Breaking down Ronnie Price

New Suns point guard Ronnie Price

New Suns point guard Ronnie Price

Age: 28

Height/Weight: 6-2/190

Position: PG

Experience: 6 years (Kings and Jazz)

College: Utah Valley University

2010-11 Stats: 3.3 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.7 STL, 0.9 TO, 35.2 FG%, 29.0 3P%, 59 games, 12.2 minutes.

The Suns signed veteran guard Ronnie Price on Tuesday to replace an injured Zabian Dowdell as Phoenix’s third point guard. Price should battle Sebastian Telfair for backup duties as he gives the Suns much-needed defense and athleticism.

“When you look at Price, this is a guy who is extremely athletic, can get to the rim and he’s going to be able to guard people from baseline to baseline,” Suns GM Lance Blanks told The Arizona Republic. “That’s going to be where he hangs his hat or where he’s done that historically.”

Here’s a closer look at Price’s game:

Strengths

Defense

Outside of Grant Hill, Price has a chance to be the Suns’ best defender. It’s no coincidence he found a home under Jerry Sloan, one of the more defensive-minded coaches in NBA history.

Price is a scrappy, hard-nosed, on-the-ball defender who doesn’t back down against bigger guards. Last season Price allowed only 0.78 points per possession in isolation situations while forcing a turnover 16.2 percent of the time. He also held pick-and-roll ball handlers to 34.5 percent shooting.

The 6-foot-2 Utah Valley product does a nice job playing the passing lines, as he averaged 0.7 steals in only 12.2 minutes per game.  He’s a good help defender and isn’t afraid to step over and take a charge. Defense is by far the best part of Price’s game.

Athleticism

Price is a freak athlete. At only 6-foot-2 he does things most shooting guards or small forwards can’t do. As you can see below he has the ability to posterize Carlos Boozer one night, then pin James Harden in transition the next.

Energy and toughness

Although it won’t show up in the stats, Price is a constant energy source with a willingness to sacrifice his body. He’ll get on the floor for loose balls and do the little things that go unnoticed. He’s doesn’t have an abundance of talent, but he more than makes up for that with his heart, hustle, toughness and constant energy.

Weaknesses

Limited offensive game

Price will undoubtedly thrive in transition in Phoenix, but he could struggle in the halfcourt. He’s not very polished offensively and has been extremely inefficient for the majority of his career as he’s shot only 39.0 percent.

His offensive Synergy stats speak for themselves. Price ranked 448th in overall scoring as he shot only 35.9 percent from the floor last season in Utah, the worst among all guards in the league. He scored a pathetic 0.55 points per possession in isolations, and 0.56 points per possession out of the pick and roll.

While Price has a quick first step, he lacks the ability to score in a variety of ways. He has absolutely no mid-range game, limiting him to threes — where he shot only 29.0 percent last season — and layups — where he shot only 58.2 percent a year ago.

Although the sample size was minimal, Price didn’t make a shot from 3-9 feet, shot 11.1 percent from 10-15 feet, and 25.0 percent from 16-23 feet. Needless to say, Price is limited offensively and may have trouble in the halfcourt in Phoenix.

Not a pure point guard

Unless he beats out Sebastian Telfiar, Price will be the Suns’ third-string point guard. But Price isn’t exactly a point guard. He doesn’t run the pick and roll particularly well and lacks the vision necessary to distribute the ball effectively, which led him to a -2.48 pure point rating that John Hollinger describes as being “unspeakably awful.”

Price turned the ball over on 18.3 percent of his plays last season and shouldn’t be counted on to make plays for his teammates as he totalled more than three assists only once last season. But with that said, as long as Price can bring the ball up and get the Suns into their sets, he should be fine.

Verdict

The Suns didn’t win the free agent lottery by signing Ronnie Price, but Price gives them more depth at point guard than they’ve had in recent memory.

Price isn’t much of an upgrade over Zabian Dowdell, but he brings a skill set to the table that’s perfect for a guy in his role. He’ll wreak havoc in the backcourt with his stellar on-the-ball defense and make plays in transition with his athletic ability.

He’ll struggle to run the team at times and make questionable decisions but as long as Price can limit those errors and make the plays he made with Utah and Sacramento, the Suns will surely have one of the better third-string point guards in the NBA.

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