It took a while, but the Phoenix Suns' Hakim Warrick seems to have found some long-desired consistency in the Suns' rotation as a scorer and energy guy. Warrick's season is only 6 games old (he sat out the first game), but this has been the most consistent 6 game stretch of his Suns' career - both in terms of energy and production.
When Warrick signed in the wake on another player's departure 18 months ago, he thought he'd hit the jackpot.
"I was going to try to wait it (free agency) out but it's like a dream job," said Warrick, in an article posted last July on azcentral.com. "I've always sat there and watched the Suns, thinking, 'If I could play with Steve Nash, that'd be great.' I got that opportunity and I jumped on it."
Suns fans set the bar very high for Warrick on day one, constantly comparing him to a former Suns player and judging him based on those expectations. Suns coaches set the bar a bit lower, yet still expected him to exceed his career averages (10 pts, 4 rebs on 20-22 minutes) by a wide margin in the Suns' system. He disappointed everyone on both fronts.
But Warrick is his own player. He is not a long-term NBA starter, and should not be expected to produce like one. His best offensive skill - pick-and-roll dunker - profiles as a power player, yet his body more resembles that of a small forward. He runs like a gazelle, but gazelles are not known for their lateral movement. Thus, you can't expect Warrick to hold up physically at either PF or SF for 35 minutes every game.
He can, however, be more consistent with his effort and production when he is on the floor. And he knows that. A year ago, I interviewed Warrick for BSotS (though I can't find any BSotS articles before this season anymore -_-). His mantra, repeated over and over, was that he wanted to find consistency in Phoenix - both from the Suns and from himself.
A year later, it looks as if he is getting it and giving it. He knows the system now. He knows the offensive game plan. He knows where he fits and how to get on the floor. And he's finally producing as best he can.
You might be surprised to hear that this 6 game stretch is the "best" 6 game stretch of his Suns career. Or, if you watched Warrick last season, you might not.
He would pour in 20+ points in 20 minutes one night, and then 2 points in 10 minutes the next. And beyond the box score, you could just watch his body language change from game to game. He was either "there" or he wasn't.
Simply put, Hakim Warrick was not predictable last season. And when you're not predictable, then you're not going to get predictable minutes. Which becomes its own vicious cycle.
One big difference between last year and this year, at first glance, appears to be his jumpshot. It seems he is making a high percentage from 15-22 feet, which is never a good long-term sign. On the whole, the 15-22 foot jump shot is the worst shot in the NBA because it's only worth 2 points and has the lowest % of 2-pt makes on the floor.
But is Warrick really exceeding his own expectations from that range? A look at hoopdata.com says no.
(click on the table to make it bigger and readable)
In fact, Warrick is taking more but converting a lower percentage of jumpshots than at any point in his career. Yet the big difference is that he LOOKS like he's going to make those shots. His body language screams confidence. And that is as big a threat as any.
Where is Warrick excelling then? Around the rim.
In the first 6 games of the season - again Warrick's most consistent 6 games of his Suns career - Warrick has been not only good but also self-sufficient around basket.
- His conversion percentage on shots inside 10 feet (including 'at the rim') are all-time highs.
- The percentage of those shots that were assisted by another player are lower than last season, but more in line with the rest of his career.
If you look at the stats over time (the pretty picture above), you can conclude that Warrick is not playing over his head. Rather, he's finding a better balance between his pre-Suns game and his with-Suns game. Last year, he relied on Nash and the p-n-r game more most of his offense. Thusly, when opponents focused on stopping that one play, Warrick would disappear. Now, he is making his own magic happen. He is converting his own plays close to the basket, and that is a very welcome sight.
The key to his season, and his Suns future, is still consistency. When Warrick is consistent, then he is predictable. When he is predictable, then he will get consistent minutes as a primary backup SF/PF.
A consistent Warrick is a huge bargain at $4 million a year for two (or three, at the Suns' discretion) more years.
Just don't expect him to be something he's not. Enjoy what he brings - hustle, finishing at the rim, and 10 points and 4 rebounds a game on 20-22 minutes.