Where does Phoenix turn without Grant Hill?

Posted by on March 31st, 6:00 pm

On a roster that requires every point, rebound — every contribution really — because of its lack of star power, the loss of Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill to a knee injury is painful for Alvin Gentry’s team as it eyes the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race.

For you fantasy basketball players, here’s one analogy to statistically compare the loss of Hill to: I won my fantasy basketball league regular season (impressive, I know) partially because of guys like Dwight Howard and Josh Smith, who can make up for my mid-level players’ bad nights and then some with two or three combined explosions per week.

Without those statistical stars, mid-level statistical contributions become much more magnified. Such is the case with this real-life Suns team.

With no explosive scorer on the team and with the PER ratings taking a steep drop-off after Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat, Hill’s averages of 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in 29.2 minutes played are that much more important. Instead of icing on the cake those numbers would’ve been when Amar’e Stoudemire or even Jason Richardson were still around, they’re an absolute necessity for this year’s team.

Now, for at least a couple weeks if not the entire season, those numbers are gone.

Add in Hill’s leadership capabilities, and his knee injury might be the final blow to Phoenix’s playoff hopes.

“Obviously Grant is not going to be able to play for a couple of weeks at least,” Gentry said. “At the end of the day somebody’s going to have to step in and pick up where he left off. We’re still trying to battle and stay in this playoff race. Somebody is obviously going to have to elevate their game.”

How will Gentry and the Suns make up for the loss of their co-captain?

Shannon Brown slides into a starting spot

The first and most obvious difference in Hill’s absence is the induction of Shannon Brown into the Suns’ starting lineup. Averaging 21.6 minutes on the year, his minutes have shot up to 42 and 38 in the two games where Hill has been out. That’s taken about 20 minutes of Hill’s 30 minutes, and Brown has not looked all that bad playing with the starting unit. He’s appeared less apt to force shots and when the ball has gone through him, he hasn’t disrupted the flow of the offense as one might have expected.

But while Brown has proven he can easily make up the 10 points per game and fit into the offense better than expected, the change-up still puts Phoenix in a defensive bind, purely from the standpoint that Brown is playing two guard and effectively shifting Jared Dudley to the small forward slot.

“In the San Antonio game, I thought Shannon did a great job,” Gentry said Friday. “What (moving Brown to the starting lineup) does is, it takes away some of the flexibility we have from a defensive standpoint.”

Josh Childress could again have a role

The Josh Childress project is really turning into a real-life trilogy of Jurassic Park. Time and time again, the Suns keep resurrecting the gritty small forward from the bench with a sense of promise, only for them to eventually realize it’s not going to work out (I think that comparison fits for both the storyline of the series and also the cinematic worth of the films, but I digress).

This time, they have little choice.

Essentially, the loss of Hill hurts because where Brown could be used, like Hill, to defend point guards that Nash couldn’t handle, Phoenix still doesn’t have a great option to stop lengthy small forwards like Kevin Durant or Rudy Gay, or any perimeter power forwards. If the Suns need two defensive stoppers on the floor at the same time, the duo of the 6-foot-8 Childress and Dudley becomes the only option.

Ronnie Price by default

Sebastian Telfair has a firm grasp on the backup point guard role, but Ronnie Price still has some value on the roster. Brown’s move to the starting lineup exhausts Phoenix’s backup two guard rotation, making Price the immediate candidate to fill in his slot in the second unit so long as the opposition doesn’t have too much size at the position.

Price played 10 and 12 minutes in the past two games after being almost an afterthought in the rotation, and Gentry backed up Price’s role by throwing out his name on Friday as someone who will receive more minutes.

Where does Michael Redd fit in?

Michael Redd was regularly coming into the game with the second unit as the small forward, but Gentry made no mention of increasing his minutes following the injury to Hill. His minutes didn’t take a bump in the two most recent games either, and with the Suns appearing more concerned with their defensive deficiencies after taking the bad news, Redd probably won’t see more than his usual 13 to 14 minutes per game.

Then again, if Childress is too much of an offensive liability and defenses let him float on the perimeter so they can sink into the paint, there’s always the possibility Gentry roles the dice with the veteran scorer — especially if the Suns fall completely out of the playoff race.

Kevin Zimmerman is the lead blogger and editor for Valley of the Suns. He is also editor of AZDesertSwarm.com, an Arizona Wildcats\’ blog, and a contributor at SB Nation and Pac-12.com.

Twitter LinkedIn Google+ 

Tags: Grant Hill · Phoenix Suns · Phoenix Suns Analysis

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Scott // Apr 1, 2012 at 12:42 am

    My general inclination would be to start Redd at the 2. He’s played better in his few starts than he has as a bench player.

    If he’s not “Redd-hot,” substitute him early with Shannon “the Cannon” Brown. With Brown coming in at SG late and staying for the 2nd unit, the 2nd unit guards could keep some continuity and scoring power.

    I’d also start Dudley at the 3 and use Childress as his sub. Again, according to my philosophy that the bench must be able to score, I’d sub Childress for Dudley while Nash is still on the floor, then return to Dudley before Nash comes back.

    Since the primary offense for the first unit is the Nash / Gortat pick and roll, having Childress and Redd play minutes with the starters shouldn’t hurt as much as having them play extended minutes with the 2nd unit, which has no go-to play.

  • 2 Rich Anthony, (KJL) // Apr 1, 2012 at 1:44 am

    Hill’s averages of 10.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in 29.2 minutes

    Josh Childress.

    I’m sorry. Apologies to all of those out there who may wander onto VOTS and read this, but Chilly is a better option than Hill anyway. I don’t care that he can’t shoot.

    You give him 30 minutes per game and he’ll get you that 10 points. Probably more around 16 points. He’s going to get you 4 boards a game and he’s going to get you more offensive boards. He’s long and lanky and he doesn’t need plays drawn up for him. Give him the minutes already.

    You know why Chily can’t sniff the floor? Steve Nash.

    The 3 spot, for the most part, has to sit on those corners or on the elbow and wait. Otherwise, they’re in “the way.”
    Now factor in Grant Hill, and while he’s still a nice player, he doesn’t have that quick explosive first step. He doesn’t have that long stride either, so he can’t do what Marion used to do: Corner-backdoor cuts to the rim. Josh can run those all day. He can run that curl-pick screen that they used to run as well. These are all high percentage finishes at the rim with the space the offense generates. There is no reason why Gentry can’t go in that direction with Hill out.

    If Brown is going to produce and play within the offense like he has over the last 2 games, then I say start Chily at the 3, and allow a more polished JMZ feast on second units paired with Redd.

  • 3 PennyAnd1 // Apr 1, 2012 at 6:57 am

    @Rich Anthony

    Those things you mentioned about Chilly are great. We like to believe that, but unfortunately he has proven time & time again that he is not consistent. There were consecutive games he played where he completely did nothing. I’m sorry to say, Chilly is good, as in good guy, but Hill is far above Chilly.

    Hill brings leadership, scoring ability, and anticipating reflexes. Hill knows where to pass, knows when to screen, knows when to play give & take, and especially knows how to shut down an opponents number 1 scorer. Something Chilly can’t do consistently with all his youth & athleticism. You can’t teach basketball IQ, you either have it or you don’t. Not to say Chilly doesn’t have it, but Chilly is molded into a role-player, not a scorer.

    You under-estimate Hill’s value, just like everyone is under-estimating Nash’s. Without both these guys and their leadership & their will to be patient & work with these group they have, this team would definitely sit at the bottom of the division. Maybe even ranked as the 2nd worst team in the west behind Hornets.

  • 4 Scott // Apr 1, 2012 at 8:22 am

    @Rich -

    Despite the likelihood that Childress was originally selected to replace Hill, Hill is clearly a far better scorer and defender than Childress. It’s not even close. Of the two, one will be going to the Hall of Fame and the other will likely be going back overseas.

    The problem with getting Childress on the floor is not Nash; it’s that he doesn’t score. If the Suns had a few ball hog scorers, then Childress’s small but efficient offense would be welcome. However, since the Suns struggle along needing more team scoring, Childress subtracts from that effort.

    Price has been getting on the floor more than Childress because even though he’s small and his offense is poor and spotty, he still scores more than Childress does.

    Childress seems like a nice, athletic guy, but he’s even more allergic to scoring than Boris Diaw.

  • 5 Scott // Apr 1, 2012 at 8:32 am

    If you were going to put Childress on the court with some of the current Suns players, Brown, Redd, Frye, Morris, and Dudley would be among the best teammates.

    If Brown could bring the ball up and let Redd run the offense, then you could put Brown, Redd, Childress, Morris, and Frye on the court at the same time.

  • 6 steve // Apr 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Childress has never failed to produce when given minutes. Saying anything else is kind of pointless due to the small sample size we’ve seen of him in a suns uni. A lot of times guys just need to be given a chance to show their stuff. Childress was given $7M a year for a reason. It might not have been a good reason for the suns, but the man has NBA talent for sure.

  • 7 And1 // Apr 1, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    @Steve

    I remember when Suns first signed Childress, everyone was raving about him, that he was like the Matrix Shawn Marion. They missed Shawn Marion so much that they paid him 7 mill and stated that it was steal… However we all found out that Childress is nowhere near Shawn or Hill.

    Don’t get me wrong Chilly has talent indeed. He just don’t know how to use it right. He is shy & modest in scoring just like Boris Diaw, but without the passing skills. He can jump & move quick, but he doesn’t have the killer instinct in offense like Shawn.

    What J-Chill does have is a knack for reflecting balls and hustle defense, a trait of a great role-player. Unfortunately, Suns have way too many role-players. Even Dudley & Frye should be considered role-players.

    The Suns sure missed out on Either Monta Ellis, JR Smith, or JJ Hickson. Those guys thrive in scoring, and is what Nash badly needed to work a 2-man game with, just like with J-Rich.

    Let’s see if Brown can step up his scoring game.

Leave a Comment