The Phoenix Suns have two centers, Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat. Three if you count Channing Frye but he's really a power forward...or maybe a shooting guard, depending on how you define such things. On local radio today, Alvin Gentry said that the starting job is up for grabs between Gortat and Lopez and he would love to have one of those guys step up and claim the job. Fortunately, we have 13 games of data to use since the trade to make some assumptions and help him decide which way to go.
Ready. Set. Analysis!
- In the 13 games since the trade, Robin Lopez played over 20 minutes in four of them (MIA, CLE, NJN, POR); Marcin Gortat played over 20 minutes in seven of them (LAC, PHI, DET, SAC, LAL, NJN, CLE); they both played over 20 minutes in one game (NJN); and three times they both played less than 20 minutes (NYK, DEN, NYK).
- Gortat has played a total of 308 minutes since the trade compared to 208 for Lopez.
- The Suns record is 3-1 in the Robin +20 min. games and 3-4 in the Gortat +20 min. games.
- Rebounding is a BIG difference between these two guys. Gortat is averaging 6.15 rebounds per game versus just 2.2 per game for Robin. But team rebounding tells a different story.
- In the four "Robin" games, the Suns are +1.0 in team rebounding while in the seven "Marcin" games they are -7.7. In the three games where neither played more than 20 minutes, the Suns are -7.3 in total rebounds.
- Channing Frye is averaging 8.3 rebounds per game in the "Robin" games versus 4.1 in the "Marcin" Games.
- Offensively, both guys are shooting 54 percent from the field but Gortat only has four more made field goals in an extra hundred minutes of total playing time. Robin creates more offense for himself.
- Robin is 11-25 (44%) in post up situations and 24-41 (58.5%) as the roll man. Marcin is 3-8 (37.5%) in post up's and 19-38 (50%) as the roll man. (Data via Synergy Sports).
- Robin is 17-20 (85 percent) from the free throw line while Marcin is 19-28 (68 percent).
- Offensively, the Suns averaged 106 points per game in the "Robin" games and 101.8 in the "Marcin" games and 107.7 in the games neither played over 20 minutes.
- Defensively, the Suns gave up 103.8 points per game in the "Robin" games and 100.9 in the "Marcin" games and 124.7 in the games neither played over 20 minutes.
- Gortat has a on court / off court rating of -15 while Robin Lopez is a +1.5. (Data via 82games.com).
Robin Lopez is a better offensive player and is improving game-by-game as his explosiveness and agility return to last year's (pre-injury) form. Marcin Gortat is a better on-ball defender, especially against some of the bigger, skilled power forwards like Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge.
Rebounding is a bone of contention between the two. Marcin is more aggressive going after the ball while Robin does a much better job boxing out the other team's big man and letting his teammates get the ball.
Both Robin and his coach have talked about the need for him to get better at hitting his guy and then going after the ball. He may never be a great rebounder for his size or position but he at least isn't hurting the team when he's on the floor. In fact, in this limited sample size, the Suns overall rebound the ball better when Robin is playing more.
Long-term, Lopez has far more upside. At 22 years old he's still learning to play the game but when healthy has shown more athleticism, more size and strength and much better shooting range. His inside post game has improved significantly this season as has his mid-range game and both should only continue to get better with experience.
Gortat is an older, more experienced player but is still only about to turn 27 years old himself and just coming into his prime. He's a decent player but hasn't shown the ability to dominate the game on either end of the floor. His best game of the season came against a weak Cleveland team where he recorded 16 points and 12 rebounds. Even in this difficult year, Lopez had an 18 point, 14 rebound game against the Lakers and put up 30 points in a game last year against Chris Kaman and the Clippers.
Right now, Alvin Gentry is wisely starting Robin but is quick with the hook if he's having a bad night. The inconsistent play is common to young players and the Suns are fortunate right now to have the option of riding the hot hand. But the future is Robin Lopez and while developing young players can be painful at times, it is a price worth paying.