Yesterday on the radio, Gambo and Ash from 620 Sports posed this question: Who is the Suns' 6th Man?
In other words, who is the Most Valuable Bench Player for the Suns. The MVBP.
In the past the answer was easy, Barbosa was the man. But this year, the Suns bench is deep and multi-faceted.
The easy answer is that there's isn't one MVBP, but that's no fun.
Coach Gentry on the radio said it was Frye. Dan Majerle gave Dragic the slight edge over Dudley.
I am going with Goran as well for the same reason Thunder Dan gave - giving Nash the ability to rest is huge. Dudley is a close second, though, with his ability to defend two positions and hit the open three.
Goran Dragic is bringing solid play backing up Nash. We no longer see huge drop offs when Nash sits and, as a result, he's able to rest longer. Steve's minutes per game haven't been this low since the 02/03 season, which is extremely important. The team has confidence in Dragic to sustain and even expand leads while Nash rests.
Goran's numbers don't jump off the page, but his impact has changed the team.
Channing Frye coming off the bench provides a big lift on the offensive end. When he's hot he can come in and stretch the floor with his range. When he's not hot, he's still enough of a threat to create space for Amare in the lane. The ability for the Suns to go with completely differently looks in Lopez and Frye has created all kinds of problems for teams.
Frye's defense has been a bit unfairly maligned as well. He's not big enough to truly battle the bigger centers but he uses his length well and plays hard and smart. Most importantly, since moving from the starting line up to the bench, Frye is playing 10 fewer minutes but only scoring 2 fewer points per game: 10.3 ppg / 21.5 mpg off the bench vs. 12.2 ppg / 31 mpg as a starter. He's shooting 45% from three in his new role, which is a 1.8% improvement.
Jared Dudley is the ultimate glue-guy. He brings hustle, intensity and smart play to the floor. The Suns typically will bring him off the bench first, which allows Grant to sub in with Goran and provide his leadership to the second unit. Rarely do you see a drop off in team performance with Dudley comes in.
JD hits open threes at a high rate (44%) but doesn't force his offense when he's on the floor with the starters. He's a guy that always does the little things that don't show up in the box score. Defense. Extra possessions. Energy and he's a great teammate that guys love playing with.
Jared leads the bench with 24.5 minutes per game off the bench because he's versatile enough to play multiple positions. We see him playing the 2 against bigger shooting guards, his natural small forward position or even the 4 when the Suns go small. He even got minutes as the back-up PG when the Suns were thin due to injuries.
Leandro Barbosa has had an off year. He came into the season with his wrist bothering him and never was able to really get on track, leading to his surgery in late January. His shooting numbers are down about 5% this season and well below his career average, but we've yet to see a fully healthy LB. Suns and NBA fans know what his guy can bring, though. LB can and likely will go off for 20+ points off the bench and provides a different look and change in pace to the Suns.
Louis Amundson is the team's hard nose frontcourt guy. He's tough and smart and plays above his size. There's a reason the fans scream "Loooouuu!!!" when he comes in the game and it's not because of his free throw shooting.
Lou's always been an above average rebounder and shot blocker, but his field goal percentage is at a career high 54.2%. He's not only getting garbage points, he's now starting to score as the roll man on pick and rolls.
You can make the case that the Dragic, Barbosa, Dudley, Amundson, Frye bench unit is the best bench in the West. The Suns have done a great job developing all these guys and the rotations take advantage their unique skill sets.