NBA Roundtable

Phoenix Changes Starting Lineup

In General NBA on January 19, 2010 at 8:47 pm

The Arizona Republic reports

He wrestled with what to do about his starting lineup the entire time, settling Monday on two changes.

Trying to shake his team from its doldrums and smooth inconsistencies, Gentry started center Robin Lopez in place of slumping Channing Frye (23 points in five games) and used guard Leandro Barbosa instead of Jason Richardson to get Barbosa out of his funk.

Although Lopez had a career-high 19 points, the lineup started with a 125-118 loss Monday at Memphis, but Gentry plans to continue using it.

“We needed a change,” Gentry said. “For the most part, we’ve played well at the start of games. This gives us an opportunity to change the whole makeup of our rotation and maybe that’ll help us develop some consistency. We’re not locked into this by any stretch.”

Defenses are playing out more on the Suns shooters, such as Frye and Jared Dudley. If Frye is not scoring, he is not helping the Suns as much defensively and on the boards as the Suns think Lopez can.

The Barbosa switch has more to do with trying to ignite Barbosa’s game, although he continued a prolonged slump with 6-of-16 shooting (2 of 10 on 3-pointers).

“I’ve got to see if we can jump-start LB but I don’t think it will have any effect on Jason’s minutes,” Gentry said.

Some reaction from Jason Richardson

“Obviously, I don’t want anything like that to happen,” Richardson said. “I think I’m a good player who can do things.

“I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve never come off the bench my whole career. If that’s something they want me to do, I’m willing to do it. I’m the type of guy that just wants to win. I’m a professional. I’m always coming to do my job and play hard.”

“It’s kind of mind-boggling,” Richardson said. “It bothered me a little bit. I’m going to go out there with minutes I get and do what I can to help the team win. It’s a little unfair, but if that’s what it’s going to take to make our team successful, that’s the major thing with me.”

Robin Lopez

  • Lopez is a very poor defender and a worse defender than Channing Frye. He has good size and athleticism but he doesn’t use it well. The Suns get worse defensively with Lopez.
  • Lopez was a very poor rebounder last season – worse than Frye but comparable to Frye while Channing is in his current role offensively out on the perimeter – but seems to have improved this season. Some improvement.
  • Lopez’ best talent is his offensive game despite his reputation for defending/rebounding. He has good hands, is an excellent finisher in the paint, and a solid short jumper (inside of 10 feet), sets good screens, is mobile and a good pick and roll player. He plays within himself meaning he doesn’t attempt to do things which he cannot do. So good decision making and avoids mistakes also.
  • In other words, he’s a highly effective garbage man type scorer who can score 10-12 points in 30+ minutes while shooting 55-60% from the field.
  • Still, while Lopez is a good complementary offensive player … he’s not as good as Channing Frye. Frye’s jump shooting and athleticism (ability to run the floor in particular) add more to the Suns than Lopez’ quality work around the rim. Frye’s shooting ability is also important for freeing up Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire to be as effective as they can be.

Barbosa vs J-Rich

This is only a short term change geared to kick starting Barbosa’s play. I don’t really care about it. Give it two weeks and see if it works and then revert back to their previous roles.

Jason Richardson is the superior rebounder, defender and all round offensive player (Barbosa better penetrator + ball handler). There will be some decline for Phoenix in these areas … but not much since Richardson will continue to get his normal minutes, or close to it, while coming off the bench.

Leandro Barbosa has already proven himself as a very good sixth man. He was in the right role previously and will be back there soon enough. The only question mark is whether he’ll have improved his form on the interim or not.

Conclusions

#1 — Neither of these changes figure to help the Suns.

Maybe they get lucky and Barbosa starts to play better and they get some benefit from switching him with Richardson … but that’s about it.

As for Frye and Lopez, it’s a complete waste of time and they’ve significantly lowered the quality of their team.

#2 — Overvaluing their squad

The main reason for these changes was an inaccurate view of their own team’s ability following their hot start to the season. The Suns were playing above their heads earlier on and were always going to come back down to earth.

#3 — Robin Lopez

If Robin Lopez wants to become a rotation caliber player he must improve his defense and get it up to at least a mediocre level. Too many negative contributions on the defensive end.

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  1. Dave,

    Agreed. These changes will actually take the Suns in the wrong direction.

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