Jared Dudley keeps improving on his journey to a starting spot

Jared Dudley has continued to improve every year to the extent he's now a starting-caliber performer. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Jared Dudley has continued to improve every year to the extent he's now a starting-caliber performer. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

PHOENIX — When the Phoenix Suns acquired Jared Dudley from the Charlotte Bobcats in December of 2008 he was something of an afterthought in a deal involving Jason Richardson, Raja Bell and Boris Diaw.

At the time he was a pudgy performer too short to play power forward and too slow and not a good enough shooter to be a small forward.

So Dudley did what he’s always done since being an unheralded high school prospect from San Diego who finagled a scholarship offer from Boston College and became a ACC Player of the Year (Lute Olson later told JMZ he regretted not recruiting him).

Dudley put in the hours during the summer to continually add elements to his game to the extent that the Phoenix Suns face the very real possibility of starting him at shooting guard next season as they did at the end of last year.

I went back to NBADraft.net to see what the esteemed draft site had to say about Dudley’s weaknesses in the run up to the 2007 draft and I barely recognize the guy from those reports.

“Prefers to create offense in the post then extend out to the perimeter. Will be viewed as a tweener too short to be a power forward and not athletic enough to play small forward. Perimeter shooting can go through periods of inconsistency Although Dudley has shown improvement, he still struggles to shoot off the dribble.”

Another report said, “Scores a lot of baskets by simply overpowering players, but the same moves won’t be effective on the next level.”

It’s hard to believe just four years ago that scouting report accurately described the Suns’ shooting guard.

Rather than being a tweener forward, he has developed guard skills and a guard’s body (aside from the lack of explosive athleticism) and his perimeter shooting has turned into one of the biggest strengths of his game.

As a player who adds something to his skill set every summer, Dudley’s goal is now to integrate that final element of his “weakness” section into his game this summer.

“Off the dribble,” Dudley said. “I think I’ve proven myself as a good standstill shooter. It’s more the one-dribble pullups, getting to the lane, maybe a floater, just being comfortable. I’m pretty comfortable going right, not left as much, so that will be the No. 1 area.”

Dudley ought to be plenty motivated to continue adding to his game after going from not playing much for a bad team in Charlotte to not playing much for a mediocre Suns team to being a key reserve on a Western Conference Finals team to starting at the end of last season.

Dudley averaged 16.0 points and 5.9 rebounds per game in 11 starts to end the year while shooting a tick over 50 percent, solid numbers when combined with his hustle and defense.

“It’s hard work,” Dudley said. “It’s something that I expected, expected through time. For me nothing’s ever been given to me, you know, junior high, high school. You have to work hard and you have to earn it. I wouldn’t want it any other way, and hopefully I did that in these last 10, 15 games or whatever that I started. If not you come back and try to improve, but it’s good to show not even the Suns this whole league that you can do it because people try to put you in a box.”

By that Dudley means it’s so easy for players to earn reputations in this league as a certain kind of player. Bruce Bowen is a defensive specialist, Kyle Korver is a three-point shooter, Reggie Evans is a rebounder.

Due to Dudley’s lack of athleticism and elite hustle, it would be easy to pin him down as a career energy guy who will bring defense and shooting as well off the bench.

But Dudley has worked tirelessly to add different facets to his game and, as head trainer Aaron Nelson said, “totally changed his body with his work.”

Sure, he’s not exactly a guy who’s going to be creating shots, but this season he’s proven he can be more than a bench energy guy.

“This year I thought for me personally it was just me evolving as a player,” Dudley said. “I thought that in this league people can symbolize you, ‘Oh he’s just a three-point guy, he’s just a bench guy, he’s an energy guy.’ You have to put it on yourself to show them you can do more.”

It’s hard to say exactly what role the Suns will ask Dudley to play next season as if they find a way to acquire an elite scorer at the two spot Dudley will be back in his super sub role.

But with his five-year, $22.5 million contract kicking in next season, a deal that seems like a steal for the Suns for a potential long-term starter, there’s no question that Dudley will play a major role in the future of the franchise next year and beyond.

And if previous summers are any indication, Dudley figures to make his pre-draft weakness list seem even more laughable as he improves his shot off the dribble and continues to morph from the tweener forward of Boston College vintage into a starting-caliber NBA shooting guard.

“It’s something that I feel like you have to earn. I feel like I’ve earned it,” Dudley said of the starting spot. “All you can do is just show them what you can do, so unless they bring in maybe an All-Star player you understand that, but I plan on coming back better next year.

“I’m only 25 so I still have a lot of improving to do.”

Tags: Jared Dudley

  • B. Cray Z.

    “Dud is a dad” – MUST work on the left hand.

    Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • http://bigleaguewiffleball.com/ Jon L.

    I love this guy and the passion he brings. I watched him play at BC where he was a force and I am very pleased to see him grow and become a solid NBA player.

  • Mel.

    Dudley’s the card-carrying definition of a “thousand-hour” player, and there’s absolutely no reason why he can’t hold down the SG starting spot, should the Suns hold off on a major acquisition in the off-season.

    Unlike some players (Who shall remain nameless, lest the utterance of their initials summon up certain zealot-y lunatics, a’la Beetlejuice), Duds understands what it is to have that level of trust invested in his play and potential, and will take the opportunity to heart… which ain’t a bad thing at all, considering his attitude and charisma.

  • Kevin

    Dudley maybe good enough to be a starter on the Suns, but if the Suns want to return anyway from 09-10 season, he should be the best bench player. We should try to pick up a shooting guard who can REALLY created there own shots such as Jamal Crawford if we are really lucky. The team’s record will be the same in those close games where noone can get a shot off.

  • Tony

    I love what Dudley brings to the table, his hustle, spotup shooting, and defense against sfs are great. However, in no way should he be the starting sg for the Suns. To add to the list of what Dudley needs to do to be better next season, he needs to be quicker. Countless times he was beaten off the dribble by faster and quicker starting sgs. Furthermore, as Michael alluded to, he needs to learn to create his own shot. Between Frye, Hill, Gortat, and Dudley, the Suns have no one that is able to create their own shots and are exlusively dependant on Nash to get baskets.

    If the Suns can add a legitimate starting pf, then the Suns can possibly get away with Dudley as a starter and make a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. Even that is unlikely. However, with the same starting five that ended this season for the Suns, there’s no way the Suns are not avoiding another lottery trip where they get a top 5 pick.

  • http://www.valleyofthesuns.com Michael Schwartz

    @Mel Great way to put it. Dudley is really the kind of guy Malcolm Gladwell is talking about. I wonder how many “more talented” players in the California area from the time Dudley grew up have been out of basketball for years now.

    I feel like Dudley can be a capable starting shooting guard on the right team and I sympathize with him about not being pigeonholed as a “bench energy guy,” but I do agree with you guys that in an ideal world he would be the sixth man and a quality shooting guard who can create more offense would be in his place.

  • GOsuns

    I know he’s not the typical scorer that a team would want to lean on, but his effort and determination are uncannied And, I think this team needs to hold on to a guy like this for the future No, he may not be a starter and we might get a better sg option but I would hate to see him in a trade going forward So rather a starter or a sixth man we need to keep him

  • Steve

    Mel, I’m pretty sure those guys you’re talking about are gone. *Crosses fingers*

    I really like Dudley a lot, and he has improved greatly since coming to Phoenix, but I’m still not sold on him being a legitimate 2 for a contending team. As he currently is, he would be a fantastic bench player who could grab 25 mpg on a great, championship-caliber team. But for my starting 2, I’d rather have someone who has a prolific outside and inside game.

  • Keith

    I have no problem with him starting. However, he would be better at the 3, but we have Grant Hill. Hopefully, when Grant Hill leaves, Dudley will be our starting 3 alongside a sweet-shooting SG, a high-scoring PF, Gortat, and a decent PG. I have no problems at all with that lineup.

  • Marley

    Not big enough … not athletic enough.

    That sums it up right there.

    In a year or two, he will just be FAT – as his metabolism slows even more down.

    From the business point of view, Dud is not the marketable type. Nobody in their right mind is going to want to buy his jersey or shoes. And he certainly is not going to sell out arenas or close out TV deals.

    In a way, I feel sorry for him. There will always be somebody bigger and/or more athletic then him. No amount of hardwork is going to change his FAT body-type.

    Just shut your mouth and know your role, Dud! If you aren’t a starter by 25 y/o, then you’ll never be one. It’s that simple.


    You acting like you own the internet or something. LMAO!

    How’s it looking now with teams that will trade for Steve Nash?

    Dallas still one of your top picks? They have JJ Barea why do they need Nash! LMAO!

  • Steve

    LMAO! That was teh funnay! You wins at intarnets!

  • auggie5000

    Yep. Your metabolism sure does slow while you are a professional athlete…

    Can somebody please show Marley to his seat?

  • Kevin B

    Marley is a troll!!!!! Get out of here!!!!!!!

  • Marley and Me

    Exactly Marley,

    Because every starting 2 has a shoe deal and sells out arenas…

    Man I hate when ignorant people are allowed access to the internet. The unfortunate part is if this guy(?) is over the age of 13, which judging by his fat jokes is unlikely, he probably already has 8 kids and a GED.

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