PHOENIX — The average NBA fan knows the story of Josh Childress: A hyped sixth overall pick out of Stanford who ultimately opted for a more lucrative deal in Greece after four years in the NBA with the Hawks.
The 6-foot-8 swingman has returned to the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, but his productivity in the Valley remains to be seen.
With so many wings on the roster, how many minutes will Childress play? Is he best served as a shooting guard or a small forward? What exactly is he going to bring to the Suns?
After watching over some clips of Childress’ tenure with the Olympiacos of Greece, it became clear that he’s one of those guys who doesn’t have a designated position and doesn’t do one thing outrageously well, but can be productive in a variety of different areas.
He can defend multiple positions, get out and finish in transition, move without the ball, and even isolate from time to time.
He’s a do-it-all type of guy, and reminds me a lot of a guard version of Shawn Marion. With that said, here are some breakdowns of the elements of Childress’ game, and how they will work with the Phoenix Suns:
The No. 1 aspect Childress will provide is defense. His height, athleticism (36 inch vertical) and length (6-foot-11 wingspan) allow him to defend everything from point guards to power forwards.
Childress will be looked at as the perimeter lockdown guy, and definitely the defensive catalyst of the bench along with Jared Dudley — a role that Childress embraces. When I asked if he can be that perimeter defender that the Suns have been missing, Childress answered, “That’s the plan.”
“I’ve tried to work on my defense over the past few years and just become a better all-around defender and be able to guard one through three and one through four,’” he added. “I’m going to work hard this summer to work on my body.”
Childress explained that he can defend both guards and “small fours,” as he described them. With a 209-pound frame it would be unfair to expect Childress to defend power forwards, but he’s certainly the versatile defender the Suns are still waiting for Earl Clark to become.
However, with an expected bench lineup of Goran Dragic, Childress, Dudley, Hakim Warrick and Channing Frye, Phoenix’s second unit is, dare I say, defensive-minded and extremely scrappy.
After watching some of Childress’ defensive possessions during his time in Greece, it became clear that he does give up a lot of strength and size to bigger players, but makes up for it with his length.
He blocked a variety of shots and altered a ton as well. As for defending the perimeter, he plays the passing lanes well and is laterally quick enough to stay in front of most guards. Needless to say, defense is the one area where you can pencil in productivity from Childress.
Here are some of his defensive highlights. In case you have trouble identifying him, he’s No. 6 with the afro.
Moving without the ball
Although he showed flashes with the Olympiacos, Childress certainly isn’t a guy you want to give it to with the shot clock winding down. But he makes up for his lack of creativity off the dribble with his non-stop movement without the ball.
This is the one area where Childress reminds me so much of Marion. He’s constantly moving to find an opening for himself, and with his dunking ability and accuracy near the hoop, Childress should have a field day with Steve Nash.
He connected on an array of alley-oops that I can just picture him receiving on a nightly basis from the two-time MVP. Childress has great instincts and does a good job of being in the right place at the right time.
The one question is whether the fact that a lot more zone is played overseas increased Childress’ movement without the ball due to all of the gaps in the defense. But regardless, the swingman thrives moving without the ball, which is the perfect fit for a team with so many playmakers already.
Childress reaffirmed his strengths offensively.
“Slashing to the lane and off-ball cuts,” he said when asked what he’s best at offensively. “I’ve always kind of taken pride in moving without the ball. With a team like this that passes so well, that can help me be more effective.”
Here are some of Childress’ back-cuts and alley-oops from last season:
Childress is built for an uptempo team. He was always the first one down the court and showed great finishing ability in the open court. He reminds a lot of Grant Hill in that respect, and should play that type of role for the bench unit.
The difference is that Childress is 10 years younger and will give Suns fans their money’s worth with highlight-reel dunks. Here are some clips of Childress leaking out on the break:
As I mentioned before, Childress isn’t the guy you want dominating the ball. He shouldn’t be asked to create too often with this Suns team, which fits his skill-set perfectly.
But after watching him more and more it is clear that Childress isn’t all that worthless with the ball in his hands. He actually has a great first step and a good handle as well. The most impressive thing is how well he finishes and how high of a percentage he shoots.
Childress shot 50.4 percent and 57.1 in his last two years with the Hawks, respectively, and tallied an impressive 64.7 true shooting percentage in 2007-08. He also shot an impressive 62 and 65 percent at the rim in 2006-07 and 2007-08, respectively, further proving his ability to finish.
So while he isn’t the guy you want to run isolations through on a regular basis, Childress is capable as a dribble penetrator and shoots an extremely high percentage when he finally gets into the paint. Here are some clips of Childress isolating and attacking the hoop:
The biggest hole in Childress’ game is his lack of a mid-range jump shot, which will hurt him a lot more in the NBA than it did in Greece. The NBA is full of athletes and the pull-up jumper is almost a necessity for successful shooting guards these days.
It’s not that Childress attempts a lot of jump shots and doesn’t connect, he just doesn’t really have the skill-set to even attempt them. In fact, according to Hoopdata.com during his last two seasons in Atlanta Childress attempted only 109 shots between 16 and 23 feet in 131 games, meaning he attempted only 0.83 shots from that range per game.
Childress showed even less of an offensive game from 10 to 15 feet, where he attempted only 37 shots in his last two seasons with the Hawks, resulting in 0.28 field goal attempts per game from that distance.
With his hip-chuck, belly-button level release, Childress has never been known as a three-point shooter. However, as is the case for seemingly every new Sun, he should have the green light to fire in Phoenix.
His productivity from behind the arc isn’t all that bad, although his mechanics are quite rough. But with so many shooters in place he won’t be asked to shoulder the load from beyond the arc, so if he isn’t lights out there’s no reason for worry.
While he isn’t much of a playmaker, Childress actually possesses some good passing skills, both in transition and in the halfcourt. He’s never averaged more than 2.3 assists per game in the NBA, but he did say that his time in Europe made him much more a thinker’s player, which may translate to more assists next season.
But as of now, I wouldn’t count on Childress as a distributor for the Suns. Here are some of his passing skills on display:
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