Phoenix Suns offseason to-do list: Small forwards

This is the first post of a series of to-do lists that will cover what each non-rookie, Phoenix Suns player could improve upon or add to his game before the 2010-11 season begins. The players are grouped by position, and the first group I’ll break down is the Suns’ slew of swingmen, also known as small forwards:

Grant Hill

At age 37, there isn’t much that Grant Hill will improve upon heading into his 16th season in the league. But there also aren’t very many elements that Hill needs to add, other than some healthier ankles and a few more years of longevity, and even the Suns training staff can’t make that happen.

With that said, here is Hill’s extremely short offseason to-do list:

Three-point shooting

Hill has never been much of a three-point shooter, as he’s always thrived with the ball in his hands, either pulling up in the mid-range or getting all the way to the rim. But that doesn’t mean adding a long ball isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for Hill.

He did shoot the deep ball at an extremely impressive clip last season (43.8 percent), but he only attempted 80 threes and is a career 30.3 percent shooter from deep.

Hill has a fairly slow release, with more of a push shot where he doesn’t get much lift, relying on his legs as a wide and solid base. The slower release limits his attempts to strictly spot-up attempts mostly in the corner, which you can see by the chart below provided by NBA.com’s Hotspots.

Hill is about as complete of a player as there is, but if he can add a three-point threat to his game aside from the occasional spot up, he will be even more dangerous on the floor.

Hedo Turkoglu

For all of the things that Hedo Turkoglu is good at, he does have a list of things he could definitely improve upon. He’s the definition of a plus-minus player — brilliant at times and terrible at times.

We all know what Turkoglu brings to the Suns offensively — three-point prowess, playmaking and clutch shooting — but there are several elements of his game that are below-average. Here’s Turkoglu’s offseason to-do list:

Rebounding

Although he’s in the small forward category, Turkoglu is preparing to start at the four for the Suns, meaning he’ll need to rebound the ball. But Hedo’s never averaged more than 5.7 boards per game and is quite frankly a sorry rebounder, especially for a guy who’s 6-foot-10.

He isn’t going to dive on the floor for the loose ball, and he isn’t going to out jump you for a rebound. But Turkoglu is an intelligent player and needs to use those smarts to find a way to attack the glass, which is a huge area of concern for the Suns.

Defense

Defense and rebounding usually go together, and that is certainly the case for Turkoglu. Although the stats proved that Turkoglu really isn’t all that bad defensively against power forwards, the truth of the matter is that he lacks the will and athleticism to be a lockdown defender.

But as Alvin Gentry said, he is crafty and could turn into a good help defender for the Suns. Time will tell how he fares defensively, but based off the past, Turkoglu needs to improve his defense, especially if he’s going to be guarding power forwards.

Shot selection

This is where Turkoglu’s plus-minus nature shines brightest. He’ll drill a clutch game winner one night, but will also hoist up shots that have you scratching your head. Gentry is never going to yell at a player for shooting it if he’s open, but with so many shooters on this team Turkoglu needs to be more aware of what the best shot is on the floor and find it.

Here are a few examples of forced shots he took in Toronto that won’t exactly fly in Phoenix:

Here Turkoglu basically stood with the ball at the top of the key, pump-faked and eventually rose up for an off-balance three that didn’t catch iron. He’s a smart player, but can’t take shots like that in Phoenix.

These next two may not be as bad of looks, but prove Turkoglu’s poor knowledge of time and score at times. Below is a situation where the Raptors had the ball, tied with 10 seconds to go.

He waited until four seconds to dribble and pulled up for this deep, contested three that barely drew iron:

In this situation the Raptors were down one against Phoenix with 35 seconds left and a fresh shot clock. Amare Stoudemire switched onto Turkoglu, but instead of driving past the sub-par defender, Turkoglu rose up for a contested three with 21 seconds still on the shot clock and couldn’t knock it down.

He settles for far too many threes sometimes, which isn’t a problem in Phoenix unless they’re forced like the ones above.

Weight

It is no secret that Hedo played much of last season out of shape for the Raptors. If he checks into the season overweight, there’s no way he can survive playing the run-and-gun style of the Suns.

He’s never going to be the picture of perfection athletically, but he at least needs to be in shape if he’s going to play for Gentry.

Jared Dudley

Jared Dudley burst onto the NBA scene in 2009-10, turning hustle and energy into Phoenix Suns win after win. But Dudley was more than just a garbage man, as he added a three-point stroke to his arsenal, drilling 120 treys at a 45.9 percent clip.

Despite his breakout season last year, Dudley still has some fine-tuning to do as in order to become a complete player. Here is Dudley’s offseason to-do list:

Pull-up jump shot

Dudley is above-average as a stand-still shooter, but he lacks the pull-up jumper that would expand his game considerably. While he shot 3.2 threes per game last season, he only attempted 0.2 shots per game from 10-15 feet, and 0.7 per game from 16-23 feet.

Most mid-range jump shooters have solid spring in their legs, which — after watching his once-in-a-blue-moon, barely-got-it-down dunks last season — Dudley clearly doesn’t have.

But a lot of when to pull up and when not to also comes from basketball IQ, as in reading the defense and deciding when there’s room to rise up and when its better to attack the rim.

Below is an example of when Dudley should have stopped on a dime and pulled up, but took it all the way to the hoop instead.

Here you can see the initial opening, which Dudley takes advantage of by driving hard to the lane. Even below you can see Dudley does a nice job continuing on with his drive, but once he gets to that point he needs to read the help and adjust accordingly. This would be a perfect spot for Dudley to plant his left fit, spring off his right and rise up for a 15-foot jumper.

But Dudley chose to drive right at the 6-foot-11 LaMarcus Aldridge, and ended up tossing up a wild right-handed layup that didn’t draw iron.

Dudley simply lacks the pull-up aspect of his game, which leads to a lot of errant layups or contested threes due to the lack of confidence in his mid-range game.

Below is a series where Dudley makes the right decision and pulls up in the lane.

He, once again, beats his defender off of the dribble while driving right. But this time Dudley chooses to pull-up in the lane rather than contest Chris Anderson, as you can see below.

Dudley didn’t get the result he wanted, however, as he air-balled the 10-footer, proving how uncomfortable he is with his pull-up game. Needless to say, if Dudley wants to expand his game, he needs to work on developing the ability to stop on a dime, rise up and drill a mid-range jump shot.

Isolations/ball-handling

Dudley isn’t exactly the player you want with the ball in his hands late in the shot clock. He doesn’t create, but rather thrives off penetration from the Suns’ guards.

That is all fine and dandy, as Dudley has made a decent young career moving without the ball and as a spot-up shooter. But for the sake of this offseason to-do list, isolation ability and ball-handling are things Dudley certainly lacks.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, in isolation Dudley was 2-for-10 from the field (1-for-3 from three) and turned the ball over 17.6 percent of the time, all adding up to only 0.65 points per possession being scored on such plays.

He also lacks a left hand as far as dribbling goes. He was called for quite a few travels last season because he would catch it as the defender was closing out and automatically drove right, regardless of which way the defender was shadowing him.

If Dudley could add a left hand as well as a few moves off the dribble, he could be even more dangerous on the floor and would be able to stay on the court in more than just spurts.

Of course he isn’t a point guard and Steve Nash is handling the ball 99.9 percent of the time, but Dudley can certainly expand his game by improving his ball-handling and adding some isolation moves.

Quickness/athleticism

Anyone who’s been in a US Airways Center locker room after a game knows that Jared Dudley doesn’t exactly have the body type of your average NBA forward. But Dudley has been working extremely hard this summer and has apparently dropped 13 pounds to get down to 220.

The word is he looks slimmer than ever, and if he can maintain that Dudley’s game will improve that much more. All of the pull-up jumpers and isolations that I mentioned before would be much easier to achieve if Dudley were a bit quicker.

Dudley used a ridiculously high energy level and hustle to become an extremely effective reserve for the Suns last season. But if he were to add two or three inches to his vertical and a bit of quickness — which he’s on his way to doing — Dudley would be much more than a spot-up shooter, cutter and hustler.

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Tags: Grant Hill Hedo Turkoglu Jared Dudley

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