The return of Michael Redd to an NBA basketball court was one of the under-publicized feel-good stories of this season after two crushing tears to his ACL cost him more than two full season’s worth of games.
Nobody expected Redd to return to his All-Star form from his Milwaukee days, but his signing with the Phoenix Suns in late December was beneficial to both the 32-year-old and the organization. The fledgling relationship between he and the Suns was expected to provide head coach Alvin Gentry with another bench option and give the talented scorer an opportunity to find his legs.
Both missions were accomplished.
In a season that went at a breakneck pace, it wasn’t fair to expect that Redd would ever hit 100 percent in basketball shape, and even youngsters like Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris admitted the season wore on them physically. Simply put, there wasn’t the time in the training room nor enough time to recover in between games for Redd to completely find his old self.
Yet that, and the fact that Redd remained healthy in his knees and otherwise, only gives hope that the former Ohio State Buckeye hasn’t shown just how big of a contributor he can be for the Suns or any other NBA team.
Redd ended the season with averages of 8.2 points and 1.5 rebounds per game, shooting 40 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from three-point range.
In playing just 15 minutes per game in his return while under the guidance of the Suns’ well-respected training staff, Redd had a decent PER of 14 and was Phoenix’s most prolific scorer in terms of points per minute played. Redd’s 19.5 points per 36 minutes in 2011-12 is nearly on the same pace as his 20.9 points per 36 minutes in the beginning of the season before his first ACL tear in January of 2009, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
And he became a key cog in the second unit that gelled after the All-Star break for Gentry, acting as a streaky gunner and consistent shooter from mid-range, especially coming across curl screens on the wing.
Redd was also surprising in his diversity; he wasn’t afraid to draw contact on dribble-drives to the rim, and ranked third in the NBA — seriously, third — in post-up situations, scoring 1.16 points per possession and shooting 53.5 percent, according to mySynergySports.
A liability on the defensive end for the Suns because he was slow afoot, Redd had a team-worst defensive rating of 111, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
But despite his inability to chase swifter players around screens or recover when defending against pick and rolls, Redd does have some ceiling of improvement that he can grow into before next season.
His defense might’ve been a weakness, and the 6-foot-6 guard’s offensive statistics aren’t eye-popping numbers by any means, but what can Redd — who is now a free agent — do with a full offseason of work and the confidence that he still belongs on an NBA court?
The stronger he becomes, the more minutes he’ll be able to go, and that presents much intrigue for Phoenix and other teams looking to find an inexpensive scoring threat off the bench.
The likelihood of returning to Phoenix is hard to calculate this early in the offseason, but this we do know; the Suns used their training staff’s reputation to rope in the veteran guard.
Don’t think that won’t have a bit of pull when Redd is making a decision on his next contract.
“I want to play at that elite level I’m accustomed to playing at,” Redd said when he was introduced in Phoenix. “I asked all the doctors, this last surgery, ‘Can I play at the level I’m accustomed to playing at?’ They said, ‘Yeah.’”
The final answer to that question still hasn’t been answered.
The 2011-12 season can only be used to affirm Redd’s belonging in the NBA, but it also shows the evidence that he’s still on the comeback trail — nothing more.
Now he has options, something that couldn’t be said before Phoenix picked him up during this season.
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