Position: Power forward/ center
Weight: 238 pounds
Years pro: Four
What he brings
- Only nine qualifying players had higher shot-blocking percentages last year than Amundson, who posted a 4.4. Even though Amundson didn’t play enough to be a league leader, his career percentage of 4.5 indicates his blocking ability is no fluke.
- He’s a good rebounder – offensively and defensively, but more so offensively.
- He’s pretty quick for his size.
- He’s tough, gritty and hustles.
- He was good on the pick-and-roll last year, according to Synergy, but I’m going to chalk that up to Steve Nash and think there’s minimal chance Amundson would continue that in Detroit.
- He seems fun.
- Amundson averaged 11.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes last season.
- Although his per-36-minute stats seem impressive, I’m not sure they’d be sustainable in Detroit if Amundson was given a larger role. One, the Suns had more possessions per 36 minutes than the Pistons likely will. Two, he averaged 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes (which was actually below his career average). Three, I’m not sure he could sustain his energy level for big minutes. He only once played more than 25 minutes last year.
- His actual numbers this season – career-bests no less – were 4.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
- At power forward, his PER was 17.6 and his counterpart’s was 19.1, according to 82games. The difference was even worse at center, where his PER was 7.9 and his opponent’s was 18.6.
- His two-year adjusted plus-minus is –5.93, according to BasketballValue.com.
- Basically, he has no refined offensive skills.
- A large chunk of his attempts come on putbacks, but he only scored .94 points per possession on offensive rebounds – 153rd in the league, according to Synergy.
- His defensive-rebounding percentage rose considerably this year after being disappointing for a big man the previous two years. Which was the fluke?
- He gave up a lot of points per possession on isolation defense, according to Synergy, but I think that’s largely due to Phoenix’s flawed defense, which often had him switching to guards and small forwards. (For what it’s worth, the Pistons don’t switch as often – part of the reason they allowed opponents to shoot so well behind the 3-point arc.)
How he fits
Amundson isn’t an ideal fit.
He took off in Phoenix’s up-tempo system, and I have some doubts about how he’d translate into a half-court scheme. He was quick enough to move around in the open court and strong enough to punish opponents physically with the Suns. But I’m not sure he can dole out – and sustain – similar punishment in the crowded lanes created by slow-temp teams like the Pistons.
He’d also be yet another power forward who’s probably a good backup but too flawed to be a reliable starter at the position right now. See Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox.
But Amundson is big, not old and one of the better free agents still available. The fit isn’t that egregious where he makes no sense.
The Pistons desperately need someone to protect the rim when Ben Wallace is out of the game. I’d prefer they get someone who can also do other things, but Amundson can at least do that.
In other words
Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns was tied up with the Suns hiring Lon Babby yesterday. He plans to provide us more info on Amundson in the next couple days. But in the meantime, he answered one question I had – can Amundson play center?
Lou at center is really pushing it. He can for stretches in a small ball lineup designed to run your opponent out of the building, but one of the negatives I was going to say is that he can get pushed around by some of the bigger power forwards and he sometimes gets gobbled up by larger centers. He does a lot of center-like things in terms of rebounding and blocking shots, but he can certainly be backed down by a true power guy.
UPDATE: More Amundson analysis from Schwartz:
Lou Amundson is your prototypical bench hustle guy. He will come in off the bench and do all the dirty work. He’s been the Suns’ best rebounder for the past two seasons and perhaps their best shot blocker as well. He will have a couple games a month where it looks like he’s running circles around the opposition he gets to so many balls, and he can make a profound impact on a basketball game.
He was great running with the Suns’ defensive-minded second unit. He could often start fast breaks with rebounds or blocked shots and he’s a great finisher at the rim. He is extremely athletic and a great leaper. You likely have seen him in a number of highlights finishing dunks.
The downside is that is where his offensive game begins and ends. He can score you a couple buckets a game on putbacks and in transition, but other than that he is completely non-existent on the offensive end (besides being a good offensive rebounder). He has no post game to speak of and Suns fans groaned any time he attempted a mid-range jumper. His form isn’t terrible and he has been working on it, but the guy at this stage of his career just can’t shoot. He’s also a horrid free-throw shooter (one of the worst in the league) and understandably can disappear on the offensive end.
I would sign him to something like a three-year, $10 million contract if I were a GM. He will be 28 when the season begins, and since he’s a guy who relies solely on athleticism I would be leery of a long contract. About $3 mil a year or so seems fair for a guy with such a limited offensive game. Lou has never really been paid in the NBA so understandably he wants to cash in, but I would not make too big of an investment in the man known as Loooouuuuuuuuuuuuu.
Some other fun Lou facts are that he rode his bike to the arena during the 2008-09 season, which led to the Suns creating a "Lou Amundson Bike Valet" outside of US Airways Center last season. Back in ’08-09 he also pulled a prank on Shaq that either speaks to his courage or stupidity. Lou is a great team guy, and I’m sure his teammates will miss having him around.
In sum, Lou is perfect for the role of energy forward off the bench. He will grab some boards, block some shots and inject electricity into the building. On some nights he can be a real game changer with his hustle a few minutes at a time, just don’t expect anything from him offensively.
Before the offseason, Schwartz estimated Amundson could command about $10 million over three years. The market may indicate Amundson could get a little more, but he also might be the type of guy who slips through the cracks. I’ll say it will even out and Schwartz’s initial prediction will be pretty close.
Obviously, with the full Mid-Level Exception at their disposal, the Pistons could sign him. That would also leave about half the exception to sign another player or two.
At the beginning of free agency, I would’ve been extremely disappointed if Amundson was Detroit’s top signing. At this point, he might be the best realistic option on the market. For a three year contract, striking out might be better. For a one- or maybe even a two-year deal, Amundson wouldn’t be bad. (Can you hear my excitement?)