The careful calculation of Jared Dudley

Jared Dudley (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

Basketball players have skill sets defined as refined or lacking. They’re given these by physical attributes, but also by mentalities that, when combined, create what we loosely refer to as their “game.”

The best basketball players — Kobe, Michael, LeBron — have a lot of really great physical attributes but, of course, they have mentalities that define them as well. Often times, an oblivious nature comes with elite athleticism and even an elite basketball player’s mentality, and that makes sense in a sport that’s played with more reaction than calculation.

Reading this account from Rosicky Jones of Paul Shirley’s, the similarities of one J.R. Smith and one Ricky Rubio make this a little more clear.

“Smith plays like he grew up in a video game; he is a ridiculously gifted player who is completely unaware of the concept of repercussions. He does exactly what I do when I’m playing NBA Live; I play like a dick; I don’t pass, I shoot way too many threes, my defense defines lax, I cherry pick all game and I always attempt dunks that are a touch out of my avatar’s range. Rubio plays like a guy who grew up with 4 older brothers, who were also way too skilled for him to compete. So, he learned to complement those brothers, and, while adjusting his game to accentuate theirs, he developed a refined and desired skill-set. Rubio made himself far too integral to the fabric of a team to remain an afterthought and Smith made himself too integral to the fabric of himself to remain an afterthought.”

Both Smith and Rubio have little consciousness of who they are, both physically and mentally, but they each play their “game” to a purity that can only be defined as who they are — a gun-slinging, reckless scorer and a selfless, artistic brand of a passer.

Being so ignorant to thinking about or wanting to redefine their “game” helps both J.R. Smith and Ricky Rubio.

But the Phoenix Suns’ Jared Dudley falls into the opposite end of this basketball player spectrum, and he’s probably included in a small minority of the non-oblivious.

An impressive snippet of evidence came in the Suns’ 99-95 loss against the Miami Heat that opened their most recent road trip. Matched up against LeBron James for the majority of his court time, you didn’t know how Dudley would have the size or speed to handle James if he decided to attack.

Dudley does have skills. He’s a pure set jump shooter who takes advantage of playing with Steve Nash. His slashing ability has improved this season, though it’s hardly helped by his lack of athleticism. In that, however, we see why it’s so impressive that Dudley has turned himself from a benchwarmer, to a stellar sixth-man candidate, and now into a legitimate starting NBA shooting guard.

Suns fans know all too well that Dudley won’t hesitate to count on one hand the number of dunks he’s had this season, and that’s a perfect example of why he’s successful.

He’s not oblivious.

So when Dudley faced LeBron James last Tuesday, he knew he was at a disadvantage, yet he attacked James in a calculated and quiet manner that few players might.

This wasn’t about showing James how tough he was, nor was it to show he could beat James with a hounding, overly-physical brand of defense that might end up in LeBron blowing by him for a ferocious slam.

This was about outsmarting the King.

Reviewing the MySynergySports log and tossing out the transition opportunities in which James had the outright advantage, Dudley held James to 2-of-5 shooting. No, that’s not a large sample size, but hear me out.

The first made bucket came at the buzzer of the first quarter, when James simply faded away from 15 feet as Dudley contested the shot; not really much fault on Dudley’s part. The other make came when Dudley was caught by a double-screen late in the fourth quarter, when the Heat made their run to dissolve a 10-point Phoenix lead. Again, not a whole lot Dudley could’ve done.

But the three misses?

Throughout the game, Dudley hardly pressed James — he rarely touched him, even. He stayed an arms-length away as to disallow open jump shots yet was in a decent position if James went all speeding-freight-train trying to get to the basket.

Inadvertently or not, his strategy baited James into bad shots. Three times, James went into post-up mode and all three times he missed the attempt.

Aside from the clutch-factor of LeBron, it’s James’ post game that receives the most criticism in the basketball-minded circles. I’m sure James himself knows this too, and it’s a testament to Dudley’s baiting defense that James decided to take him into the post at all.

It was just an example of a player whose smarts outweigh — and are partially because of — the outrageously-chronicled fact that he can hardly jump over a phone book.

Unlike J.R. Smith, Ricky Rubio, and LeBron James, who are defined by their “game,” Dudley’s “game” should be defined not by what naturally makes it, but how he makes it — consciously.

Tags: Jared Dudley

  • Electromikey

    I suspect Dudley may make an excellent coach some day, after he retires. The amount of thought he puts into his game gives him the sort of background he’d need to be successful in that sort of position.

  • Brian C.

    I always say he’s the 1 player on this team u just can’t get mad at. He always makes smart, positive plays and will always make up for his mistakes later in the game. Just gotta love him!!! PERIOD!

  • Serek

    JD is smart and professional. He knows his weaknesses and works hard to remove them or make up for them. He’s one of the players who really improved over the off-season. He’s got a reliable outside shot, nice D, high basketball IQ. And, of course, is a great catalyst of this team’s chemistry.
    Maybe he doesn’t do crazy spin-fadaways like Kobe or 360-between-the-legs-reverse-windmill dunks like some others, but he did add a few sweet moves underneath the basket this year.

  • Willi Germany

    absolutely agree @ Brian C.!

  • Mel.

    As blasphemous as it may be, the assessment of Dudz in this article reminds me a lot of the write-ups on another player who’s been in the public eye recently… Derek Fisher. When pundits are discussing Fish’s “intangibles,” it’s always in terms of work ethic, role-playing, his steadying presence on teammates and his eye towards the more subtle aspects of the game, and improving his understanding of what can change the ebb and flow of what happens on the court… with his actual numbers usually showing up somewhere halfway down the page.

    I could definitely see Dudz having that kind of long, stable career, and doing some remarkably good work for a contending team, someday (In the off chance that, you know, we don’t magically revisit the notoriety of the SSOL and ’93 eras in the next, uh… decade.), and then making the moves that Electromikey mentioned. Guy’s just got the love of the game in his DNA, and it’s clear that he’s living his dream.

    Though on a completely unrelated note: does the timing of this article seem a bit ironic, considering the news that’s coming out of New York? I know that taking swipes and re-calibrated back-glances at STAT is starting to feel a bit passe’, but hearing that he’s now got a major spinal issue that might ostensibly kill the rest of his season fills me with the usual fine-malt mix of sympathy and dirty, dirty relief that he’s no longer in PHX.

    The long-fermenting wine made from sour grapes, maybe. But still.

  • Daniel

    @Mel: I’m drinking that wine. It is appears more and more that maybe… the FO made the right call on STAT.

  • steve


    I had little doubt 4 years ago that Amare shouldn’t be signed to another max long-term deal. Now I don’t have a shred of doubt. Is it still possible that Amare returns to his all-star form with the ability to go beast mode at will and drop 40? Anything is possible, I guess. But if I had to put a number on Amare’s chances at living up to his contract, I’d put that number somewhere in the range of 0.1% to 1%. It’s not gonna happen.

    You know what I think is very interesting about Amare is that I think his HoF chances are taking a serious hit, especially if he’s only got a few more decent years in him.

    basketball-reference has his HoF probability at 0.607, but I think that’s way high. He might not make it to 20000 points (how can a guy known primarily as a scoring threat make it in when he can’t break 20k?). He isn’t going to touch 10000 rebounds. He could conceivably not make it to 1000 assists or 1000 blocks, although there is an extremely high probability he will hit both of those marks. Nearly all of his career numbers and averages are somewhere in between #50 and #100 all time, with most of them hovering around 80. Elo rating has him as the 94th best NBA player of all time. To be honest, I don’t think the 94th best player of all time has a very good chance to make it to the hall, especially considering the fact that a guy like KJ (who elo has as the 80th best player of all time) has almost zero chance of seeing the HoF.

    I don’t wish ill on Amare or anything, I just think it’s interesting that he has completely disintegrated. He’s just a shadow of his former self. It was just a few seasons ago that he was either the best or second-best PF in the league by most accounts. Now he’s not even top half.

    Anyways, I ranted a lot longer than I wanted. Long story short. The FO made the right call on Amare.

  • Grover

    The Suns FO clearly made the safest choice in not signing Amare. Signing him to a fully guaranteed and uninsurable contract like NYK did would have been an enormous financial risk for a franchise with shallower pockets than a big market team like NYK. I actually would have been fine has they signed Amare as at least it would have been a calculated gamble designed to win a championship. It’s not a financial risk I would take if it were my money, but as a fan I could understand the gamble and may even have been impressed with the FOs cajones had they taken the gamble.

    The clear mistake that almost everyone would agree with is that once you’ve made the choice to allow Amare to leave (or recognized he was leaving whether you wanted him to or not) you can’t fill the cap space left by his departure with long term deals to overpaid role players. Had the Suns “overpaid” for proven players like Bosh that would have been understandable, but thinking Turk, Warrick, and Childress were the answer is baffling.

  • Scott

    What I like about Dudley is that he started with hustle, then he purposefully added (in the following order) defense, shooting, driving, and now … dunking? He’s actually adding athleticism … something we rarely see a player do.

    Dudley is evolving before our eyes.

    @Grover -

    One thing that puzzles me about fans … so many of them think a FO can just create players out of thin air. Instead, they have to choose from who is available at the time, and who will accept an offer.

    When the Suns lost Amare to FA (not necessarily a bad thing), there just wasn’t much of anything on the FA list available for them to pick up. The sports press and many fans hailed the signings of Childress, Turkoglu, and (to a lesser extent) Warrick as inspired. I was considerably more phlegmatic about it, in that I thought Turkoglu was on the downside and would be a waste of money, I didn’t see where Childress would fit in, and while I liked Warrick, I knew he came with limitations.

    I’m not sure how the cap rules work, but I’ve heard references from time to time that sometimes teams need to keep a certain spending level or lose it. So maybe the Suns felt they had to sign players to X amount of money simply to keep their ability to spend, and lacking any clear winning ideas, just signed players that fit the financial puzzle.