For Suns fans, although the prospects of an ultra-successful season are looking grim, there are a lot of things to be excited about for next season. A healthy Amare, a more experienced Goran Dragic and Robin Lopez, the homecoming of Channing Frye and the development of Earl Clark.
All of those storylines can certainly be placed in the “must watch” category for next season, but there is one more player development story that is worthy of close attention.
With heavy focus on the Suns’ future, the popular belief is that the Suns need a small forward who will take the reigns when old-man Hill hangs them up. Earl Clark may be that guy, but I would consider him more of a hybrid 3-4 than solely a small forward. The Suns may be able to fill that void come 2010, but there may be a suitable, price-efficient option right under their nose. That option is a man by the name of Jared Dudley, or @JaredDudley619 for all of the tweetaholics out there.
It is natural for fans to want the home run hitter, the athletic guy who is money from three and can dunk on anyone at any time. Jared Dudley is far from that, but he does do almost everything well and efficiently. The only problem is, because Dudley does not excel in one particular area, he does not get the attention that a player of his caliber should. In a way, it seems that Jared Dudley is the forgotten Sun.
People tend to forget that Dudley is a former ACC Player of the Year at Boston College and recently turned 24. Most players come into their own in their third season, and what do you know, Dudley is entering his third season.
Dudley never really had a chance to show his skill set in Charlotte, and he played sporadically last season with the Suns. Under Alvin Gentry last season, Dudley averaged 7.8 points per game to go along with 4.1 rebounds per contest, all in only 20 minutes per game. Dudley did, however, post 10 points or more in 10 of the Suns’ last 16 games.
In his most productive half season as a pro, Dudley proved that he can defend, rebound, and hit the open three (39 percent) given the minutes. Regardless of his solid production, for whatever reason he gets minimal recognition, even among the citizens of Planet Orange. Maybe that is because he is not the “home run hitter” basketball fans want, but his production should be noted nonetheless.
During Dudley’s live tweeting session a few weeks back, I asked him, “When people talk about the future of the Suns it is usually Goran, Robin, and Earl. Do you feel you have something to prove?”
He responded, “I feel I have something to prove but not because they don’t mention me.. I want to be a big part of our team success.”
Obviously that is the “acceptable” answer, but the fact that people talk about Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic in regards to the Suns’ future rather than Dudley is dumbfounding. Even I am guilty of hyping the Suns’ youth without mentioning Dudley.
A former ACC Player of the Year drafted 22nd overall who has averaged a tick over five points per game in minimal time in each of his first two NBA seasons should be held in higher regard than a seven-footer with no offensive game or basketball instincts and a mediocre European point guard. It is the facts, but for whatever reason Dudley is an afterthought when it comes to the Suns’ future, a notion that his game will hopefully put to bed this upcoming season.
Suns fans praise Dudley for his unlimited hustle and heart, a la Lou Amundson. But what people often never realize is that as a player (no offense to Lou), Jared is much more skilled and talented.
Coming up through the college ranks Dudley earned the nickname “the Junkyard Dog” for his endless energy and hustle.
But in an interview with Dime Magazine, Dudley even admitted that he is somewhat sick of the whole dirt worker image:
“I think that once I begin to show people that I can do other stuff it’ll change. You gotta show people that you can shoot the three or take people off the dribble. I had it [the nickname] my first couple years in college so hopefully this year I can kind of get rid of it.”
Dudley hasn’t torn up Western Conference defenses by any means, but a 24-year old, hard-working, multi-skilled small forward on a team needing youth at that exact position should garner more attention than he has. It is evident that Dudley brings that edge and toughness that the Suns lack, but people need to look beyond his “Junkyard Dog” nickname and realize his value and importance to a Suns team looking toward the future.
Tags: Jared Dudley