Many fans, players and members of the front office wonder what exactly the 6'6", 206 pound Sonny Weems is going to bring to the Phoenix Suns this season.
We know he still has great hops.
Will he be the second coming of P.J. Tucker? Or Josh Childress?
Weems' NBA path most closely follows Tucker's - drafted in the second round, a poor-shooting tweener who leaves the Raptors for more opportunity overseas, wins a lot of games, then comes back to the NBA with the Suns.
No one knew anything about Tucker until he donned a Suns Summer League jersey and hustled his way onto the roster. Assistant Coach Dan Majerle loved Tucker's hustle, and soon Head Coach Alvin Gentry did as well. Tucker went from being a question mark in the 2012 preseason to a wing starter on December 31 next to Jared Dudley, ahead of... (clears throat)... Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley. Gawd, that was an awful team!
From that point on, Tucker started 126 of 133 possible games until being suspended to open the 2014-15 season. Even then, he reclaimed his starting spot from Marcus Morris after 18 games and never gave it back.
Tucker is not an NBA star. Far from it. In three Suns seasons, he's averaged just 8.3 points and 5.8 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. He patterns his game on consistent hustle - something coaches absolutely love. Tucker's rebound rate at the small forward position is incredibly high, despite being only 6'5", and he frequently takes on the opponent's best offensive player. Mostly, that's a wing but Tucker's also been seen guarding DeMarcus Cousins, Blake Griffin, and some of the league's best point guards.
Does that describe Sonny Weems? No.
Weems is more of an athlete whose hustle comes and goes. He's got great hops, and has figured out how to make three pointers (40% last year), but has been playing lesser athletic competition for years.
In terms of wiry athletes who go overseas and succeed mainly based on their superior athleticism, Josh Childress comes to mind.
Childress was originally a first round pick and played four very good seasons (11 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists as a small forward) as a sixth man for Atlanta before a contract dispute pushed him overseas for greener pastures. The Hawks offered him more than $5.5 million per year, with raises, but he took $7 million per year overseas with powerhouse Olympiacos. At the time, Childress was thought to be a trail blazer for midlevel guys to get more money overseas, but few NBA players actually followed him.
Suns fans remember the awful Childress who came back to the NBA just two years later. Somehow, the athletic defender left his quickness in Greece. He looked okay in preseason workouts, but he was overmatched as soon as players were going full speed in the regular season.
Childress' early NBA career was made on slashing and scoring from the wing, and on defending wing players. He couldn't shoot to save his life. Back in the NBA for the 2010-11 season on a contract paying what he always wanted - $7 million per year - he was unable to earn solid playing time because he still couldn't shoot and his slashing ability had disappeared.
He was so bad, the Suns used the amnesty clause on him in 2012 and JUST NOW stopped paying him $7 million per year to not play for them. For $35 million, Childress delivered 88 games of action, including 3 starts (once as a joke against Mike D'Antoni's Knicks), and 4.2 points per game.
Who is Sonny Weems?
Weems won't be Childress or Tucker, but those comparisons are interesting to consider.
It's quite possible Weems has kept his athleticism and will be able to keep up with NBA players on the wing. It's quite possible he will make 35+% of his threes to keep the floor spaced when he's out there.
But it's just as possible that he will no longer be able to keep up with NBA guys and will get lost on defense too often to keep his spot in the rotation.
Let's take a look at Sonny Weems more indepth.
Our own Sam Cooper did a great film study on Sonny this month. It's really a must-read for those who like to know more about how players react on the court.
And back in August, I posted this scouting report on Weems from 2013 when he was first rumored to want to return to the NBA.
Will Weems be a success or failure in his return to the NBA?
Luckily, the Suns have only committed $3 million to him (versus $35 million to Childress) to find out. And if Weems is a bust, his competition is much more enticing than Shannon Brown and Michael Beasley. Weems' competition at shooting guard and small forward includes youngsters Brandon Knight, T.J. Warren, Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker, along with veteran P.J. Tucker.