PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ acquisition of Josh Childress seemed to come out of left field.
While many fans expected the Suns to use the bulk of their trade exception to replace Amare Stoudemire with a similar power forward, they instead used a chunk of it to bolster their perimeter defense by acquiring a guy who figures to make them a better basketball team.
The Childress sign-and-trade has been lauded around the league as a good move at an affordable price, but many questions still remain as it pertains to the move.
The first concerns the army of small forwards the Suns have now compiled and how they have plan to unleash them. Of course, most of these so-called threes like Childress are multi-positional players on both ends of the floor, which should mitigate some of those concerns, but the fact remains the Suns boast a plethora of threes and few interior power players.
I asked Childress what he expects his role to be, and he gave exactly the kind of answer you would want to hear in most situations.
“Really to just kind of help anchor the bench,” he said. “I know that with the starting five they’re kind of set, and coach Gentry although he didn’t say as much I realize I’ll probably be coming off the bench. The bench is a key part of this team as well, and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
Childress also spoke favorably of the way Gentry will often play the hot hand at the end of a game and should fit in seamlessly with the bench culture the Suns have established.
The only issue is the Suns already have a defense/energy small forward who anchors the bench and sometimes finishes games by the name of Jared Dudley.
Responding to a Bill Simmons tweet, Dudley jokingly tweeted, “They might be forcing me out lol Will see what happens.”
After Phoenix fans presumably started freaking out to Dudley, he clarified that he’d love to spend his whole career in Phoenix, but the point remains that even Dudley is on alert to how this move will affect him. You can only pay so many reserve forwards $6-plus mil a year.
I suppose it’s a good problem to have for the Suns to be able to throw a pair of quality defenders who can score and are unselfish team guys off the bench. You just have to wonder what Childress’ addition does to Dudley’s role on the team and how those guys will share minutes with all the other wings on the roster.
The next question about Childress is his three-point shooting. He’s a career 36.0 percent three-point shooter. He shot 49.2 percent on 65 attempts in 2005-06 but otherwise has been a below average shooter from distance.
Of course, Dudley came to the Suns as a guy who shot 22.0 percent from three as a rookie and was shooting 37.5 percent his second year before behind dealt to the Valley.
Childress said Gentry did mention shooting threes when they spoke before his acquisition and that he knew coming in “that’s kind of a given playing for Phoenix.”
“I think that that comes with confidence and playing with guys who kind of help that confidence and just help breed that mentality obviously helps that so much,” Childress said. “I think shooting is just a mentality, it’s something that’s kind of learned. Everybody kind of makes fun of my form, but if I’m able to knock shots down it shouldn’t be an issue.
“I’ve had years where I’ve shot 50 percent,” he continued, speaking of his second season. “I haven’t shot a ton of them. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just a matter of me constantly shooting.”
The reason Dudley morphed from a throw-in to an integral part of last year’s team is because he became a deadly three-point shooter. If Childress puts in the time this summer that Dudley did last summer, he will go from a nice value player who can help defensively to one of the most critical members of the rotation.
My final question revolved around the implication that Lon Babby is just bringing in his former clients since he represents Turkoglu and used to represent Childress.
However, when I brought up Babby, Childress immediately seemed sheepish and chuckled while saying, “I was wondering when I was going to hear that question.”
Childress had been with Babby’s agency for the past six years, where Jim Tanner represented him, but he recently left for Octagon’s Chris Emens.
“I don’t know how it’s going to be him coming here. I’m not really sure, but when I changed agents it was a business decision, and hopefully he understands that and he respects that,” Childress said. “We both made two business decisions, and I look forward to working with him again.”
Since Childress just left Babby’s firm, you can’t exactly call this a case of him getting “his guy.”
Although the questions of how Childress’ acquisition affects Dudley and whether he can become the kind of three-point shooter that would make him so effective in Phoenix remain to be answered, overall I’m high on the deal.
He spoke of being attracted to how the Suns always play like a team that genuinely cheers each other on, and when some media members let him cut in line to grab a sandwich before rushing off to the airport he seemed almost embarrassed about that, showing to me he’s not the kind of athlete who feels entitled to special privileges.
He’s also a vastly underrated player whom the Wages of Wins guys pegged as a guy who produced about as many wins as Amare did from 2004-05 to 2007-08.
Childress could be the long-term answer at small forward when Grant Hill retires, and he will team up with Hill and Dudley to give the Suns a trio of quality perimeter defenders at a reasonable price. His acquisition could also provide the Suns with the flexibility to move a J-Rich or a Dudley to acquire more help inside.
Josh Childress’ efficient offensive game and athletic defense will make the Phoenix Suns a better team next season, and if he develops that three-point stroke and Gentry finds a way to keep all his wings happy and productive then this deal will be seen as quite the pleasant surprise for the Suns.
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