The Phoenix Suns had a decision to make this offseason at the center position, and I’m not simply referencing the Deandre Ayton situation. JaVale McGee, who contributed 9.2 points and 6.7 rebounds – and spelled Ayton by starting 17 games in 2021-22 – became a free agent following the end of the season.
After a season that 66% of Bright Siders determined was a “B” performance, the Suns had an opportunity to bring the 34 year-old center back. Phoenix didn’t jump at the opportunity to do so, however, prioritizing other roster construction possibilities instead.
McGee stated, “I think it was more of having to wait for Deandre Ayton and now KD (Kevin Durant), trying to figure it out. For me, it was just like at this stage of my career and what I’m looking for, I don’t have time to be waiting on somebody else.”
McGee signed with the Mavericks for $17M over three years, a deal that Suns’ GM James Jones most likely would not have offered (especially that second and third year). In doing so, Jones opened the door for someone to replace the McGee role. McGee’s exit left a hole in the frontcourt that would be hard to replace. McGee was a fan favorite who amped his teammates up pre-game and kept his energy going throughout his performances.
On July 2, Jones did just that, as he traded cash to the Atlanta Hawks for 26 year-old Jock Landale, who Atlanta had recently acquired in the Dejounte Murray trade.
Three days later, the Suns re-signed Bismack Biyombo, thus solidifying the backup center position. 9 days later the organization would match an offer sheet by the Indiana Pacers to Deandre Ayton, and the “three-by-five” philosophy that James Jones desires – three deep at all five positions – was complete at the five.
We know Ayton. We know Bizzy. But who is Jock Landale?
- Position: Center
- Vitals: 6’11” tall, 256 pounds, 26 years old
- Experience: 2nd NBA season
- Stats (regular season): 4.9 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game, 0.3 blocks per game, 10.9 minutes played in 54 games (1 start), 49.5% shooting from the field (62.6% from 2PT, 32.6% from 3PT).
Jock Landale only has 54 games of NBA experience, as he was signed by the San Antonio Spurs last offseason. The native of East Malvern, a suburb of Melbourne in southern Australia, attended college in Moraga, California at St. Mary’s College and, despite putting together a 21.1 points and 10.2 rebounds senior season for the Gaels, went undrafted in the 2018 NBA Draft.
While he did play in the NBA Summer League that season for the Atlanta Hawks, he signed a contract with KK Partizan of the ABA League for the 2018-19 season. Landale averaged 12.0 points and 5.6 rebounds while playing in Spain, and in 2019 signed with Žalgiris Kaunas in the Lithuanian Basketball League. He appeared for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2019 NBA Summer League, averaging 18.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in his 4 games.
Jock returned home in December of 2020, signing with the Melbourne United in the NBL, and assisted in leading the team to a 28-8 record and a trip to the NBL Grand Final. Jock averaged 16.4 points on 55% shooting throughout the season, including 39% from deep on 3.4 attempts, adding 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Landale averaged 14.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in a 3-game sweep of the Perth Wildcats, leading Melbourne United to their 6th title. He was named the NBL Grand Final MVP as well as the Melbourne United MVP.
Jock Landale signed with the San Antonio Spurs last August and, after spending some time with the Austin Spurs of the G-League, made his first NBA start on January 15, 2022 against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Landale’s best performance of the season came against the Indiana Pacers on March 12, 2022, as he played 34:42 minutes coming off the bench. In the game he scored 26 points on 12-of-15 shooting. He grabbed 7 rebounds and dished out 2 assists as well, all in a losing effort.
Jock is a strong finisher around the basket and good low post scorer. He is what you would define as a “bruiser”.
Per BBall-Index, Landale is graded at an A+ (98%tile) in drive foul drawn rate and A (90%tile) in contact finish rate. He possesses physicality on the interior that is needed, especially from the backup center position. His interior defense grades well as well, as he is an A- (89%tile) in the percent of rim shots contested A- (82%tile) in screener rim defense.
He will provide quality rebounding for Phoenix, especially on the offensive end. He is an A- (90%tile) in offensive rebounds per 75 possessions, A- (88%tile) in offensive rebounding crashing skill, and A- (85%tile) in offensive rebounding talent.
What will gain the respect of the Phoenix faithful will be Landale’s motor. He is a hustler, and grinder, and someone whose effort will create thunderous applause inside the Footprint Center.
While Landale is physical, the trade off is lateral quickness. Smaller players will have the ability to put him in a meat grinder if isolated. His heart is massive, but his athleticism is finite. He has an affinity for turnovers, averaging 1.9 per-36 last season, and isn’t what you’d define as an elite shot blocker either.
Landale will earn $1.5M this season and will be eligible for a $2.1M qualifying offer next offseason.
The acquisition of Jock Landale could prove to be an expert move by James Jones. An Australian big man who plays physical and dominates the interior. Could he be the second coming of Aron Baynes?! He will surely garner the affection of the home crowd, as any player who puts forth hustle gets the mob going.
If you are looking at the addition through the lens of price-for-valued-paid, it’s already a win for the Suns. It is the kind of signing a GM makes that could equate to a stellar season. His contract is less than $2M and he will see plenty of playing time as Monty Williams finds the balance between Landale and Bismack.
Welcome to the Valley, Jock. Now we just need to figure out what number you’re going to wear. 34 is taken.