At the beginning of the 2012-13 season, the Phoenix Suns wouldn’t have dreamed they’d be playing Luis Scola and newly acquired Hamed Haddadi at center. Such is life in the NBA, where injuries create opportunities and force coaches to adapt on the fly.
Channing Frye has been out all season with an enlarged heart, Marcin Gortat recently sprained his right foot and is expected to be out four weeks and Jermaine O’Neal isn’t ready to play after missing three games to be with his ailing daughter.
Coach Lindsey Hunter will have to go with the 6’9″, 245 pound Scola and the 7’2″, 254 pound Haddadi against the Denver Nuggets on Monday, March 11.
Scola has been impressive in his limited time at center. Although he’s played just 8 percent of total minutes at center, he’s put up an impressive efficiency rating of 22.1, while holding opposing centers to a 16.0.
Playing the center position has allowed Scola to get closer to the basket. Playing a pick-and-roll with Goran Dragic allows Scola to get into his “hot zones” at the elbow or at the free-throw line.
Synergy Sports ranks Scola as No. 75 offensively in the pick-and-roll. As a post-up player, he’s rated No. 33. This shows us that Scola isn’t a dominating force, but when he’s put into the right situations, he’s a very good option for the Suns.
Haddadi isn’t in the game for his offensive prowess. He’s in the game to block shots, defend and rebound. Hunter mentioned how stats don’t always tell the whole story:
He changes the way the offense approaches the game. When they see him in the lane, they have to think twice about going in there.
Hunter is completely correct. Although Haddadi has only seen limited time, he’s been very effective blocking shots. In his previous two games with the Suns (38 minutes), he’s blocked six shots. He had blocked six shots TOTAL in his 97 previous minutes.
This is a very important time in Haddadi’s career, as injuries are creating an opportunity for him to show what he can do. He doesn’t have the luxury of sliding over to another position like others do. Although he’s signed through the 2013-14 season, the Suns could look to extend him as the permanent backup to Gortat.
Keep an eye on Haddadi through the rest of the season as he gets some serious playing time. If he continues to block shots at a good rate and alters the way opposing teams’ play, he’ll gain a lot of favor with coach Hunter and the Suns’ brass.