Like a freshly renovated building one passes every day, Channing Frye is a public work in progress. The Suns themselves, with such roster upheaval and rotational irregularity, resemble a refurbished block of a once-bustling downtown – an effort to both reinvigorate a community and prevent any further fleeing by fans from the fading product.
The anchors are already in place, of course – mainstays who cannot be overvalued, even if unscrupulous spectators buzz about, hoping to take the weathered pieces off the hands of a beleaguered shopkeep before they break and lose all value. Fresh, new attractions have solidified themselves in the area already (even the foreign restaurant has an avid following), and many of the grass-roots projects are finally taking hold. Sure, the roving band of zombies puts a damper on the ambiance, but their contract is only partly guaranteed next season. The citizens will eat the remainder before the remainder eats them.
That dive bar on the corner that you knew in college, though – that’s the real key to this lock. The reviews have made that clear; when business is booming, it might as well be Thunder (lanky shooting and all). In the bust times, rebounding is the only hope, though losses are expected. And every once in a while, that not-so-old hole in the wall shows a glimpse of what it might be if it would just tweak its game ever so slightly – if it would stop spreading everything so far out and bring things in a little closer.
If you’ve watched the Suns recently, it might appear as if the light has finally come on for Frye. He’s scored in double figures in 7 of his last 8 games, including a career high of 31 points against the Jazz. He’s also grabbed at least seven ballboards in his last nine games. Frye has been a joy to watch of late, even if his penchant for chucking the rock from deep often leaves Suns fans holding their breath, hoping Frye will be hot that night.
Given that thought and everything we’ve seen from Frye, it seems appropriate to wonder whether or not he (and the Suns) can keep this up. Is there anything sustainable to the improvement in Frye’s performance, or is it simply variability from a highly volatile source?
By the eye-test, it seems that Frye is playing in the post more, using his size advantage when matched up with smaller power forwards and his quickness when presented with larger opponents. This should serve the same purpose as a freshman co-ed mixing her vodka with Sunny D – easier shots. Believing what you see (or hear), however, can get both you — as an NBA observer — and that co-ed — as a person with self-respect — into a lot of trouble.
The truth here, however, is as tasty as fresh squeezed orange juice. On the season, Frye takes the majority (51.4%) of his shots from beyond the 3-point arc. Of players listed as power forwards and centers on HoopData.com playing more than 20 minutes per game, only Ryan Anderson takes a higher percentage of his total field goal attempts from deep. In the month of February, though, Frye’s shooting numbers have shifted significantly.
The most notable difference is the increase in shots taken from 10-15 feet by Frye over the course of the month relative to his season average. Frye is taking about 5% fewer threes and long 2s combined and is instead attempting easier to make shots that are no farther from the basket than the free throw line. For the year, Frye’s takes about 21% of his shots from within 15 feet; in February, that number has increased to 28% – a 33% upswing. Put another way, for every three shots inside of 15 feet that Frye takes on the season, he shoots four in the month of February. Given that this month, Frye is averaging his most shots per game in his career, this represents a significant improvement in his game; February is Frye’s best shooting month of the season (58.5% eFG%, including an absurd 45.6% from deep – a number that has to come down sooner than later, regardless of whether or not Frye is taking better, more open looks).
Frye’s rebounding numbers for the month are up, as well:
Frye bested his season average in total rebound rate every game so far this month. Obviously, much of that work on the glass has come on the defensive end of the court, given the three goose eggs on the offensive boards posted over the past eight games. However, in two of those zero-efforts, Frye attempted 9 (February 10th vs WAS) and 10 (February 15th vs UTA) threes. When Frye resolves himself to working in the post on the offensive end of the court, it seems that he grabs his fair share of offensive rebounds. What a wondrous proposition!
Might this merely be statistical noise, all a blip on the radar congealing to form what looks like a conclusive mass? Perhaps. The old bar you knew years back might be the well from which you draw your water still. But the look of the place, at least this month, seems to have changed – and the bookkeeping backs it up.