Josh Childress’ future in Phoenix brighter than you may think despite lackluster campaign

Posted by on May 27th, 1:21 am

PHOENIX — This is not what Josh Childress signed up for.

He did not leave Greece for Phoenix to fracture a finger during the preseason and then watch his rotation spot disappear just as his injury healed due to a trade he had no control over.

After a lackluster opening to his season, Childress became the 11th man in a 10-man rotation after the trade and barely played from the end of December to the middle of March.

For the season Childress averaged 5.0 points and 3.9 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game while playing in just 54 contests. Consequently, the five-year, $33.5 million contract he signed before last season is looking like quite the albatross to some who don’t see a place for Childress in the Suns’ future.

But it’s too early to write off the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft because his season wasn’t quite as bad as it looks on first blush.

“It’s hard to gauge where Josh is because he went through such a long stretch of not being able to play and not being involved in the games and then we can’t put him in and expect for everything to just click,” said head coach Alvin Gentry.

One of the biggest reasons Childress became the odd man out of the rotation is that he could not buy a jumper, and that’s a problem for a Suns team that relies so much on great spacing from its wings.

Childress made just 1-of-16 three-pointers (6.3 percent) and many of the misses weren’t close. It’s a shot he can hit with ease in warm-ups, and he has had success from deep before, drilling 49.2 percent of his 65 attempts in 2005-06.

For the season, Chilly also hit just 1-of-7 shots from 16-23 feet and 2-of-4 from 10-15 feet, according to HoopData, so he literally did all of his damage on the interior. He was very good indeed at the rim, where he took 72 percent of his shots and knocked down 65.6 percent of them.

According to Synergy Sports Technology, Childress scored 0.39 points per play and scored 17.9 percent of the time when spotting up. That, not surprisingly, ranks 356th in the league.

However, Chilly scored 1.41 points per play and shot 76.5 percent off cuts in 51 attempts, which ranked 31st in the league.

“He’s a slasher,” Gentry said. “He’s not a spacer, we’ve got to understand that. We’ve got to put him in a position where he’s slashing.”

Childress was one of the better slashers in the league back in 2007-08 when his .647 true shooting percentage ranked fourth in the league just behind Amare Stoudemire and ahead of Steve Nash.

We saw his intuitive feel of when to cut to the basket this season, but he wasn’t on the court long enough to create the kind of rapport with his point guards where it seems like they are playing with one brain.

I’m surprised he was bad as he was from the perimeter. Despite the funky shot he has made jump shots before, and yet he was non-existent from the perimeter this season. Considering how many players become three-point shooters in the desert I thought he would work on the shot all offseason and become a threat from that range, but it never happened.

At this point he needs to either be in the gym taking a thousand threes a day or, like Gentry was saying, the Suns need to just understand he’s a wing who can’t shoot threes and focus on putting him in situations where he can thrive.

Childress’ 0.139 WP48 is above average and fourth on the Suns behind Nash, Gortat and Dudley, according to NerdNumbers.com.

His 10.0 rebound rate ranked fifth among guards and his 8.9 offensive rebound rate led all guards by a wide margin and would be fourth right behind the Matrix if he were classified as a small forward.

That should come as no surprise as he’s always been an elite offensive rebounder for his size. He led guards in offensive rebound rate in 2007-08 and 2004-05 and ranked in the top three his other two years. His numbers compare favorably to small forwards as well.

It makes sense that Childress pulled down offensive boards at a Marion-esque rate because the Suns signed Childress to be a sort of Matrix Lite (obviously they weren’t expecting even near the same production, just the same kind of player).

Along with both being solid offensive rebounders and slashers, they are both versatile perimeter defenders. While Childress was not a lockdown defender this year he did do a nice in isolation, holding opponents to 0.81 points per play and 40.9 percent shooting.

Like Marion/Grant Hill, he’s the kind of player who can guard multiple positions, which is always valued in Phoenix, and while both have funky shooting form at least Marion’s jumpers go in. Of course, Childress didn’t end up having even a fraction of the impact that Marion did

Rewind back to the Suns’ intrasquad scrimmage in training camp and Childress was the star of the show, scoring a game-high 28 points on 11-for-13 shooting and leaving everyone shaking their head at the kind of impact he might have in Phoenix’s system.

Thanks to the finger injury and the Orlando trade as well as Childress not doing anything to nail down a rotation spot, J-Chill was just the odd man out all year.

The thing you have to like is that he didn’t pout, he kept being a good teammate despite a situation he couldn’t have been happy with and then did his best to impress for next year during a solid end to the season.

“He didn’t get to play as many minutes I’m sure as he anticipated, but I think after a year of understanding what we want and how we play I think he can be a better player for us next year,” Gentry said.

Childress is a role player with limited shooting range, but he’s still the kind of guy who will hustle every second he’s out there, get easy looks at the rim, clean up the offensive boards and use his length to be a pest on defense.

J-Chill may not be worth the full mid-level, but he brings enough to the table to be a solid rotation player next season.

Michael Schwartz founded ValleyoftheSuns in October 2008 and is the owner/editor emeritus of the site. He is currently working toward his MBA in sports business at San Diego State University.

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Tags: Josh Childress · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

13 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // May 27, 2011 at 5:04 am

    I think this article actually illustrates what is wrong with the Phoenix Suns philosophy. I think it paints a very positive picture for Chilly, but a cloudy look at why the team has problems.

    I won’t go into it being a product of a Nash-driven system. You already know my opinion on that.

    A problem with the offense in general is that it also controls the defensive side of the ball because of it’s style and / or the coaches belief in his system.

    I apologize, but all players on any given team can’t be dead-eye shooters. You simply cannot put a team together that way and expect to be contenders every season.

    Asking JC to get in the gym all summer and “work on his shooting” makes the team weaker because he simply isn’t that type of player. Talking about the shot of Matrix is a bit suspect too because, for the most part, (especially in the playoffs), that outside jumper of his was not reliable; most of his points came at the rim or close to it while he was in the valley.

    I don’t want JC parked outside. I want him attacking and, as an extra bonus, I want him buzzing around the rim helping Gortat out on the offensive glass and I want him to keep cutting to the rim opposite the PnR action.

    Truth be told, we have our shooters. We have plenty of shooters in the valley. We don’t need another one. I know some of you will bring up Grant Hill, but if he still had most of that mutant-like athleticism that he possessed pre-ankle situation, he would not be shooting that pull-up J or remained parked in that corner. He would be attacking the same way that JC does, and we would not mind it.

    His defense is stellar, but what a small sample size this past season was. Can’t go on that alone, but the package you get with him is essential to a team with defensive and rebounding problems, AS IS.

    If he has playing time, he’s going to produce points while also stalking whoever he’s guarding and he’d be a thief in the passing lanes. Changing his game is not one of the problems we have in the valley. Getting a on-my-own scorer is. I’d let JC be JC and hope Gentry sees what he has and uses it to it’s full potential.

  • 2 Steve // May 27, 2011 at 8:30 am

    I’m a huge J-Chil fan. I always go back to that ASU vs Stanford game when Stanford was virtually unbeatable and ASU was crushing them late in the game. Childress took over and annihilated ASU single-handedly in the last 6-7 minutes of that game and kept Stanford’s season rolling on (they eventually lost a game, but it wasn’t going to be that night). It’s one of the more amazing things I’ve ever seen in college basketball. Shane Battier’s 21-0 streak by himself might be the most amazing.

    Anyway, Childress is a legitimate player. His PER was over 15 every year in ATL, he’s got a true shooting percentage near 60%, his offensive rebounding rate is astronomical, and his win share numbers are pretty favorable.

    He’s easily better than Pietrus. Every single metric there is points to that. I’m really not sure why Pietrus got the nod over him. If we give J-Chil a chance to get 25 mpg next year, we will be a better team for it.

  • 3 KLS // May 27, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I agree Rich, but I’m happy to read that Gentry recognizes what type of player JC is. Hopefully we’ll see Gentry utilizing JC’s slashing skills more, as it can add a different offensive dimension contrary to what most NBA teams prepare to defend Phx against. I hope they don’t give up on him soon and trade him. I hope they find a way to give him minutes and scoring opportunities b/c JC can definitely provide an offensive threat. The Suns know this, that’s why they signed him to a 6 yr deal, or whatever it was. Too early to give up yet.

  • 4 Tony // May 27, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    I really respect Childress for not pouting when he hardly played. However, even the defensive-minded Jeff Van Gundy said that you can’t just be a defensive wing and not make even open shots. Childress has got to learn how to shoot, otherwise it’s like playing four against five offensively. How he learned to shoot the way he does is astounding. I mean, who taught him his form? It’s awful and as long as he continues to shoot that way, he’s never going to be productive offensively. Sure slashing works, but if the defense knows you can’t shoot, then they’ll just play further away and take away the slashing moves.
    Finally, if Childress could dribble, he could at least be effective driving to the basket. If he can develop some ball-handling skills, he won’t need to rely exclusively on slashing to the basket.

  • 5 Steve // May 27, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    @Tony – I’m not saying he’s a superstar, but I think your assessment of childress is way off.

  • 6 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // May 27, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    Yeah, Tony. You’re quite strange with this one.

    Obviously, he is going to make shots. It just so happens that he won’t be blasting off from 22+ feet. That’s perfectly fine with me. He’d make plenty of shots from mid range and in.

    Also, quite curious that you say he won’t have to rely on just slashing to the basket while also saying he needs to work on his ball handling.

    JC, when given playing time, gets to the basket pretty easily against most guys that end up guarding him and when he is challenged with help, he’s crafty enough to adjust and keep attacking.

    In order to do that, you’ve got to have a pretty good handle on the rock.

    And, seeing as that being his strong suit on the offensive side of the court, you would have to assume that he actually can handle the rock, right?

    So… uh, yeah. What side of your own argument are you backing? How strange…

  • 7 khandor // May 28, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Hello.

    I am attempting to get an email address for the “Valley of The Suns” web site, since there is no “Contact Us” section on the home page.

    If you could please forward this to me, asap, it would be very much appreciated.

    Thanks, in advance.

    khandor

  • 8 Jon L. // May 28, 2011 at 10:16 am

    He has tremendous talent, but he has never turned that into production in the NBA. Hopefully, he can be a serviceable bench player next year.

  • 9 Steve // May 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Michael very clearly pointed out some of Childress’ strong traits, but I guess people have a hard time reading or googling (surprised “googling” isn’t a word yet, my auto-correct picked it up).

    basketball-reference is one of the most amazing sites to figure out if you actually know a player very well. I don’t think anyone is going to say Childress is a superstar. Most would say he’s a bust for a sixth pick overall, and I would tend to agree with that. HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean he completely lacks in production. In fact, in every single year he saw significant minutes, he was a better-than-average player.

    Here are some of his numbers in ATL

    PER (progressing by year):
    15.2/15.8/16.2/17.8

    TS%:
    .543/.626/.586/.647

    ORtg:

    113/121/119/127

    Pts:

    10/10.1/13/11.8 (with a usage of under 20% every year)

    All these numbers aren’t fantastic, and no one is going to try to tell you they are. However, they do point to the fact that Childress is someone who is easily worthwhile to have on your team (and give significant minutes to him).

    I’m not ready to write Childress off as a terrible shooter yet, either, when he demonstrated he can hit the long-ball with some consitency (albeit not at the clip we would like to see here in PHX).

  • 10 Tony // May 28, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Rich,

    I don’t understand your confusion. Childress is great at slashing off the ball to the basket, no argument there. However, other than offensive rebounding tip ins, the rest of his offensive game is non-existent. It’s not only that he can’t shoot 22+ feet from the basket, it’s that he’s not a consistent shooter from 15 feet and beyond. As a perimeter player, that’s unacceptable. It cripples the team’s offensive spacing, because opposition defenses can simply play off him and close the paint.

    My point about his ball handling skills was that if he could learn to handle the ball well, he could take his man off the dribble and penetrate to the basket. Right now, he’s a poor ball handler. When he slashes to the basket, he does so without the ball in his hands and relies on Nash spoon-feeding him passes at the rim.

  • 11 Evan // May 29, 2011 at 11:05 am

    If you watch Childress’ play over the years, he has a shot that when he is confident goes in, he can handle the ball, for some reason last year he was not confident shooting probably because of the broken finger to start the season, but i hate people using lack of confidence as an excuse, does Nash ever lack confidence? kobe? Lebron? He just needs to stop being a bit@h, with regards to ball handling no one on the suns is given any confidence or encouragement to handle the ball for any amount of time other than point guards, thats just how Gentry’s offence is. If you ask me we should not have anyone on the team who has a problem with confidence or effort, because we will never win with them, you can coach rebounding, defense, shooting, and passing you cannot coach confidence, or effort. On the reverse of the spectrum VC has supreme confidence but puts in no effort, these players are as bad if not worse as the bit@hes with no confidence.

  • 12 Keith // May 31, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    I agree with Tony completely. He can be better than he was this year, but so can Pietrus. If Pietrus knocks down shots like he did in Orlando, he’s better for us than Childress.

  • 13 Steve // May 31, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Pietrus is worse in virtually every measurable (and I think the intangibles as well). Pietrus isn’t better for any team.

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