Robin Lopez is the starting center for the Phoenix Suns and he shouldn’t be. Since the Suns blockbuster trade with the Orlando Magic, newcomer Marcin Gortat has outplayed Lopez in all facets of the game, especially rebounding.
It would seem obvious that the reason Lopez is still in the starting lineup is that he’s been in the Suns system the longest and with Channing Frye and Gortat as the only other centers, he wins by default. The numbers and the decisions of coach Alvin Gentry suggest otherwise. Gortat should be named the starting center for the remainder of the season.
The main objective of the center position is to play defense, rebound and block shots. The center is usually the last line of defense to an offensive player attacking the basket. The center should be able to establish enough of a presence to alter shots and cause those perimeter and backcourt players to stay out of the paint. In the 21 games since Gortat joined the team, Lopez has only outrebounded Gortat three times. In that span Lopez has 11 blocks, Gortat has 25. Gortat has also proved to be a bigger factor on the scoreboard as he has outscored Lopez in 13 of the 21 games since his arrival.
An obvious testament to his all around play when he’s on the floor, Gortat has logged more minutes of game action than Lopez in all but five games. Gortat has six double doubles (points and rebounds) in a Suns uniform. Lopez has one double-double the entire season. In January, Lopez was outrebounded in 12 of the Suns 15 games by Steve Nash!
Why is Lopez still the starting center? At this point he is the starter in title only, but why not let Gortat get his picture in the opening lineup montage? Is Lopez’s ego so fragile that he will fall apart if he is relegated to the bench? Now three years in, Lopez should be far ahead of where he is now. Lopez has only regressed since Gortat has arrived instead of getting the competitive fire lit under him. At a stout seven feet tall, the best he can do on the boards this season is a paltry 3.5 rebound average after looking like he was on his way to great things with a 4.8 rebound average last season.
Lopez should be manning the gatorade until further notice. When the starting center averages fewer rebounds than the starting point guard (Nash is averaging 3.6 rebounds this season) forget the bench, its time to send him to the bus station with a one way ticket to anywhere else.