Jared Dudley will continue as Phoenix’s one given


PHOENIX — Jared Dudley’s career could be misleading because of his style.

Maybe it’s because while it feels like the Phoenix Suns guard has been in the NBA for a decade, he’s only finishing up his fifth year in the league. As one of the better — if not the best — quotes in the locker room, it’s hard to believe he’s only 26 years old.

It’s also hard to conceptualize how the 22nd pick by the Charlotte Bobcats in 2007 was a throw-in when the Suns acquired Jason Richardson. The man was starting as Richardson’s replacement this past season, and while one could argue that represents a fault of Phoenix’s management, there’s nothing bad about someone taking advantage of an opportunity.

“I thought this year for me, I took a step in the right direction starting and improving my game from last year,” Dudley said in April. “I want to continue improving.”

At 12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game, Dudley’s not blowing anyone away, but his career trajectory hasn’t yet peaked. Instead, it’s slowly but surely creeping upwards in relevance, and for a Suns team that missed out on the playoffs by a few games, that relevance can be marked by the small forward’s PER of 15.48, which was third on the team behind Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat.

[RELATED: The careful calculation of Jared Dudley]

Along with Grant Hill, a slimmed down Dudley pulled much of the weight in the Suns’ perimeter defense. His minutes shot up to 31.1 per game, yet he still was smart enough and had the legs to shoot at a career-best 48.5 percent on the year.

Simply put, Dudley is one of the few guys that we know will be around next season, and there’s little doubt his role will not diminish.

So why was Dudley so important to the Suns this season, and why will he continue to be a key cog in Phoenix’s future plans?

Spreading the floor

Like Channing Frye, Dudley’s importance as a long-range shooter is paramount in Phoenix’s system. While his percentage from beyond the three-point line dipped to 38.3 percent in the 2011-12 season, Dudley’s catch-and-shoot ability — Dudley was assisted on 98.8 percent of his three-pointers, according to HoopData.com  will be even more important next season.

Asked what the Suns need the most next season, Dudley’s hopes purposely or inadvertently shed light on what will help him as a individual player the most.

“We definitely need someone to be able to score, to demand a double in the post,” Dudley said. “Teams like the Spurs want to switch all big screen-and-rolls … we had trouble with (Utah Jazz center Al) Jefferson where we didn’t want to double, he scored, we finally doubled and they put you in rotation.”

With a post scoring threat, Dudley will thrive. Even without one this season, he still remained pretty efficient.

In a worst-case scenario where the Suns don’t sign such a player and fail to re-sign Nash, Dudley hanging out around the perimeter will still be helpful to Gortat, who will be working on his individual post game this offseason.

But if opponents are running Dudley off the line, that’s not the worst thing because of …

The improved mid-range game

From the 2010-11 season to the 2011-12 season, Dudley did transition from the bench leader to a starter, and his minutes increased from 26 minutes to 31 minutes per game. Remember, that difference of five minutes is likely higher considering the Jason Richardson trade happened midseason, but we’ll stick to the stats by season for simplicities’ sake.

Dudley attempted an average of 2.2 more field goals in those five minutes, and the biggest bump in his shot attempts came from 16-23 feet, where he averaged 1.0 more shots in that range between the 2010-11 season and this past year. And from the past year, his average of 49 percent in that range was a 3 percent improvement.

That makes Dudley the 23rd best NBA player from that range, according to HoopData.com — most of the best players in this range are pure shooters like Nash, Stephen Curry and Steve Novak, or set-shooting power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki, Nick Collison and Zaza Pachulia.

But considering only nine of those players ahead of Dudley in accuracy are guys I’d consider regular rotation players and only seven played more than 40 games this past year, can we say Jared Dudley is one of the best mid-range shooters in the game today?

The Suns’ glove

Grant Hill was the primary perimeter defender when it came down to locking down the NBA’s most deadly scorers, but his return to Phoenix is in question as much as his return to an NBA court.

If Hill’s no longer in a Suns uniform, it’s on Dudley to cover the Kevin Durants and Kobe Bryants of the league.

Dudley said he’ll be improving his defensive skills from a basketball IQ and a physical standpoint this offseason. He’ll spend much of his time at home in San Diego.

“Defensively taking that next stride … I don’t know if G-Hill will be here, if he is here, just feeding off him,” Dudley said. “If he’s not here, just taking that role of being one of the perimeter defenders, and that’s something I need to improve on in watching film and working on my body and lateral quickness.”

There’s little doubt Dudley will continue inching along in his improvements. And with so many questions this offseason, his presence next year — no matter how his role changes — surely will be one that head coach Alvin Gentry can count upon.

Tags: Jared Dudley

  • Scott

    Actually, I wouldn’t count on Dudley returning.

    Dudley, Gortat, and Frye are the few quality assets the Suns can package in a trade.

    If the Suns do blow up the team (like some wish they would), they’re more likely to trade Dudley for another team’s prized asset than they are to trade Childress.

  • B. Cray Z.

    Love Dud but he’s too slow/

    What we need in a starting 2 guard is someone like “The Jet” back in Arizona or AB (back from China) who is more natural at the #2 guard than he is at the point, or even the young talented James Harden (with a front-loaded offer that The Thunder will not be able to match) back home. Ever wonder why he wears #13? Because he’s a fan of our #13 Steve Nash. They would be a dynamite back court duo. Get Harden & we will keep Nash for sure.

    Nash & Barbosa we already know are very good together. With a star #2 guard a new year for Morris, Dud & Frye can, while still working in improving their game, go back to doing what they do best . That bench unit not only beat other team’s benches but they would finish the game when our starters were tired & beat the other team’s starters, as well. Bring back the Brazilian Blur. Have Louis & Gogi come back to give even more energy to our bench guys. Other than Dragic, they could be had for a song. Besides their working knowledge of playing with each other, they don’t need Nash to be good & they also play well with Grant Hill.

    MUST reunite that killer bench unit.. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Yohance

    @B. Crayz.

    I would love to see phoenix management
    bring back the killer bench. But if they truely
    want to keep Nash around for the next 3-4 yrs.
    They should resally consult with him to see what would
    help him not only stay but really become a legitimate
    threat in the western conference. I think they need a scoring,
    athletic, defensive minded wingman or a legitimate low post scoring big man. Think Karl Malone, Amare, Aldridge, etc. That would take pressure off Nash and Gortat to think they have to do it all. Think if we had James Harden and one of the big men mentioned above we would make the playoffs easily. Once in anything’s possible.

  • Ty-Sun

    Barbosa “could be had for a song”? Are you aware that they Pacers are paying him $7.6 mil this season? Hardly the kind of money I want to spend on a backup and he’s been playing well enough so that I doubt he would be willing to take a pay cut unless the offer is made by a contender… which the Suns aren’t.

    And I doubt Dragic will consider coming back to Phoenix after the way they discarded him in the trade with Houston unless Nash actually leaves and they offer him the starting PG spot.

    Amundson maybe the Suns could get back but who would he replace on the second unit? Lopez? Morris? Amundson is a 6’9″ center who makes up for his lack of size with hustle and determination but he’s no scoring threat at all, especially from outside. And I say this as one of the people who loved him in Phoenix and thought the Suns made a mistake letting him go! But bringing him back, without moving some of the present Suns’ players at center and PF just doesn’t make sense.

    And putting Brooks at the 2 guard would be a defensive nightmare for the Suns, especially if Nash stays. Brooks is 6 ft tall… period. He can’t guard other NBA SGs and, as much as I love Nash, everyone knows he’s no defensive stopper. Other team’s back courts would be able to get off shots almost at will.

    I’d love to see Harden in a Suns uni but he won’t be a restricted free agent until next year so the Suns would have to make a trade for him and I doubt that OKC would make any trade for him with Phoenix.

    Jason Terry – “The Jet” – will be a free agent this year but he’s 34 and there’s a reason why he’s been content to be Dallas’ sixth man through most of his career… at 6’2″ he’s also not a great defender against NBA starting SGs. He’s such a good player that he can smack around other 2nd unit SGs even when they are 4-5 inches taller but not many of the starting SGs. And at 34, he would at best be a short term solution to the bench scoring problem.

  • Yohance

    @Ty-sun

    I agree with your arguments made about
    all the comments made. I like duds game
    but he is too slow to keep up with the Wade
    Kobe, LeBron, etc. He is also to small to guard the Durant.
    I would keep him but probably play him off the bench.
    It all depends on what Hill decides to do or if Redd returns to allst

  • Tony

    If the Suns are in a position in which they depend on Dudley as their best perimeter defender next season, then the Suns will be lucky to win 30 games. Dudley’s defense is overrated, he’s too slow and his lateral quickness is non-existent. He constantly gets beat off the dribble. I love Dudley’s committment to improving his game each off-season, but I don’t see him improving his lateral quickness enough to guard other teams’ best perimeter players.

    In addition to improving his lateral quickness in particular, Dudley has to improve his ability to score on his own and create his own shots. I know that’s easier said than done, but Dudley has shown he definitely puts forth the effort and determination to improve.

  • Yohance

    Allstar form. But what would you suggest them to do?

  • Scott

    If the Suns do lose Lopez, there could be an opening for Amundson at PF/C. However, I don’t see the Suns taking him – or any other former Sun – back. If that player were to come back and not perform well, it would probably be an uncomfortable situation for all involved.

    As for Dudley, preferably the Suns would find a better player who can start, putting Dudley back onto the 2nd unit. If they can’t do that, the Suns need to at least find a player of comparable talent, and let the two men strive for the starting spot.

    At this point, the Suns are probably looking at Redd, or possibly Brown, as that guy. While neither player offers defense as good as Dudley’s, they make up for it in other areas such as athleticism or craftiness. If either of these are taken, hopefully they will play better in the future than they did last year.

    We should all keep in mind that when Nash says he’s looking for a go-to scorer and a creator, someone to help take pressure off of him throughout the game and especially at crunch time, this is pretty almost certainly indicating a replacement of either Frye at PF or Dudley at SG. I don’t think either of these players has an illusion about that, and they must have some inkling they may get moved back to the 2nd unit next season.

  • Scott

    BTW, one weird trade idea might be Frye and Childress for Boozer.

    Despite his PER of nearly 20, fans and commentators seem upset with Boozer. They’ve even been talking about using the amnesty on him. One website has poll results of 72% of the fans wanting to get rid of him. With Noah so defensively strong inside and Deng in the corner, would Chicago trade Boozer for Frye and Childress, with the idea of opening up the floor more for Rose?

    Childress could then be a replacement for Korver (who is on team option now), allowing the Bulls to trade Korver’s offense for Childress’s defense, and with net savings of about $7 million in salary.

    What would the impact of this be for the Suns?

    The Suns would lose Frye, but they still have Morris, who has somewhat similar talents. The Suns would lose Childress, but they weren’t using him much anyway.

    The Suns would be starting Boozer along with Gortat, two similar players. They are competent rebounders who play around the basket, and two players who are capable of reaching the hoop who would rather shoot the jumper.

    Can they work together? Can they both work with Nash?

    Boozer can create his own offense better than either Frye or Gortat, so he wouldn’t have to be the target of pick and rolls or other set-ups. And while Chicago considers him a defensive liability, he’d probably be fine on the Suns.

    If the Suns were to make that trade – or some similar trade which takes Childress off the roster – they’d have the room to pick up both Redd and Brown, if they want.

    It seems unlikely, but if this trade were to happen and Phoenix would boast a new bald and burly frontcourt, then I think Morris should grow out his hair a bit so he and Lopez can be the scary hairy backups. :)

  • Tim

    I agree with J-Dudz that we need solid scoring big, but that’s just part of the wish list. We also need a solid PG for either the departure of Nash or to be able to spell him more and more as the next three years go by. Add a good defensive wing who can create his own shot (or maybe a 2 and a 3 that can do that combined). Basically, as the GM, I’m looking for upgrades everywhere except at center.
    Even with all these needs, I think the draft is will be the most important part of the offseason (outside the decision by Nash). Do we try to trade up and nab a Zac Robinson or wait for the likes of Austin Rivers or Jared Sullinger in the draft? I like Sullinger, who should still be available by our pick, but I feel he would just be too similar to ‘Keef. I love Morris but we don’t need two of him.