Alvin Gentry may have made the wackiest imagineable lineup change for the Suns.
It’s not that it was bad, especially the “putting Channing Frye on the bench” aspect of it, and it’s not that it was pointless. No, it was smart. Very smart, but nevertheless surprising.
The Suns have 3 guys who can play conventional shooting guard: Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown and Michael Redd. And you’d expect one of them to start every day, or at least until Wednesday you would.
Gentry made a lineup shuffle similar to that of Rick Carlisle in the Finals, going with a two point guard setup, giving Ronnie Price the starting spot at the 2.
And somehow, it worked out. How? Let’s see the effect on the players that are affected by this change the most:
Ronnie is one of those pesky defenders that you hate to play against. He’ll pester you all around the floor and try and force some steals. That, and unlike many other pesky guys, he’s pretty smart with what he does on the floor, so he won’t gamble, and he’ll double well. Jared Dudley, as good of a defender he is, is more of a small forward and often gets beaten by quicker guards. The size is there but the lateral quickness is lacking. Then Ronnie fits the bill of a secondary ball handler very well, especially given that he has a pretty good thing going with Marcin Gortat on the pick and roll as well (seeing a pattern of Gortat doing well on the pick and roll regardless of point guard here?), giving the Suns another weapon there.
It should be noted, however, that Ronnie isn’t the main cause for the change made by Gentry, his presence in the starting lineup is more of an attempt at counteract the awkward bench play from the Suns. (And by awkward, I mean a lot of scoring but most of it coming by ways of widely understood ugliness). Also, apparently, Gentry wanted to… Free Sebastian Telfair. Which turned out to be a surprisingly good idea in Boston and New York, somehow.
I think he was the main reason for the change. Jared is a typical spark plug, he comes in, makes a good play or two, gets his team (and the fans at home) rocking, and starts a fire. His relegation to the bench wasn’t a demotion as much as a promotion to the glorious role of the point forward. With Bassy and Shannon in the backcourt, Jared somehow turned out to be the most competent passer. As soon as Gentry realized that, he gave him the keys to the bench-Porsche in Boston, and Jared responded by giving him 4 assists in 21 minutes, most of which were pretty damn smart passes to cutting players.
Now, this might be a one game occurence, but nevertheless I like it. Jared has been working on being a secondary playmaker to Nash but with Hill in the starting lineup, he’d have trouble doing that. Against bench players, however, he has a chance to stand out and show his worth as a passer, a feat he accomplished in Boston.
Morris had an unlucky first start in the NBA. He was sick and ended up going out of the game after a putrid 6 minutes. The second start wasn’t much better, either, particularly on the offensive side, where he committed turnover after turnover — evidence of unfamiliarity with starter’s plays and the raised level of competition that starting presents for sure. But with the elongated break the Suns are now having, I’m certain Markieff will bounce back against Dallas, especially that the team won’t have to worry about Dirk Nowitzki. What’s most important, however is that Morris seems a little more solid defensively than Frye, who really had trouble keeping opponents in front of him at times. With Markieff, Gortat has a little more comfort on the glass too. That definitely helped the Suns solve their rebounding woes in Boston.
If the universe was ruled by NBA 2k12, Shannon Brown would be starting.
Good thing it’s not, though. Brown has been hellishly inconsistent for the Suns, giving my face the cringe-cringe-cringe-smile-smile-cringe-smile treatment. However it seems that Gentry is slowly bashing “get into the lane” into his head. If he does that more, my cringes might be a bit less cringy. Whatever the case, the bench is the only place I really enjoy seeing Shannon Brown on.
Channing has not stepped up after his benching.
I mean, his best role is as a three point scarecrow penalizing lazy scouts at this point. However, he does seem to be playing smarter basketball, taking less hard shots and such. I expect him to improve and provide a steady surprising strike in the second unit. However, until I see it, I won’t believe it.
I guess Bassy did take his bench warming seriously, as he came back doing… Unbassy things. In the 20 minutes he played against Boston and New York (10 minutes each) he hasn’t comitted the turnover, limiting himself to playing solid defence. And that kind of performance I don’t mind from a guy who’s not even the playmaker on this bench unit.
Michael Redd and Hakim Warrick
The poor guys just fell right back out of the rotation. Expect Hakim to put a lot of pressure on Channing, though, and Michael will probably start playing more minutes once he gets even more up to game speed.
Now, to end this, I’m really intrigued by the unit Gentry came up with in the endgame against Boston: Nash-Price-Dudley-Hill-Gortat was a solid unit on both sides of the ball playing good defence and good offence (including a HUGE Dudley 3 and Icicled free throws from Gortat).
Whenever another team has a small frontcourt, expect this unit to come out and try and do some damage.
That’s it for this post, however rest assured that I will keep observing these new lineups as time passes and sample sizes increase. Until then, however, Alvin Gentry gets a big “redeemed” stamp from me.