The good, the bad and the ugly — Part I


As the Memphis Grizzlies lead the San Antonio Spurs 2-1 and the New Orleans Hornets are deadlocked at 2-2 with the Los Angeles Lakers, all the Phoenix Suns can do is sit back and watch.

But as Suns fans watch the West’s lower seeds stir up the playoff picture, let’s reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly from Phoenix’s 2010-11 campaign. We’ll start with the good today, and the bad and ugly will follow Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

There’s no doubt the Suns’ 40-42 season was a disappointment, and there is no shortage of items to file under the bad and ugly categories. But believe it or not there were some positive developments that came from this underwhelming season.

The PHX/ORL Trade

No Phoenix’s midseason trade with the Orlando Magic that swapped Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus didn’t catapult them into the playoffs, but it did give them a cornerstone center for the future, while shedding Turkoglu’s ugly contract.

Marcin Gortat (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Gortat came to Phoenix hungry and determined to succeed, and he did exactly that, eventually moving into the starting lineup and becoming a double-double machine.

He averaged 13.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks with the Suns, while posting over 15 and 10 in both March and April.

He finished seventh in the league in defensive rebound rate (two spots behind Dwight Howard), and also posted the 25th-best field goal percentage (56.3 percent).

Gortat was the model of consistency both offensively and defensively and gave the Suns what they thought they had in Robin Lopez — a defensive anchor who can play the pick and roll.

But Gortat’s been more than that. His offensive game is improving and he’s added a rock solid mid-range game. Add in his foot speed and athleticism and Phoenix’s sub-par front office should be jumping for joy over this acquisition.

Then consider that they shed Turkoglu’s deal that would have cost them over $11 million each of the next two seasons — not to mention his partially guaranteed $12 million salary the year after — and it looks like the Suns won the deal outright.

They missed Richardson’s scoring and Clark’s upside while they suffered through Carter’s inconsistency, but all in all Gortat’s value gives Suns fans something to smile about moving forward.

Channing Frye and Jared Dudley well worth long-term deals

When the Suns initially signed Frye to a five-year, $30 million deal I wasn’t sure if a shooter was worth that pricetag. But Frye quickly proved he’s more than just a shooter and worth every penny of his new contract.

His numbers don’t jump out at you — 12.7 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game — but he finished second on the team in minutes per game (33.0) and improved drastically on the glass and defensively, not to mention the pair of game-winners he drilled.

Channing Frye

If it weren’t for a shoulder injury, Frye would have made an even bigger impact. He averaged 16.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 threes per game (43.9 percent) during the month of February prior to his early March injury.

Even after the injury he produced, putting up 33 and 14 in a 57-minute ironman performance against the Lakers, and closing the season out with a 33-point, nine-three effort against Minnesota.

He was a barometer of Phoenix’s success, as he averaged 14.9 points in wins and 10.4 points in losses. With that said, Frye proved he’s developing a post-up, and pull-up game while toughening up on the glass, making him worth the bucks and longevity.

To a lesser extent, Dudley proved his 5-year, $22 million deal was well worth it, but also more importantly, that he can be a starter in the NBA.

His slimmer body helped him with quickness and endurance, while he also did a better job attacking the hoop and pulling up in the mid-range.

For the second straight season Dudley played in all 82 games and shot over 40 percent from three, while averaging 10.6 points per game. In 15 games as a starter Dudley averaged 16.3 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals — more than acceptable for a starting NBA two guard.

His increase in production and play as a starter gives the Suns reason to believe he could be an option as a cost-effective, starting shooting guard next season.

Elderly Nash and Hill still produce

Talking about Steve Nash and Grant Hill’s production is almost like beating a dead horse.

Steve Nash

Everyone knows they’re old, and they play 10 years younger than they are, but it still amazes me that Nash led the league in assists and Hill locked down everyone from Kevin Durant to Monta Ellis.

Nash played about 15 games at far less than 100 percent, but he still ended up leading the team in minutes played while handing out helpers left and right.

He did fail to reach the 50-40-90 plateau, but Nash’s offensive genius at age 37 is still amazing to watch.

As for Hill, the Suns would have been the laughing stock of the league defensively if it weren’t for him.

He was their only legitimate defender and guarded shooting guards through power forwards on a nightly basis while starting all of the 80 games he played. If this year was any indication, it doesn’t look like the 38-year-old Hill will become a liability anytime soon.

Tags: Channing Frye Grant Hill Jared Dudley Marcin Gortat Steve Nash

  • Mel.

    Mike, I suggest that we add the remedial quotes to Earl’s “upside” from now on, in the same manner that one might during a judicial proceeding: filled with potential, but guilty until proven otherwise.

  • Gary

    One of the upsides for me is i can enjoy the summer looking at the score of the last game as the suns won 106 to 1o3 over the Spurs… But then I bleed orange and purple… If the suns aren’t in the playoffs then are there really playoffs… not for me or my 8 sons.

  • Steve

    8 sons? Wow, that would be a fun challenge. I don’t care about the NBA once the suns are done. I don’t trust it as an organization, and it has the worst officiating of any professional sport. I’m not trying to say the suns have been screwed over by officiating. In nearly every game I watch, no matter the teams or occasions, the refs seem to make the wrong call about 40% of the time when they blow their whistles, and when you think about all the bad no-calls, I disagree with the refs’ interpretation of the rules just about every other time down the court.

  • Tony

    Mike,

    I don’t agree that Dudley showed he can be a legitimate starter at sg. He can’t create his own shot at all and is too slow to guard most starting sgs. I can’t tell you how many times he would get beat off the dribble by sgs. He is a great sixth man at sf, but not a starting sg.

    Getting Gortat was a big break for the Suns horrific front office. However, I still feel the Suns should have pushed harder for more in that deal. They should have tried to get Anderson as well. They basically gave up three players for one since Carter is gone after the season, Peitrus would be gone if it wasn’t for his player option, and Sarver even ridiculously gave away the draft pick. Gortat is showing he can be one of the better centers in the league, but I don’t see him becoming a superstar player.

  • Steve

    Tony, if you call Clark and Turk players, I think you’re being a little generous to them. Even Richardson has had big-time struggles without Nash. At worst, I think we gave up one pretty good player for a good/potentially great player. The rest of the guys were garbage throw-ins.

  • http://audreyandchuck.com audreyandchuck

    Haven’t seen any playoff games so far, so good. That some lower seeds are doing well, however, legitimizes and embitters many of my mid-season hopes. We were supposed to be the underdogs and once again, darlings.

    Based on our lackluster performance this year, I imagine the players knew way before I did that Summer would be long, and that Playoffs aren’t all that they’re cracked-up to be.

    Seems like impending off-season personnel changes are set in stone to happen. Anything not close to expectations should likely effect ticket sales, world chaos, etc. Circumstances are heavily leaning toward major moves, something bigger than last Summer’s news: warrick, childress, turk… (what?) I can’t imagine front office dropping the ball at this juncture.

  • Rich Anthony, (KJL)

    To Tony – they weren’t giving up Anderson. On top of that, Phoenix would not be interested in Anderson as he’d play the same role as Frye. I’ll take Frye over Anderson every single day.

    As far as the off season moves go, may as well stop talking about that until after the CBA is worked out.

    Until then, there simply isn’t much to talk about because there can’t be a strategy in place until after that is taken care of.

  • Jeffrey

    Jared Dudley is not a legitimate starter!

    He is only going to get worst with age because of his body type.

    Jared does well on the second unit going up against other second units. Get him to play against a LeBron, Wade, or Durant, and watch Dudley become a DUD.

    I’m also not a fan of Channing Frye’s body type for being a 3pt shooter. He is no Ray Allen. With Age, his body will gain weight.

  • Steve

    @Jeffrey – With age, your body will gain weight. And so will mine. It happens. I don’t get either of your points.

    Are Dudley and Frye the two most athletic people in the NBA? No. Are they even elite athletically? No. But are unathletic people doomed to suck in the NBA? No.

  • http://twitter.com/chris_coffel Chris Coffel

    @Jeffrey, I think you’re way off there man. The body types and style of play from both Dudley and Frye, is why they can succeed as they get older. Neither one of them relies on athletic ability to get the job done. Dudley especially, uses his basketball IQ and smarts to succeed. Guys like him can continue to contribute at a high level because of that. It’s the guys that rely heavily on their athletic ability that struggle as they get older.