order to be productive or can he learn to adjust his game without them?

Now you may say, "Beavis, where are your stats to back this up?".  Don't need em. It's no secret that throughout his career, Lopez has usually played poorly in 10-15mpg or rarely seen the court at all when he didn't have a scoring big next to him.

Then you've got the high expectations.

Phoenix Suns Season Preview: The Bigs

This season I look for Lopez to continue his maturation. He had a great second half of the season in '09-'10 but in '10-'11 we'll need to see that kind of play consistently for the entire season. I completely expect him to make another jump, cut down on some of the silly fouls, take a little more care of the ball and really make an improvement in the pick-and-roll game with Nash. If there is any player on this team that can make it so we're not crying over the loss of Amare at the All-Star break it would be Lopez.- Watdogg10

I assume this was the popular belief among Suns fans including myself. However, Lopez did the exact opposite and made us cry over the loss of Amar'e even more. Many of us were hoping he could become an all-star or at least a borderline one. Instead it was Marcin Gortat who stepped up and became that man. However, he came at the expense of J-Rich and Barbosa/Hedo. It wasn't fair for us and even the team to place those kind of expectations on Robin. He wasn't ready for it, he was only 22 and still recovering from injuries. We expected him to help carry this team, unfortunately the burden we placed on him was too heavy and it broke his back, legs, spirit, confidence....

What is Lopez's Potential? Can he reach it? Does he have what it takes?

Robin Lopez can become a good, athletic, defensive center in this league with a nice, but not great offensive game.  Robin-lopez_medium

I don't see him ever becoming a good rebounder, but I do expect slight improvements in the future. I see him as an exceptional, starting center at best, but not an all-star.

I expect him to improve as long as he works hard, but I think his injuries will keep him from reaching his ceiling. We must ask the question, will Lopez ever regain his athleticism? To those who don't remember, this was him 2 years ago. Now look at him. He's slow, clumsy and runs like an old man. I'm afraid his back will give out every time I see him on the court.

I am not sure if Robin has what it takes to reach his potential. There were many times in the past season where he looked soft and like he just didn't care. He used to call himself the "Enforcer". He used to talk about how badly he wanted to be the defensive anchor for this team and to do the things they needed him to do, like rebound.... What happened to this burning desire and undeniable passion? I don't see it anymore and that makes me question his mental toughness. However, the jury is still out. I don't believe it's fair to judge his work ethic after one bad year where he was plagued by injuries. The true test to his character will be how he responds next season. I don't know what to expect from him though, but that doesn't matter anyway as the Suns should trade him.

Why the Phoenix Suns should trade Robin Lopez

You know who Robin Lopez is and I have reminded you of who he was. I've shown you the good and I've shown you the bad. I've analyzed it, I've evaluated it, I've Googled it, I've Wikipediaed it and have come to to the conclusion that it is best the Phoenix Suns trade him while they still can.

First, he's only proved that he can be a force when paired with a scoring big. In fact, I don't think he's ever gotten used to playing without one.

The main reason though is that he's injury prone. He broke his foot during training camp of 09 which kept him out for a couple months, then this injury and of course the back spasms which I fear he'll have to deal with for the rest of his life. I'm afraid he'll never fully regain his athleticism and even if he does, what's to stop him from getting hurt again? That back will always cause problems from time to time. Yes, Nash suffers from back problems too, but he's got an amazing work ethic, diet and strategy to keep it from holding him back.  Plus, he's a PG. A 7-footer with back spasms scares me much more.  Just look at Oden, Ming, Bynum.... Big guys are just much more prone to injury. Robin Lopez isn't worth the risk and he even if he makes a comeback next season he's still not worth the cash teams usually dish out to players after a good year, because what if he goes and pulls a Tyson Chandler the year later? This team has got enough bad contracts to worry about.

What's the point in keeping him when he could help the Suns land a player such as Josh Smith or Paul Millsap? Yes, teams will look at his injury history, but if he's an add-on (not a throw-in) to a trade than I don't see why they wouldn't take him? Group him with a 1st round pick, Pietrus/Warrick, Aaron Brooks and with good negotiating the Suns could get a really good piece back. Or, if the FO decides to think smaller, they could deal him for someone like OJ Mayo if they're willing to take that risk. Of course, I'd prefer that the FO thinks big.

Despite the bad season, he's still a young, 7-footer with a lot of potential and so he does have value, because when healthy and paired with a scoring big-man he can have a positive impact on your team. Other than the Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz, I'm sure there are more teams out there who would be interested in him for those very reasons.

So you see? This is why the FO featuring Babs and Blanks must sell Lopez as an add-on and not a throw-in to a trade because he really does have value and it is higher than most would think. It'd be a failure if they are unable to get an upgrade in return.

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Now you may ask me, "Beavis, if the Suns don't think Lopez is worth the risk than why it would any other team think he is?".

Well, it's common logic. We all screw up at some point. Someone is going to get desperate and make a bad choice. Someone is going to gamble and lose out big time. If the Suns keep Lopez and he produces next year, someone is going to give him a contract they'll later regret. 

Now on the other hand, some teams might just be willing to take that risk and that's all good because they may need a center. Nothing wrong with that. It really just depends on how much cash they give him. You don't want to overpay for a young big with a history of injuries. So let's say Robin produces 8 and 5 next year, I wouldn't go out and give him a Gortat like contract.

The Phoenix Suns just don't need Robin Lopez. It'd be unnecessary for them to take that risk. They already have their guy in Gortat and they've got Frye. They need a Power-Forward. Guess what though? There are teams out there who do need centers, so why not use Robin as bait to get that PF? Sell him, just don't sell him low . 

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