Robin Lopez: Step It Up

Mark BrownCorrespondent IDecember 11, 2008

Jason Richardson, Jared Dudley, and a 2010 second-round pick have been traded to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Sean Singletary. It's a good move for Phoenix, as they have now added athleticism and a scorer who can take pressure off Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

Their defense is bound to fall now that Bell is gone, but it's still a good move for Phoenix, one that pushes them back into relevancy. However, there are two drawbacks to the deal: Who will spell Nash as a backup point guard? And secondly, can Robin Lopez take Diaw's place?

The first problem isn't too big of a deal for Phoenix. After all, it is a problem that has plagued them for many seasons, but it still needs to be addressed. Goran Dragic has not played up to the hype he received from the Suns, as he has played rather poorly.

For now, Leandro Barbosa may have to slide into the role, though he can not create shots for others. When Nash goes out of the game, Phoenix will be a much more one on one team, as Jason Richardson, Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O'Neal and Barbosa will all be looking to beat their man.

The Suns should look for a backup point, but it is not as necessary as another big man.

That will be Phoenix's biggest problem. When Shaq and Amare are on the court, Robin Lopez and Louis Amundson will be the only bigs Phoenix has. Amundson is a solid player but is not big enough to be a center. Amare refuses to play the position. So, when Shaq comes out, Robin Lopez must play as center. This may be the reason Phoenix will not be the team many expect them to now be.

When Lopez was taken with the 15th pick in this past NBA draft, he had expectations that would be difficult to live up to. Suns management, however, seemed positive that Lopez could do it, and Lopez thought he could too.

So far, though, Lopez has played poorly in the few minutes he gets time. Phoenix seems to prefer Amundson over him, he generally plays more. Lopez is a good defender and will block shots, but his offense has been limited, and more importantly, he fouls way too much.

Take the opening night game against the San Antonio Spurs. In less than two minutes, Lopez accumulated three fouls in a series of boneheaded moves. He needs to learn to play much less aggressively or he will be a serious thorn for Phoenix.

When Shaq and Amare go to the bench, they have to be able to trust that Lopez can play an effective 20 minutes every game. If he doesn't, the Suns bigs will really ware down and Phoenix will fall in a very competitive West.

The Suns need to make a move for another center, but I'm not sure they can find one. Steve Kerr has a lot of work to do.