Every summer, serious NBA players work on different facets of their game, attempting to add something they haven’t had before, or perfect those things. Usually, this is a good thing. But occasionally, players go too far, and lose the things that made them valuable in the first place, and become something entirely new.
It seems that the core players for the 2nd unit of our beloved Phoenix Suns all underwent metamorphoses this summer. But were they for the better, or for the worse? Or are they simply different?
And now, because nobody demanded it... I shall elucidate:
The Jared Dudley of yesteryear was a bulky SF whose offensive game primarily consisted of spotting up for open 3's, and whose specialty was defending volume scorers, making heady plays and pulling the ball out of tight places with his "athletic hands."
Dudley checks in significantly lighter this season, the result of a secret offseason diet with Amare' in which he ate and drank nothing naught but Matzo-ball soup and kosher borscht for 3 months. Now able to play SG as well as SF, his ability to turn-and-shoot is improved, and he's added an escape dribble and pull-up jumper.
Conclusion: New skills are good, but not at the expense of what makes you great. Slimmer Dudley gets pushed around more than his heftier counterpart, making it more difficult for him to box out and guard certain players. Also, the development of the pull-up means he's taking less 3 pointers, and more 2's. Dudley was and is most beneficial as a shooter/defender. Advantage: JD4Three.
Nice Guy Frye
Channing Frye began last year as a player discarded - labeled as too soft. He quickly made a new name for himself as a deadly outside shooter, leading the Suns in hits from downtown.
Channing reports this year with a chip on his shoulder, and a seeming determination to finally shed the soft label, and focus on the defensive end of the court. He arrived with a classical villain's mustache and, so far, seems much edgier. So far, the main victim seem to be the rims, as they have endured a barrage of backboard-rattling clangs.
Conclusion: I like the better defensive rebounding, though it's hidden in the stats column by his generally horrible offensive rebounding, and inability to stay on the floor. Improved shot-blocking is great as well. More fouls is a major problem, because Lopez has the same problem. But most of all, the thing that made Channing great was his shooting, and thus far it's nowhere to be found. This could just be a phase for a streaky shooter, or it could be that he's getting less open looks, without a certain apostrophe'd star demanding defensive attention in the center. Assuming one of these is the case, I think the new Channing is an improvement on the old one, even though his stats may actually end up down at the end of the year.
Last year Goran Dragic evolved from an awkward, pale, slightly geeky lad, into a confident, competent PG with the ability to score in bunches, if not consistently.
Summer saw Goran become THE MAN for the Slovenian National team. Goran arrives more muscular, tanner, more confident, and most of all, ridiculously more aggressive. Consistency remains an issue, though his ability to turn it on and go for the throat seems to come out more often than is used to.
Conclusion: Goran is physically more fit, and better able to perform. Goran is performing at a higher level, and more often. The only drawback thus far is that his aggression has grown to such a level that he tends to pick up fouls at an alarming rate. This is a small price to pay, considering the elevated level of his play.