Pro/Con: The Jared Dudley extension

Were the Suns smart to lock Jared Dudley up before free agency or could that money have been better spent elsewhere? (AP Photo/Matt York)

Were the Suns smart to lock Jared Dudley up before free agency or could that money have been better spent elsewhere? (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns signed Jared Dudley to a five-year extension worth as much as $22.5 million at the buzzer of the deadline Monday night.

Although this provides the Suns with a quality player at a reasonable price, was this the smartest way to spend their money with so many wings already locked up long term? Michael Schwartz and Mike Schmitz discuss.

Pro: Dudley deal a sound investment

When I first heard that the Suns and Jared Dudley had come to terms on this five-year extension, my immediate reaction was that this was a steal for the Suns.

I thought Dudley was going to ask for Frye or Childress money (five years in the neighborhood of $30-32 million), so to get Dudley for about $2 million cheaper per season seems like quite the steal (especially when considering it’s half as much as Mike freaking Conley will be making the next five seasons).

Dudley won’t ever light up a box score, but it’s the little things that make him so special. If there were a measure for team chemistry, he would max out that scale, and he’s always hustling or diving for a ball to pump up his teammates and the crowd.

The advanced stats bear this out as he ranked third on the Suns in two-year adjusted +/- for the past two seasons, according to Basketball Value, behind only Steve Nash and Goran Dragic, and he recorded the third-most Wins Produced on the team during the playoffs last year behind only Nash and Jason Richardson.

On the court he’s a quality wing defender and has become a lethal three-point shooter. Best of all about Dudley, he’s always improving his game and never seems satisfied with where he’s at (call him the anti-Earl Clark). You just know that he will keep getting better throughout the length of this contract (which covers his prime 26-31 seasons).

When I analyze an NBA contract, I’m largely looking for value (as in the opposite of Hedo Turkoglu’s deal). Getting the all-around package of Jared Dudley locked up for the next five seasons at just over $4 million per is without question great value.

Sure, the Suns have Turkoglu and Childress signed for the long term as well, but they are such different players than Dudley, a guy who can thrive as the Suns’ sixth man of the future while those guys start.

This deal finishes off a paradigm shift of the Suns’ plans for the future. The plan pre-Amare defection was to clear space and make a splash this summer. Now, as you can see from our salary page, the Suns have about $50 million in commitments next season when counting non-guaranteed deals and around $33 million the two seasons after that.

No, there won’t be any huge Miami Heat splash in the desert in years to come, no savior free agent who will save Planet Orange, and the Suns still have a few more good moves yet to make to be competitive in the post-Nash era.

But whichever way you slice it, locking Jared Dudley down at a reasonable rate is a step in that direction.

– Michael Schwartz

Con: Not sure where Dudley fits in Phoenix’s future

Let me preface this by saying Jared Dudley is one of the team’s hardest workers, a terrific locker room guy and brings constant entertainment to Phoenix with his TMZ and Twitter antics.

He’s also developed into a deadly three-point shooter, a relentless defender while bringing instant energy off the bench and is well-deserving of a new deal. But with all that said, I don’t understand where Dudley fits in with this team long term.

The Suns already have $72,547,550 of guaranteed money invested in Josh Childress and Hedo Turkoglu over the next five seasons. You have to figure Childress and Turkoglu are both future starters, so why commit $21.25 million more to a guy who’s never going to crack the starting rotation?

Dudley’s annual salary is not a bad deal at all considering his production (and Mike Conley’s ridiculous five-year, $45-million deal), and with the CBA looming you figure a deal had to get done now or never. But with the roster as it stands and the future outlook in Phoenix, it just doesn’t make sense.

I would certainly prefer never acquiring Turkoglu and going with Dudley as your starting three when Grant Hill calls it quits. But, barring a trade, Turkoglu and Childress will be in Phoenix for the next four and five seasons, respectively, meaning less playing time for Dudley.

Phoenix also still has to re-sign future cornerstones Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic, and the starting center and point guard of the post-Nash Suns are much higher on the to-do list than a hustling sixth man with a three-point stroke.

This also means there’s less money to extend Jason Richardson in the offseason. I’ve never been on the keep J-Rich bandwagon, but the Suns lose a definite 15-20 points per game without Richardson in town.

So essentially Suns management has committed to signing a handful of good-but-not-great players, with no real superstar lined up for the future. The Suns will pay out about $26.65 million per season to Channing Frye, Childress, Turkoglu and Dudley.

That’s almost half of the salary cap to four players without superstar potential. Then add in Dragic and Lopez’s eventual new deals and Phoenix is hurting for a marquee name.

I understand it if they had a John Wall or DeMarcus Cousins that they were waiting to develop, but they don’t and it doesn’t seem like a player like that is coming along soon.

Dudley staying in Phoenix is certainly a good thing, and it would have been sad to see him go. But five more years just doesn’t make sense with the current roster.

I can’t quite put my finger on the long-term goal of Suns management, but if it’s piecing together a team full of role players that will remain mediocre unless a superstar falls into their hands, they’re succeeding.

– Mike Schmitz

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